Anyone who has sat through a high school English class knows the opening lines to Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity…”
He might as well have been talking about the internet.
The internet can be amazing and terrible, supportive and destructive, often on the same website or social media platform and at the same time. During the Ralph Breaks the Internet press junket, the voice cast ruminated on exactly how the internet has permeated and changed the world. As the voice of Wreck-It Ralph himself, John C. Reilly, put it so eloquently, the internet is the central issue of our time and we’re still learning the ways in which it’s influenced us. “Our relationship to this technology, its power, and its effect on us, we don’t even quite understand yet,” he mused. “It’s as powerful as a nuclear bomb…Why do we crave the anonymous acceptance of people we don’t know? All of this stuff.”
Sarah Silverman, who voices Vanellope, reflected on how Twitter, in particular, has affected her relationship with the world:
For a comedian, it’s a great place to try out jokes or like places where you just have a funny thought and you want to put it out there or whatever. But then it became the place where I take in my news. And now I wantonly look back on the times when I was funny on it… It’s like anything. There can be way too much of it. It’s nice as a treat. And there are bells that can’t be unwrung that probably happen a couple of times a week or a day or in the middle of the night.
Reilly pointed out that there was no longer a thing as objective truth thanks to misinformation, and that that downside has come with the good of having so much information at our fingertips:
[E]ven though it’s wonderful to have all these choices of what we focus our attention on, it was a very good thing to have… an objective truth. This is what’s going on in the world. This is what we are all dealing with. Instead of all these versions of what’s going on in the world depending on what sites you visit. I think the human race could use a unifying way to communicate again like that.
Silverman echoed that sentiment, nodding along. “A lot of outside misinformation. This new world of chaos and lack of knowing what is true I would attribute to the Internet.”
But, she pointed out, like anything in life, with the bad of the internet comes a world of good, as well. It’s all simply in how you choose to use it:
I think there’s a lot of good in the Internet. It’s brought the world a lot closer. It’s made it a lot smaller…learning truths about other people that I would have never known. Culturally. Like waking up to my own white privilege had a lot to do with the Internet for what it’s worth. But yeah. It’s a very complicated relationship, the Internet, that we all have. And we have to try to find a healthy balance.
Moderator Dani Fernandez pointed out that social media can also be a forgiving and understanding place, one where you can find support in people going through similar situations, and the cast agreed. It’s a theme that echoes the journey Ralph takes in the movie, first finding a connection in Vanellope and then eventually navigating his way into the wider world and finding a larger group of people to befriend. He was alone, but through the relationships he made and connections forged through the internet, he eventually found his place, his tribe. LIke the movie itself, the press junket reflected our reality and made us question our relationship to not just the internet, but to others. Leave it to a Disney animated movie to pull that off.
Ralph Breaks the Internet is in theaters today. You can buy your tickets here.
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