Transfiguring Adoption’s Overview:
Ron’s Gone Wrong is a computer animated film which was orchestrated by 20th Century Studios. The film as a whole seems to be created for the general public and specifically for families with children all the way from elementary school through high school age. The animated work has a lot of action sequences and zany characters which help it appeal to younger children. The general premise and message of the storyline will reach out to middle school and high school students most. Even though this film was delivered for the general public, I want to explore in more detail below how this film will hit home for foster and adoptive families or any family which has experienced adverse childhood experiences.
The overall plot of the story follows the life of Barney, who is a middle school aged boy and is the only person in his school who doesn’t have a B-bot (one part robot friend and one part social media tool). Barney finds himself as a social outcast amongst his peers due to the fact that he doesn’t have a B-bot and cannot seem to fit in with the crowd. Barney’s widower father purchases his son a defective B-bot for his birthday and wacky adventures ensue as soon as Barney opens the box. The rest of the film deals with Barney and his B-bot, Ron, learning and discovering how to build a real friendship amongst gags about social media and Ron’s quirky nature.
Are there any trauma triggers in this film? Yes. There are a few topics which parents need to be aware of while going into this movie experience. However, it would seem that the positive discussion themes in the movie would outweigh the negative. I will explore all of this in the comprehensive review.
Stepping back from my role as the reviewer, I found that I was laughing at the various jokes throughout the film. The plot seemed to move quickly, and I found myself interested throughout the duration of the story. I heard equal amounts of laughter coming from children as I did from adults in the movie theater where I was viewing this film. It was good for me to see an animated movie which I felt rivaled that of a Disney/Pixar film. In fact, after quickly scanning movie trailers, I thought this was made by king Disney but only realized my mistake when I didn’t see the iconic castle before the movie.
** Spoilers Could Be Ahead **
How Is This Relevant To Adoption & Foster Care?
It is safe to say after viewing the film that it was not intended specifically for a foster and adoptive audience. However, the theme of making and maintaining healthy friendships/relationships is so important for children from foster care, adoption, and childhood adverse experiences that Ron’s Gone Wrong is going to be a significant tool for parents. Many times children from traumatic backgrounds have not had how to make and maintain healthy relationships modeled for them. Children may give away their brand new and expensive toys to other children in order to “buy” friendships which ultimately will not last. Ron’s Gone Wrong explores the idea of kids seeking attention online as opposed to creating “real” and lasting friendships. Forming healthy relationships is going to be the cornerstone for success in our children’s lives. I would suggest that this film will attack heavy issues, such as cyber-bullying, in a light-hearted atmosphere and a fun plot.
- True Friendship VS. Attention
The interesting premise this film introduced is when viewers are introduced to contraptions called B-bots which are designed to make friendships for children when they are actually merely earning kids’ attention. Middle school students in the film can be seen using their B-bot companions to make videos for social media, play video games to climb a leader board, or make social media friend requests. While human to human dialogues happen, they are always joined by the robot friends. Viewers thus experience people doing stunts and activities to earn them “likes” and social media popularity. In essence, the B-bots are earning the students attention instead of friendships. Toward the end of the movie, a group of students have a discussion where they examine the reasoning for their ended elementary school friendships only to come to the realization that it was merely because their B-bots said they were not good matches. All of this is contrasted to Ron (the main robot character) and Barney’s (the main male student character) relationship, which finds them learning about each other organically and working through arguments and sticky conversations. We will mention throughout this review that children from traumatic backgrounds long for friendships but have often not had it modeled the way in which to maintain healthy relationships. This can open children up to unsafe relationships online or in person at school. What caregivers might find is that their child is seeking attention and not a “true” friendship. It would be wise for caregivers to use this movie to open up a dialogue about the differences between seeking attention versus a friendship. It would be interesting for anyone to discover how their child viewed both in the movie and to simply see if they can tell the difference. Caregivers should definitely help their child pick out the healthy qualities of Barney and Ron’s friendship and how they were able to build their friendship.
