Digital Culture

“Ralph Breaks the Internet” and Disney Breaks Tradition


by Sarah Elliott

The release of Wreck-It Ralph 2: Ralph Breaks the Internet was hotly anticipated since the release of the trailers. It’s not Ralph, however, or even his pint-size co-star Vanellope, that took the media by storm: for the first time in the history of The Walt Disney Company the eleven official Disney princesses appear together on screen.

Ralph Breaks the Internet creates an environment where every website has a physical domain designed to reflect the service it provides: Instagram is an art gallery, BuzzTube (Buzzfeed/Youtube) is a room full of film screens and a spam website is a dank, dirty office in the depths of the internet. The princesses, can be found in the world of Oh My Disney, a suitably castle-shaped domain designed as if you’re walking into Disneyland itself.

omd castle

The real-world Oh My Disney is a fan led blog, with articles ranging from upcoming releases, park information and, of course, quizzes that tell you which princess you are (I’m Belle! Who are you?!) As you can see above, the princesses and other characters we find in Oh My Disney aren’t really the same as those we know and love! They are internet alter egos, influenced by the content on their website as illustrated by their new wardrobe which uses hashtags, acronyms and slang (Aurora is a Nap Queen and Cinderella has just GTG!)

The inclusion of the princesses in this film serves a greater purpose than simply publicity; when Vanellope appears in the Princess Dressing Room she, and the audience, are faced with some fierce women here to correct decades worth of misrepresentation. When Vanellope claims that ‘I’m a princess too’ (of her video game, Sugar Rush) the princesses judge her against a list of criteria: does she have magic? Has she been poisoned? Cursed? Kidnapped or enslaved? Does she have daddy issues? Has she ever had true love’s kiss? (‘Eww Barf!’) And the ‘million dollar question’: ‘Do people assume all your problems got solved because a big strong man showed up? Vanellope asks the question feminist critics have been shouting for years. ‘What is up with that?!’ It is fitting that when Ralph, ‘a big strong man’, needs help the princesses are there to save the day.

In Ralph Breaks the Internet Disney is trying to rectify the negative perceptions of princesses they themselves have created, perceptions no longer acceptable in an age dominated by feminism and the fight for equality. As Sarah Silverman, the voice of Vanellope, summarises ‘there was things that now we understand as problematic but that they faced it, acknowledged it, progressed […] became more woman-powery and, um, that’s like a really cool thing.’ Vanellope goes from ‘barfing’ at the thought of princesses to having her own ‘princess moment’, musical number and all. Disney has realised its flaws. There is still a way to go in Disney’s road to equality and diversity but for now let’s hope they #GDTB (to defeat the Huns!) and keep creating strong, powerful characters to be inspired by.

Categories: Digital Culture, Film & TV

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