What can we learn from 'Ron's Gone Wrong'?

What can we learn from 'Ron's Gone Wrong'?

Ron’s Gone Wrong” is an animated feature film released by Disney’s Twentieth Century Studios and Locksmith Animation in October of 2021. Though not considered a box office smash hit in terms of gross earnings when compared to other animated films, it has an 80% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

In broad strokes, the storyline follows Barney, a socially awkward boy navigating through peer interactions in school and in life with some difficulty. In the world set by the storytellers, B-Bots (smart robots connected online) are both a basic necessity for a social life and the epitome of social status. When Barney finally gets his robot, Ron, it doesn’t work like the others, and from its severe malfunctions comes all the hilarious comedy in the script. The plot thickens with villainous masterminds and unlikely heroes and in the end, as expected, good wins.

In the whimsical world of Ron’s Gone Wrong, the attachment to technology is painted as comic. From parents ignoring children because of such technology, to kids bullying each other in real life with the use of that same technology, to kids getting depressed because of online trolling, everything is a joke.  No surprise there, the movie is a comedy after all – it is supposed to be a family-friendly, laugh-out-loud kind of distraction! 

On the surface, this might be just another family-friendly movie with the traditional battle between good and evil. But film, much as many other forms of art, has the ability to capture and interpret its current sociological environment in a way that is self-reflective, while also proposing a veiled judgment on its condition.

Though we may never know if such portrayal of current society was intentional or just an accidental byproduct of the story the producers chose to tell, we can certainly look at it as a subtle exposure of an underlying problem affecting an entire generation – technology addiction. 

Studies have shown that technology addiction is real and quantifiable. The excessive use of technology has effects similar to substance abuse in the brain, including the activation of the brain’s reward centers (release of dopamine) and the disruption of neural pathways related to executive functioning. 

But beyond chemistry and biology, beyond numbers and analysis is the human factor. Human beings were made to live in society. Real, human, real-life connection is a beautiful thing! 

Physical contact is actually good for your health! During a hug, for example, the brain releases oxytocin, a hormone that relaxes us and lowers anxiety. A 20-second hug can effectively lower blood pressure and reduce the stress hormone norepinephrine. 

A study in Germany found that the volume of grey matter in certain parts of the brain can quickly change depending on how often a person is outside.

For children, outdoor play is not only beneficial, but also crucial for the brain's healthy development. Researchers say that the frontal cortex (responsible for controlling emotions and problem solving) is activated during playtime.

So what can we learn from Ron’s Gone Wrong? (Spoiler alert!) In the movie, though colorful, the picture of how damaging technology addiction can be is clear if you choose to see it. Lives can be destroyed if priorities are placed on tech instead of people. Even Ron, the robot, understands that real relationships are more important than online connections, and sacrifices himself to grant his friend and the entire world the path to such freedom. 

Technology itself is not the problem. Eradicating technology is not the solution. Much like in the movie, the problem lies in the unrestricted, obsessive, continual use of technology. The scale tips when technology takes over and controls us, instead of being a tool under our control. In the end of the movie, good triumphs over evil when technology subsides, and human interaction prevails. Technology remains there, but not at the cost of real relationships. For the characters in the story, the change was costly and dangerous. For us, it doesn’t have to be.

Choose to live intentionally. Look up from the screen, put the device away, and live fully.

Cami Laughman

An accomplished translator and writer, Cami has been in the creative field for nearly two decades. Her experience as a linguist in several fields, paired with her background as a native Latina immigrant, born and raised in Brazil and naturalized American citizen gives her a unique perspective on the social and cultural context of our society. She has been with Techless since 2022 and currently lives in Michigan with her husband of twelve years and their eight-year-old son.