Ideology is identified as a body of ideas that reflect the social need of a group, class, or even just one individual. The time frame of which these ideas manifest do not take away from their importance or impact. Ready Player One is a prime example of a film that presents us with ways of behaving, both negative and positive. Ready Player One was originally written by Ernest Cline and was intended to be a dystopian science-fiction novel. It received a film adaption in 2018 by Warner Bros Pictures and directed by Steven Spielberg. The film itself was praised for its ability to turn the average movie experience into a “bustling pop-cultural theme park” (Scott, 2018, para. 3), but there’s so much more to the film than just its spectacular visual effects.
In the film, the entire world is being held in the clutches of many global and social problems in itself. Mass unemployment, overpopulations, and global warming are just some of the larger issues at hand. In our textbook (2018) it states that “During the capitalist era, values of individualism, profit, competition, and the market became dominant, articulating, the ideology of the new bourgeois class which was consolidation its class power” (p. 100). Majority of the world as the viewer knows it is being controlled by Innovative Online Industries. IOI, is a virtual reality equipment manufacturing corporation that is determined to find Holliday’s easter egg in order to take control of the OASIS and its entirety.
IOI specializes in hostile takeovers of popular companies so that they can monetize them and continue to expand their reign. Wade Watts, uses the OASIS, which is a virtual reality video game as an escape from these sufferings. The OASIS allows people to submerge themselves inside of the game. It is a type of Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game. Created by James Halliday, who had announced that he had left something called an Easter egg inside the OASIS before he died. In order to find the egg, players must find three hidden keys and unlock three gates for the next clue and so on. Whoever was to find the Easter egg would inherit Halliday’s vast fortune and the entire OASIS.
The characteristics of ideology can be broken down into four categories or sub-sections (Hebb, 2015). These categories are The Nature of Human Beings, The Structure of Society, Interpretations of History and Visions of the Future. All of these sub-sections address a different part of the shared ideas in the film. Said shared ideas or ideologies in this film consist of but are not limited strictly to identity, immortality, versions of reality and the home. All of which will be broken down into simpler terms to decode the latent meaning to strengthen my argument that no matter what time, location, or era, the way to grow as a group or class is to maintain the status quo of social power relations.
One of the issues that are pushed to the forefront in Ready Payer One is the idea of immortality and the overall nature of human beings. The film takes place mostly in a virtual reality entertainment universe called the OASIS. The OASIS was created by James Halliday and Ogden Morrow who both play a significant role in the mysteries of the film. Within the OASIS people can take the form of their favorite 80s and 90s pop culture characters or make their own avatars to interact with one another and take part in games. The amazing thing about these avatars is that no matter how much damage they take they always come back. On the other side of the spectrum, people do not always come back. There are no continues, no mushrooms to give you an extra life and no teammates to give you a cheat code.
With knowing this, people still search for ways to obtain eternal life in any way that they possibly can. James Halliday solidified his life and legacy in the film by leaving his avatar inside of the OASIS to assist young players in uncovering all of his Easter eggs. The one who finds all of Halliday’s Easter eggs will inherit the OASIS as well as everything left behind by Halliday, in a sense making themselves immortalized. This can be seen as a way to cope with the fear of death or lack of a legacy. Most people are terrified of the idea of passing away and that just being the end of their story. Others are more worried about being known for this or that just for the stature that comes along with it. The OASIS allows people to technically live forever without the worry of dying or any other inconvenience that may occur in the real world.
The most pressing idea overall is that of identity, which can be a little complicated. Identity can be a tricky thing because on one hand, you are who you are as a person. But, on the other hand, you are also who other people see you as, which can be completely different. One’s identity helps to make a person feel as though they are an active part of society. The OASIS gives its users the ability to not only alter their appearance but to change who they are entirely.
This can be seen as a way to allow people to put their best foot forward and give them the opportunity at another shot at a first impression. The realm of imagination is nonexistent in the OASIS. People can live out their wildest ideas and not be judged based on how they may act, look, think, speak because it is all anonymous to everyone else. In a way, this is people tuning into actually being themselves. Too often there are people that put on a mask to be something that they are not to fit in. It is ironic that in the film people are literally putting on virtual masks to be who they truly are because the OASIS is the only place they feel like they can be free. This is a hint to where society is heading with the surge of people that are running to social media for everything.
