"As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; / [ . . . ] Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: / Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; / Selves -- goes itself; 'myself' it speaks and spells, / Crying 'What I do is me; for that I came'." --Gerard Manley Hopkins

18 July 2005


Yes, we finally got to watch The Incredibles. Yes, we all loved it. A funny, well-created film that wasn’t an all-out assault on traditional values.

Low points:
Okay, maybe I’m a prude, but really – is it necessary in a family film to have one of the characters use God’s name inappropriately as a character tag? “My goodness” would have worked equally well in a film that has no other reference to God, after all. And apparently there was one pretty bad profanity which was equally gratuitous (our muter was on but it looked bad). Why insist on this in an otherwise completely clean film? Other than that, no complaints.

On being special:
When Dash has been chastised about using his super-powers at school to play a trick, his mom tells him that he’s special – that everyone is special. He scowls out the car window and mutters, “Which is just another way of saying no one is.” Later, the villain reveals his plan to give everyone his secret for having super-powers through technology, then says, “Then everyone will be special – which means that no one will be.”

I find this most interesting. Of course, every individual is special in the sense of being created uniquely by God and loved uniquely by Him. But in the realm of human affairs, obviously we have different strengths and weaknesses. And Dash sees that the demand to dumb everyone down to mediocrity is a way of trying to stamp out these essential differences. And Syndrome, even in his frantic attempts to become a superhero through his own means, knows that giving everyone superpowers will have the same result. So it doesn’t matter whether we are trying to dumb everyone down or bring everyone up, the goal is sameness, a destruction of the uniqueness of each human being.

This is a problem Richard Weaver commented on at mid-20th century in Ideas Have Consequences. Our country was founded on the principle of equal opportunity – anyone who had the ability and drive and right circumstances could become president, or whatever. But this is not the same as equal outcomes – anyone who wants to can become president was never the idea. I may want to be a pop music star, but anyone who has stood near me in church could assure you that no amount of voice lessons and hard work will ever make me one. And it is simply a fact of life that sometimes circumstances will hold us back from achieving some particular goal we otherwise might have. But the laws of our country do not prevent anyone from attempting to do or become anything they want. Social and financial circumstances are not the purview of the law, but how many people have overcome difficult circumstances to still achieve their goals? When we insist on social engineering, however, we have to make the laws apply unequally (think affirmative action), and then we no longer have equal opportunity and those with special ability will be discriminated against.

I kept thinking of Kurt Vonnegut’s short story “Harrison Bergeron.” I recommend it highly as another view of a society which tries to make everyone equal and prevent special gifts from being exercised. A very funny read while critiquing a serious problem, much like this movie.

On family and working together:
Great, great, great here. Each Incredible has his or her own special powers, and only in using them together can they finally overcome evil. Very realistic family life, with various tensions and frictions that smooth away when adversity threatens. (Love the scenes where Dash is disgusted at waking up next to his sister, but then goes ballistic when she is threatened: “Don’t you dare hit my sister!”) The super-smart kids don’t save the super-dumb parents, but they play an essential role as the family faces each trial. They gain confidence when they have to face danger alone, but they still need mom and dad. And mom and dad need each other. Incrediman’s “I work alone” leads him into danger he can’t conquer, but allowing his wife to be his true partner, and the kids to join in, gives them the variety of abilities they need to win the battles.

On a victim society:
I loved the opening where the people saved by Incrediman sue him for saving them (or not saving them enough). This is a great critique of today’s litigious, victim-laden society. And of course, it’s a great way of showing what happens a) to the individual denied the use of his gifts (Incrediman is continually frustrated by his inability to help people and keeps undermining the system to try to do so anyway) and b) to the society which is vulnerable to danger and death when individuals cannot do what they were created to do. The bottom line, taking care of #1 (or the stockholders!), blaming the real victims for what happens to them . . . a stronger and stronger emphasis on selfishness and coldness.

All in all, a wonderful film. Lots of great lines -- "Go save the world, honey, one claim at a time!" If you haven’t seen it, find it and set aside a couple of hours for some good clean fun. (And that’s from someone who almost never watches movies.)


Cindy said...

Am so glad you liked it!! We did, too, of course. Did K. and the boy enjoy it, or have you let them see it yet? :) ;)

alaiyo said...

We all enjoyed it together Sunday afternoon. The boy liked it much better than when he was "watching" it with 3 nieces and nephews racing about (and when it wasn't in lieu of some action movie he had hoped to see . . . :) ). K enjoyed it, too. I expect we will get it again sometime.