Monday, October 10, 2022

The Bad Guy Affirmation (Ralph's 10th Anniversary)

Wreck-It Ralph
is among my favorite Disney movies (and one of my favorite cosplays), so I was enthusiastic when my daughter started asking to watch it in the past few months (she mostly likes the Disney Princesses in the sequel). This month celebrates the 10th anniversary of the movie about the lives of video game characters. Since Ralph, our main character, never exactly got his proper 30th anniversary in the movie, it’s only fair we give him a good 10th anniversary here.

The biggest conflict in Wreck-It Ralph has to do with the title character’s inner conflict about who he is. For thirty years he defined himself as a bad guy, specifically the way “bad guy” is defined by the populace of his game. Despite his job requiring him to be the “bad guy” for the game to function, none of the Nicelanders recognize this. Instead, they treat him like an inherently awful person. After being called a “bad guy” for thirty years, Ralph believed it. In a bad guy support group for video game villains, his fellow bad guys try to convince him that job title doesn’t define who he is as a person/program… but Ralph needs a little more convincing.

This becomes quite a good allegory for our own lives. The world bombards us with labels and titles from every angle: marital status, sexual orientation, occupation (like Ralph), political affiliation, etc. Sometimes it can feel obnoxious or even oppressive for the world to continually assault us with ideas and identifying labels of “what we should be like,” even if we want to believe differently. We are blessed with a modern-day prophet who has been inspired to teach us about how to deal with these identifiers:

“Labels can be fun and indicate your support for any number of positive things. But if any label replaces your most important identifiers, the results can be spiritually suffocating. I believe that if the Lord were speaking to you directly, the first thing He would make sure you understand is your true identity. My dear friends, you are literally spirit children of God.

“No identifier should displace, replace, or take priority over these three enduring designations: child of God, child of the covenant, disciple of Jesus Christ.

“Any identifier that is not compatible with those three basic designations will ultimately let you down. Make no mistake about it: Your potential is divine. With your diligent seeking, God will give you glimpses of who you may become." (President Russell M. Nelson)

After thirty years of life (like Ralph) my subconscious has begun to believe a lot of things that have been said about me… mostly from within myself. Despite help in therapy over the years, it’s tough to overcome this negative self-talk. How do I stop calling myself useless, worthless, or replaceable when I’ve thought that way for so many years? How do I undo all that backwards thinking? I’ll tell you one way… in closing the movie with Ralph’s share/voiceover, he says something that resonated: “If that little kid likes me, how bad can I be?” When I feel down on myself but I see my little girl chase after me and beg for my attention, and even asks to watch some of my most beloved films, how can I stop my spirits from feeling lifted? When I think of my unborn little girl grabbing my finger in a few months, how can I stop myself from smiling?

From the moments I’ve felt it (which I’m still working on) I feel lifted up even higher when I can feel that way about my Father’s love. If God loves me, how bad can I be? If I can cling close to the Spirit, and the Lord’s love, it doesn’t matter what other people call me (or what I call myself): I can remember my true identity. I’m not a bad guy… at least not in the ways that matter. I am a divine son of God, and a loving father and husband. I take great solace in the words of President Nelson, and I hope that you might too, as we seek to live up to our true and eternal identities: 

"Make no mistake about it: Your potential is divine. With your diligent seeking, God will give you glimpses of who you may become." (President Nelson)

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