“It’s in my code!”: Glitch as Gendered Ontology

Curator's Note

In this clip from a BBC interview, Kanye West rants about being considered a “glitch” in the fashion industry, comparing himself to Vanellope von Schweetz, the sidekick-cum-princess in Wreck-it-Ralph. He doesn’t get it right: as presented in the film, Vanellope was not originally a glitch, but was made one by the villain King Candy, who recoded and took over Vanellope’s game Sugar Rush. Kanye’s take on the Wreck-it-Ralph heroine is self-serving and off the mark since there is no indication that someone is out to get him. Yet, inadvertently, his comment signals the true potential of Vanellope as a heroine: she remains a glitch, but this glitchiness is now an affordance instead of an error.

Scholars like Caetlin Benson-Allott have theorized the glitch as an aesthetic mobilized to contest the male gaze. Instead, I suggest thinking the glitch as ontology. What if we took pursued this idea that the glitch has become subsumed into Vanellope’s code? Although at the level of image Vanellope is back to being a princess, at the level of her code she remains a glitch — by choice. While the film quickly sidelines the fact that Vanellope retains her glitchiness to focus on her friendship with the purported hero of the film, her triumph at the end lies not (only) in recovering her place as the princess leader of Sugar Rush and making a new friend. Rather, it is more noteworthy that Vanellope reclaims her glitchiness as an ontological affordance. Aligning herself with women of color feminists who suggest that reappropriating the (discursive and material) markings of the sexed body enacts possibilities for more resilient, potentially freeing articulations of gendered subjectivity, our heroine translates code that was intended as malfunctioning into possibilities for new forms of gameplay (including a glitch power on Disney Infinity). Not only is she a stronger, faster princess-racer, but also one that enjoys greater popularity with gamers. This, in turn, makes her a much more revolutionary princess that her Disney narrative allows. When Vanellope transforms her glitchiness into part of her coded essence, she has her candy-covered world, and eats it too.


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