- Relationships VS. Selfishness
During the entirety of the movie the main boy character, Barney, is teaching his bot-friend, Ron, new facts about himself and teaching him how to be a person that would make a good friend for him. At one point during the animation, Barney realizes that during the entirety of their relationship, the pair have only concentrated on Barney’s needs and interests. It is at this epiphany that Barney comprehends that a friendship requires attention to both parties’ interests and needs. Children from traumatic backgrounds often have not had good relationships modeled for them and the need to be accepted by others is sometimes heightened. Most children in general, but especially children from traumatic backgrounds, long for good friendships but also have a tendency to focus on their own needs. This focus on one’s own needs might be heightened in children from traumatic backgrounds as they are constantly (and maybe subconsciously) looking for ways to fill the unmet needs they are experiencing. Ron’s Gone Wrong is a great tool to use in discussing the quality of the relationship between Ron and Barney when everything was focused on one person. It would be good for caregivers to discuss with kids the reason Ron would become upset and want to end a friendship focused on only one person. It would be successful for families to discuss topics Barney and Ron talked about with each other to grow their friendship. On a personal note, I feel that the usefulness of this topic cannot be overstressed, as many of our children flounder in the arena of making healthy friendships.
- Cyberbullying and Bullying
This topic is going to be covered in a bit more detail in the “Cautionary Points,” of the review. However, while the scenes of bullying can be trauma triggering, this movie would also be useful for beginning conversations with your child. Parents and caregivers would do well to talk about the movie with children to see if everyone is able to identify the various types of bullying, the possible motivations behind the bullying, and the emotions of those on the receiving end of the bullying. This discussion could be a good time for your child to learn more about what bullying and unhealthy relationships look like. It could also create an atmosphere where your child may open up to talking about situations of bullying they are experiencing at school or online or on video games.
- Feeling the Need to Protect Parents
At several points in the movie Barney, the main boy character, chooses not to tell his dad about issues that are bothering him… or he is reluctant to share at best. Barney’s dad discusses this behavior with Barney’s grandma at one point. Grandma suggests that Barney is trying to protect his single father from the hurt and emotions he is experiencing. Children from traumatic backgrounds are usually in the position of having to deal with complicated (and possibly more adult oriented) emotions. In some cases children may choose to keep these emotions to themselves for a plethora of reasons. It could be that they are embarrassed about how they are feeling. They may not trust adults to be able to help them through a situation. They may believe that their feelings and emotions will make caregivers feel bad. It is important for children to know that it is not their job to protect adults from feelings and emotions. It is naturally a caregiver’s job to care for the needs, both physical and emotional, of the child.It would be good for caregivers to use this film to talk about how things might have happened differently had Barney and his father had more open communication. It would be good also to discuss as a family the reasons for why Barney and his father feel nervous or apprehensive to talk about certain issues.
- Parents Feeling Like Failures
The main character named Barney is a middle school-aged student, and we learn throughout the movie that his mother passed away when he was two years old. Periodically throughout the movie Barney’s father has conversations with his mother (Barney’s grandma) about his feelings of failure as a single parent. For families with children who are coping with adverse childhood experiences, it might seem like a lot of focus is placed on helping the child work through their issues. It is beneficial for caregivers to show children the emotional struggles that they might experience through Barney’s dad’s feelings. These sorts of discussions can be used to introduce kids to not only the fact that others have struggles but show them how caregivers are striving to work through these issues. Depending on the topic of conversation and the child, it could potentially turn into a time where honest conversations are had and the child could have a voice in helping a caregiver process feelings.
- Family Sticking Together
Barney found himself in various situations where he was a bit in over his head. When aware of the situation, Barney’s dad and grandmother were found with him defending him or helping him complete the task he had at hand. Children from traumatic backgrounds may not have had healthy family relationships modeled for them. For this reason children may feel the need to complete hard life tasks on their own or ask other peers without life experience. Consequently, it might not be normal for our children to seek out advice or help from caring and safe adults. Caregivers will do well to notice how Barney’s family sticks together in this film and see if their children notice various positive family qualities. Families should not only discuss how Barney’s family (and Barney himself) is enhanced by sticking together, but the conversation should eventually include how your own family does AND could employ these qualities.
- Data Use by Companies
This concept is one that would be good for parents to consider discussing with older middle school and definitely high school students. During the movie, viewers will see that the company producing B-bots, “Bubble,” has a head operative who is only interested in making money, while the CEO is interested in B-bots being used to make friendships. In certain scenes, viewers will get the idea that Bubble could use the B-bots’ cameras and social media data to illegally spy on people. The evil corporate head even uses the capabilities of the B-bots to spy on families to look for Barney and Ron. Some employees of Bubble question the motives and plans showing further that they are not legal. At one point the corporate head even admits to using the B-bots to collects information on children in order to sell them more products and make a larger profit. As we live in a culture which is continuously exposing high school students and even middle school students to internet platforms and social media, it would be good for caregivers to use this scenario in the film to discuss how companies can use information. It could be easy for children from traumatic backgrounds to believe that a company has their personal interests at heart since most children in this category will simply want to belong to something. However, most people would agree that companies exist purely to make a profit and will not have the consumers’ best interest at the forefront. This whole conversation could also lead into a conversation about internet safety and what information you share with anyone on the internet in general.
