The Incredibles, a good flick

November 15, 2004 | 30 comments
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Things have been a little heavy around here lately . . . [fanfare] But not too heavy for MISTER . . . INCREDIBLE . . . to lift!
Er, yes.

The lovely one and I snuck out to see The Incredibles. Good fun it was. We can now confirm everything that everyone else has said about it. Yes, the dialogue snaps, the jokes leave you gasping, the animation gilds the lily, and really, who can say too much about the idea of having superheroes driven underground by lawsuits and becoming pedestrian Middle American families in a society that’s a weird blend of today and the 1950s. Even the little things are done right, and there are little things for everyone. The lovely one, for example, is a francophone, and for her The Incredibles had the minor villain Bomb Voyage, who spoke nothing but French. She loved it. I loved it. Suffice it to say that if you at all have creativity envy, this movie is an official Occasion to Sin.

All that stuff about the movie being a hymn to family is, I have to say, pretty much accurate. The movie really is about the Incredibles, the whole lot of them, and how they get along. But I’m a sucker for sentiment so you’ll have to judge for yourself.

The accompaniment to the family hymn was an in-your-face plug for meritocracy. It didn’t work. Maybe the writers should have read our two recent posts on the subject, dunno. But it didn’t work. It even got odious. The writers were trying so hard to criticize suppressing talents in the name of equality that when the villain reveals his ultimate villainous dream we find that it is to give everyone superpowers. O black, black soul. Because then, of course, no one would be better than anyone else. To excel but not exceed is truly a dagger in the heart, apparently. I’m still cringing.

I much prefer the Mormon vision of excellence. When we are immortal Gods our equality will not dismay us.

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30 Responses to The Incredibles, a good flick

  1. Matt Evans on November 15, 2004 at 11:18 am

    Andrew Sullivan’s been cataloguing liberal complaints againstThe Incredibles. Liberal opinion columnist Ted Rall goes so far as saying The Incredibles has “fascist connotations.”

    From an Obeserver article titled “It’s Super Bush!”:

    “And what is The Incredibles?” said Richard Goldstein, author of The Attack Queers: Liberal Society and the Gay Right. “It’s really a movie about people sort of bursting out of this model of decency and concern for others, and all of those values that now get labeled politically correct, and bursting forth with their true strength and power, like an animated Hobbes. I guess the bet is that the rest of the world, looking at this spectacle, will actually just say, ‘Holy cow—we’d better do what they say!’ And this Hobbesian idea will be proven correct.”

    “It’s kind of ironic that superheroes now have these fascist, right-wing connotations,” said Ted Rall, the editorial cartoonist for United Press Syndicate and author of Wake Up, You’re Liberal! How We Can Take America Back From the Right. “The right has stolen the flag and our superheroes, too.”

    “The Incredibles’ storyline, not unlike most current superhero storylines, will warm the hearts of the Republican elite, and also the scared, ordinary moviegoing folks emboldened by America’s long-time military prowess. Mr. Incredible could be Dick Cheney himself, or Donald Rumsfeld, big-bellied and in mothballs during the Clinton years, watching the world go to hell while nobody needed them, tortured and beat up by the little people and the bureaucrats all around them.

    “And The Incredibles aren’t the only superheroes at the multiplex who creepily (and not so subtly) resemble Team Bush these days. Liberals who—especially now—can’t laugh at themselves, still feel miffed about the pro-right leanings of Team America: World Police.”

    And from The Nation:

    The reason [animation historians are saying Bird has created the first truly engaging human cartoon characters], according to Bird, is that the Parrs’ strange talents are rooted in normal family traits. Fathers are supposed to be strong, so Bob can bench-press a freight engine. Mothers are always being pulled ten ways at once, so Helen is elastic. Young Violet can become invisible, as teenage girls sometimes want to do, and Dash is just a wonderfully energetic little boy, ratcheted up to 200 mph.

    Bird’s biggest achievement in The Incredibles is to have inflated family stereotypes to parade-balloon size. His failing is that, in so doing, he also confirmed these stereotypes, and worse. Helen mouths one or two semi-feminist wisecracks but readily gives up her career for a house and kids; women are like that. Bob’s buddy Frozone, the main nonwhite character in the movie, can instantly create ice; black people are cool. The superheroes are in hiding because greedy trial lawyers sued them into retirement; and, while concealed, they chafe at their confinement, like Ayn Rand railing against enforced mediocrity.

    The family is the foundation of our society. Freedom is on the march.

    Yes, The Incredibles makes The Nation squirm because it reminds them that family is the foundation of society. And The Nation worries that freedom may be on the march.

  2. Kim Siever on November 15, 2004 at 11:37 am

    Hmmm…I tried clicking on both of the links labelled “The Incredibles”, but nothing happened.

  3. Matt Evans on November 15, 2004 at 11:52 am

    Kim, links at T&S are indicated only by the red-colored type, they aren’t underlined.

  4. Clark Goble on November 15, 2004 at 12:26 pm

    Personally I think Ted Rall goes out of his way to make over-the-top nonsensical comments. Plus he sees Nazis under every bush.

