May 24, 2005

The Incredibles

I just saw The Incredibles, rented on DVD, and it was a very entertaining movie. I don't know the exact etiquette on 'spoilers' for movies that are long since released, but I make a couple plot mentions that I suppose might be considered spoilers. The movie was clever, well-written, visually appealing and had a socio-political message. I didn't realize the movie would have any message beyond the typical stuff like love your family, value life, be good, etc. But it had some proto-capitalist messages about success and achievement.

When the mother tells the son that everyone is special, the son says that's just a way of saying nobody is. In and of itself, I wouldn't have taken too much out of this tidbit. However, the evil bad guy is interested in first eliminating and then replacing all superheroes with himself, and then, when he's retired, in selling his gadgets to make everyone a superhero. He said that when everyone is super, nobody will be. That's definitely a major theme of the movie, as it seems to be a big motivator to the bad guy (hence a conflict of the plot).

It's supplemented by a few other plot points that drive home the same theme. There's the lawsuits from people who start litigating against the superheroes, forcing them to stop using powers and stop being special. There's the way the parents won't let their children use their powers, including the super-fast son being prohibited from sports for fear he would be too good.

It's not just a political message but a broader social message. They sort of spin the lawsuits as unfair (which is a whole political can of worms) but they also make fun of corporate insurance bureaucracy. In both cases the theme is doing your job well, honestly and to the best of your ability.

I'm a little surprised at this theme because movies don't normally like to take such an adulterated individualistic bent to life. When mainstream media (kids' shows and books) take on individualism it's always in a group context; for example, "everyone is unique." This theme is about being confident and special regardless of what others say, and about not being afraid to be better than other people if that's how it is. It's sensible and honest. I wouldn't say it's the exact message I'd send, but coming from Hollywood, I'd have to say it's unique.


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