- Emotions from the Loss of a Parent
Barney’s mother is dead and we learn throughout the film that she passed away several years ago. This is the reason that he is being raised by his dad and paternal grandmother. There are NO flashbacks of his mother’s death, and there is no indication that she suffered horribly because Barney was too young to remember it. Really, the heaviest part of this topic in the film are the emotions which Barney has to confront that stem from acknowledging the loss of his mother. Viewers are also going to experience Barney’s dad wrestling with his own emotions of inadequacy as a single dad. It would seem that the emotions stemming from the loss of the parent are minimal as the main focus during these times is to show how Barney and Ron’s friendship is able to help Barney work through his feelings in a positive way. It would seem that these would be great discussion tools for any parent with a child who has suffered loss. However, parents should know that this exists in the movie because it could be a trigger for children who are not yet able to process and deal with great losses in their life.
- Bullying & Cyberbullying
In this movie there are many scenes depicting in-person bullying, as well as cyberbullying. The biggest form of cyberbullying occurs when several B-bots come together to form a giant chimp. The assembled chimp then grabs one of the main characters, Savannah. The chimp appears to playfully eat the student and pass her out through its butt. Savannah immediately expresses in shock, “It pooped me.” For the rest of the movie, this character’s B-bot continuously alerts her to videos of this incident trending all over social media which label her as “Poop Girl.” The film shows Savannah completely troubled and distraught over the events, while her classmates seem to find it entertaining. The main character Barney is forced to suffer bullying by various students because he doesn’t have a B-bot and is seen as an outsider. For children from traumatic backgrounds, they may already be feeling like an outsider and desperately wanting to be accepted by their peers. This could lead to children finding friendships with those who really are not healthy friends or who are in fact bullying them. Witnessing characters being bullied in the film could be triggering to children in remembering past abuse experienced by themselves or other family members. It could be that seeing bullying makes them mentally live their fears of being an outsider at school past or present. It is imperative that parents understand the traumatic past of their child and their current fears. For some children, these situations could prove to be the perfect discussion starter, but for others the content could be harmful.
- Cartoon Violence
Parents should be aware that there are several depictions of cartoon violence throughout the film. Ron, the main B-bot character, attempts to pull a head off a student and other inanimate objects. There is even a scene where Ron reports having learned at what temperature various items of Barney’s burn. There are fight scenes where various B-bots which are in video game modes are fighting against each other or combining together to fight other people and bots. One scene shows Ron the bot hitting, shoving, and fighting with students at a park after the students began bullying Barney. Ron didn’t seem to understand he was fighting and was simply mimicking the actions of the other boys which caused the situation to grow into a dangerous fight. None of the scenes appear to be realistic and are purely animated. Parents should be aware, however, in order to prepare their family or avoid this film if children are unable to process a movie with this type of violence.
- Loss of a Friend
At the end of the film, Ron, who is the main bot character, decides that his code should be uploaded to all the bots in the world. The consequence is that Ron, himself, will be “deleted,” which means Barney loses his friend. In the following scene, Barney is seen hanging out with his newly reacquainted real life friends. Thus, even though the relationship is severed, viewers get a glimpse of Barney’s life as he is moving on. Parents should be aware of this scene and situation as children who have experienced loss (human or animal) may find the final part of the movie to be problematic and hard to process.
- Running Away from Home
Toward the end of the movie Barney and Ron run away from home and hideout in the woods outside of town. The movie does portray it as a bad idea in the end with Barney getting seriously ill. Parents with children who often run away, or threaten to run away, may want to be aware of this situation in the movie. It could be a good way to begin a conversation about talking to a caring and safe adult for help as opposed to running away.
About the Author: Darren Fink
Co-founder and President of Transfiguring Adoption. Darren is a graduate of Illinois State University where he studied fine art. He offers foster and adoptive parents over a decade of experience in parenting foster and adoptive children, as well as his introductory to counseling training. Darren is the author of the “A Guide to Magical Creatures Around Your Home,” book series.
**Transfiguring Adoption is a nonprofit organization seeking to nurture growth in foster and adoptive families by giving a HOOT about their families. Transfiguring Adoption does not intend for its reviewers nor its review to be professional, medical or legal advice. These reviews and discussion guides are intended to help parents to better be able to connect and understand their children who come from traumatic backgrounds.