Science fiction, probably more than any other genre, has a purpose other than to entertain. It’s meant to challenge our notions of society and ask us, “what if?” It also make us wonder (and question) what is possible both with human ingenuity and our ever-changing set of morals. Because of this, sci-fi is a genre that is always in motion and always changing. One hundred years ago, emerging sci-fi writers imagined the future world far different than the one we wound up with. But as this future started to emerge, so did our sense of what it would actually look like: cell phones and tablets rather than flying cars and time machines. And it is this, our experience with the technology of today, that allows us to expand sci-fi in ways early pioneers of the genre could not.
The animated film Ron’s Gone Wrong is a great example of this. The movie is about a robot that searches your online presence to essentially become your best friend. The robot knows your likes and dislikes and molds its personality into the ultimate companion. The story revolves around a boy (Jack Dylan Grazer) whose family is reluctant to buy him one. When the boy is constantly picked on at school for being the only kid who doesn’t have a robot, his family gives in and tries to get one. But the robots are all back ordered, so they end up grabbing a broken one instead. This robot (Zach Galifianakis) is unable to log online, so he can’t automatically become the boy’s friend. Instead, the robot becomes the boy’s friend naturally over time. Their relationship grows as a real relationship rather than one formed artificially based on an algorithm.
This is a tale with very poignant sci-fi themes about online life and social media. It has a lot to say and there’s a lot to take away from it. The story deals a lot with how technology is taking over our lives. We gain a lot from tech, but we lose a lot too. Or online lives aren’t going away, though. We’re going to have to learn to live with that balance, especially for children who will never know a time without it
Twenty, thirty, forty years ago someone could have written a sci-fi story like Ron’s Gone Wrong, but they would have to imagine a lot about how this future will play out. Because Ron’s Gone Wrong was written now, it’s plot and characters or more closely tied into the lives we’re living today. After all, there are machines out there who really do scan our online lives for things such as marketing. Perhaps the premise isn’t that far off from reality. This movie would have never came out when I was a kid, but that’s the great thing about sci-fi. The dynamics of the future and technology are always changing and so the genre is fluid in the way it can react and depict them.
Ron’s Gone Wrong is now streaming on HBO Max.