  5. a random John on November 15, 2004 at 12:29 pm

    When we are immortal Gods our equality will not dismay us.

    My understanding of concepts like perfection and immortality is pretty limited. However I have never seen anything to imply that we will all be equal. In fact, quite the opposite is stated in D&C 130.
    http://scriptures.lds.org/dc/130/18#18

  6. Bob Caswell on November 15, 2004 at 12:45 pm

    Adam, is the second time we will agree? I too found The Incredibles to be a “good flick”.

  7. Adam Greenwood on November 15, 2004 at 1:24 pm

    If you ask me, though, all this about how conservative The Incredibles is is so much hooey. Yes, the movie portrays a successful conventional family. But, you know, there’s lots of families that way. That’s why its a convention.

    As for the whole Ayn Rand bit, one could just as well make out a case that the movie is secretly about gay-rights liberation or something. You know, these ‘superheroes’ in campy outfits have to go underground because of societal intolerance but find happiness by coming out, etc., etc. Coincidence that one of the superheroes is named Gazerbeam? I think not.

  8. Russell Arben Fox on November 15, 2004 at 1:41 pm

    Since there’s no law against self-promoting, I might as well mention my post on The Incredibles as well.

  9. Greg Call on November 15, 2004 at 1:56 pm

    In additional to your gay-lib reading Adam, I would add the subtle yet blistering critique of entrepreneurial values represented by Syndrome. Creating a market through heavy-handed, quite in-your-face advertising, then selling salvation at a tidy profit. (Or is it a defense of the high cost of products by showing all the R&D that goes into these things…)

    I agree that the Trojan Horse worries voiced by the Ted Rall types are a bit silly. And even if they’re right, we blue staters have had Dr. Seuss stroking us for years. Fair’s fair.

  10. Adam Greenwood on November 15, 2004 at 2:09 pm

    Not to mention the not very subtle but blistering critique of insurance companies.

  11. Ana on November 15, 2004 at 2:54 pm

    Yep, flexibility, that’s what I like. My 3-year-old Abraham has promised me an Incredible Mom toy for Christmas.

    My boys loved the movie. I loved the movie. Good family fun, and I’m so glad I’m not required to get deeper than that anymore if I don’t want to.

  12. Kim Siever on November 15, 2004 at 3:20 pm

    “links at T&S are indicated only by the red-colored type, they aren’t underlined.”

    Most website I visit have links underlined. I guess it was force of habit that I clicked on them. I’ll have to keep in mind that T&S links do not use underlines and underlined text are not links.

    Thanks for the headsup.

  13. Karen on November 15, 2004 at 4:17 pm

    Yeah, I have to say that I picked up on the gay liberation theme before I picked up on the conservative themes. I guess if a movie can offend the right and left, it has done it’s job, and we can just settle down to the business of enjoying it. I thought it was great…

  14. Bill on November 15, 2004 at 4:28 pm

    Insurance companies now have more to worry about than movie critiques, thanks to Eliot Spitzer’s crusade.

  15. a random John on November 16, 2004 at 11:26 am

    Adam, I would prefer that you respond to the point of my post rather than fixing the grammar error that it happened to highlight. Is there a concept of equality in the eternities? Does perfect mean equal? Does being “one” with the Lord reduce your individuality?

  16. Carl Youngblood on November 16, 2004 at 5:03 pm

    I agree with Random John. I find nothing wrong with The Incredibles’ plug for meritocracy. I also find the villain’s enforced equality plan very similar to the Luciferian proposal we have all heard of.

    On the other hand, there is D&C 76:95, which says that those who have qualified for the Celestial kingdom will be made equal to the Son:

    http://scriptures.lds.org/dc/76/95#94

  17. JH on November 16, 2004 at 5:18 pm

    Was anyone disturbed by the prancing naked sheep during the preshow cartoon?

  18. Blake Ostler on November 16, 2004 at 5:48 pm

    I thought that the Incredibles was incredible. I liked the sheep and the short before the movie too. Am I perverted?

  19. a random John on November 16, 2004 at 7:53 pm

    Carl,

    As long as we are throwing scriptures at each other, look at Abraham 3:18-19:
    http://scriptures.lds.org/abr/3/18

    Remember Carl, you are the junior companion and must defer to my judgement! :)

    Anyhow, while those that will be saved will be equal in some ways, the Abraham scripture seems to say that no two beings are equal to each other.

    As far as the sheep goes, the sight of the jackalope split my sides. Of course I might have been the only person in the theater that was familiar with the concept of the jackalope. Did anyone else think it looked like it was wearing a jackalope suit?

    later,
    John

  20. Adam Greenwood on November 17, 2004 at 11:56 am

    I still don’t see how The Incredibles version of meritocracy is stomachable. The Incredibles got their talent through, I presume, biology. The villain wishes to give people talent through technology. Why is the one better than the other?

    More fundamentally, are The Incredibles less if others become more? You point to scriptures that suggest there is inequality in capacities and so forth, but I think those scriptures are just describing the reality of existence rather than prescribing a desirable goal. Is there anything in the scriptures to suggest that Gods are worse off if anyone has talents and capabilities equal to theirs?