Everyone wants to prove that their life is perfect and that they are always happy to the maybe hundreds, thousands or even millions of people that “follow” them. This also births a new subculture for players to belong to and feel needed when nothing else is going for them in the real world. “Composed of millions of people who now devoted every free moment of their lives to searching for Halliday’s egg” (Condis, 2016). A subculture is very important because it allows for the development of cultural norms and also its own communication styles. With learning how to properly communicate with people or players that share a common interest, it promotes growth. Joining a subculture or any culture at all can result in someone being more confident in who they are and flourishing into someone who knows exactly who they are and what they want.
The fourth characteristic of ideological analysis is visions of the future. One of the most important things about the future is that is all starts in the present. Wade Owen, the protagonist feels as though the OASIS is more of a home to him than about any other place in the real world. A home is not necessarily where you were born or where you currently live. A home is simply where you feel the most comfortable.
People all over the world feel as though where they are is not exactly where they want to be. At the beginning of the film, it is obvious that Wade does not enjoy being home at all. He lives with his mother and her boyfriend that he could really go without talking to. By the end of the film, Wade has made for himself what he wants in a home by taking advantage of the present and winning Halliday’s challenge. This just goes to show what a little persistence and determination can do for someone that truly wants better for themselves. Wade did not just sit around and take what was given to him. He used the best-known resources to him at that time and did what any depressed teenager would do. He stayed on his game and got good enough to win everything in Halliday’s huge contest.
The events of the past can easily influence the values and beliefs that we as group or class embrace. This is known as the interpretation of history, which is another characteristic of ideology. Throughout a plethora of films, technology has been one of those things that people have worried about evolving too quickly. This usually comes when the virtual aspect of that reality is lost and it is hard to differentiate between the two.
In the OASIS players have jobs, relationships and other hobbies that keep them busy for most of the day. This in itself moves the virtual part of virtual reality into the back of people’s minds as an afterthought. Majority of people in the film only leave the OASIS to sleep, that’s it. Not to go to a nine to five or take care of their significant other, but simply to sleep. This causes an issue because even though everyone is online and plugged into the game, not everyone will be remembered or leave a legacy. So, in hindsight, people are giving up an opportunity to be known in the real world for a shot to be immortalized in an online community that will continue to grow at a rapid pace and forget them in a matter of minutes. A prime example of this is the 1999 science fiction action film, The Matrix. In the future, what is thought of to be reality is really just a virtual simulation that was created by living machines that have conquered the human population.
Overall, when analyzed from an ideological standpoint, Ready Player One may have the audience wondering how close we actually are to possibly being able to live in virtual reality. The film itself presents many ideas that can be mirrored to anything in this current time, but it leaves enough to mystery to kick start someone into thinking about what they would do in these situations. Most of these issues would not normally come from a PG-13 rated movie about nostalgia and video games.
“Fredric Jameson warns us of nostalgia as a dangerous political maneuver.” Jameson states that “Nostalgia films restructure the …. emergent ideology of the generation.” (Metz, 2018) With that piece of information, it is safe to say that Ready Player One thrives on neutral ideology. Neutral Ideology includes films that serve a purely entertainment goal. A good example of a better know neutral ideological film would be Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. This is all films that specialize on capitalizing on enjoyment and to allow people to escape from their everyday routine and reflect a value system where the fun is a form of consumerism. From virtual reality to real life, Ready Player One throws out its ideological concepts to viewers with stellar graphics and pop-culture covered innuendos.
- Scott, A. O. (2018, March 28). Review: Spielberg’s ‘Ready Player One’ Plays the Nostalgia Game. Retrieved February 5, 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/28/movies/ready-player-one-review-steven-spielberg.html
- Ready Player One Summary. (n.d.). Retrieved February 5, 2019, from http://www.supersummary.com/ready-player-one/summary/
- Hebb, J. (2015, February 05). 1-1.2: Themes of Ideology. Retrieved February 5, 2019, from https://prezi.com/bndkjmsosgfh/1-12-themes-of-ideology/
- Page, K. (1970, January 01). Cinema and Society. Retrieved February 5, 2019, from http://pagecinemasociety.blogspot.com/2011/03/ideology-in-films.html
- Media Analysis Techniques. (2018). S.l.: SAGE Publications.
- Metz, Walter. ‘So Shines a Good Deed in a Weary World”: Intertextuality in Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One (2018).’ Editors’ Contributions, vol. 42, no. 4, 2018, 1-4.
- Condis, Megan Amber. “Playing the Game of Literature: Ready Player One, the Ludic Novel, and the Geeky “Canon” of White Masculinity (2016). Journal of Modern Literature, 2016, 1-20.