  21. a random John on November 17, 2004 at 12:12 pm

    Adam,

    I think that you need to flesh out the villian’s plan a bit more. First he intends to eliminate all “natural” superheros by means of deception. Then he plans to become the only superhero through technology, which he developed and is arguably his “talent”. Finally, once he is done being a hero he will disseminate his technology so that his position of being uniquely special is cemented in history. I think that we can agree that this is an evil and selfish plan.

    The Incredibles would not have been diminished if Syndrome had choosen to simply be a good superhero using his talents and technology. I think that the arguement being made is that people should not feel that they have to hide their lamp under a bushel, right?

    As for the more gospel centered discussion, my arguement is that I don’t see the scriptural basis for equality, especially if equality means sameness. I don’t think that perfection implies equality. I do agree that there is nothing to suggest that any righteous being is worse off is another righteous being achieves something. In fact quite the opposite. God grows in glory as His children do.

    As far as this relates to the movie, again, the superheros didn’t feel dimished by the fact that there were other superheros. They just wanted to be able to live up to their own potential. They didn’t want to be rulers over the normal folk, rather they wanted to serve them. I fail to see what is wrong with that.

    btw, Thanks for responding this time!

  22. Adam Greenwood on November 17, 2004 at 1:12 pm

    I disagree with your assessment of the movie. Yeah, it’s bad that he’s killing off all the superheroes and so forth. But as the movie see its he hasn’t perfected his villainy until he reveals that one day he plans to give *everyone* superpowers. His cvillainous motive for this is not that he will then be remembered as uniquely special or anything, it’s that ‘no one will be super because everyone will be.’ I think the clear implication is that superpowers are ‘good’ only if most people don’t have them.

    I disagree with you about perfection and sameness by the way, but I just don’t think its germane to this discussion.

  23. a random John on November 17, 2004 at 3:27 pm

    Adam,

    You brought the perfection and sameness issue up in the last paragraph of your post, which I happen to see no basis for in scripture. :)

    I see your point about the villian’s plan, and the pinacle of it being the giving everyone superpowers. Obviously I took it in a different way. I don’t think that the idea was explored in any real depth by the movie and there certainly isn’t much to grab onto there.

  24. Stella N on November 22, 2004 at 1:17 am

    I do agree that it was sort of strange that the villian’s evil plan was to give everyone superpowers, but I did like the message of “if everyone’s special, no one is.” Some people are more intelligent than others, and some more talented, and trying to deny that is silly and stifling. I even wish it was explored a bit deeper, it was only hinted at in the movie, really.

  25. a random John on November 22, 2004 at 9:31 am

    Stella,

    I agree that it was probably the idea of forced homogeneity that was being cast as evil rather than the idea that if someone else is more then I am less. As you say, the movie didn’t explore it in any detail, so it is pretty hard to support any particular interpretation for the horror that the family showed at the idea of everyone being “super”.

  26. Russell Arben Fox on November 23, 2004 at 11:44 am

    Very nice summary of The Incredible Meritocracy Debate, at least as pertains to education, in the NYT here.

  27. Bryce I on November 23, 2004 at 9:04 pm

    Today was my oldest daughter’s 7th birthday, and as a part of the celebration I took her and her almost 4-year-old sister to see The Incredibles.

    Mistake. Not because it’s a bad movie — I enjoyed all of the parts I got to see. However, the PG rating was well merited. Despite the fact that my in-laws both vouched for its watchability by little kids and the fact that several of Jaymie’s peers have seen the film and not been upset by it, both of my daughters asked if we could leave the theater about a half-hour before the end.

    All of which goes to show that kids have to learn to watch the kinds of violence and action that we take for granted in films. My children have always been sensitive to on-screen action and violence, and consequently have little experience with it. Not that that’s a bad thing, but I have to learn not to trust the judgment of others when deciding what may or may not be appropriate viewing for my children.

    I’m looking forward to the video release.

  28. Johnny on November 25, 2004 at 6:22 pm

    I don’t think that Gazerbeam was a gay-rights comment. I believe that is was more of a cut down on the popular x-men caracter Cyclops. Eveyone in the comic book world thinks he’s gay and I believe the pixsar people do too

    ~bob

  29. Ivan Wolfe on November 25, 2004 at 6:36 pm

    Johhny -

    Cyclops gay???? After marrying ultra-hot babe Jean Grey and then cheating on her with super-ultra hot Emma Frost and people think he’s gay????

    What?

  30. Ivan Wolfe on November 25, 2004 at 6:44 pm

    Although the character Gazerbeam clearly is Cyclops from the X-men – right down to the visor and with the same powers.

    just like the Incredibles are the Fantastic Four (only with the Flash instead of the Human Torch, but Jak-Jak is clearly Franklin Richards from the FF – especially with the reveal at the end).

    Frozone is clearly Iceman of the X-men (or maybe the Golden age Jack Frost) – he even uses his ice powers the same way, with the ice bridges for travel.

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