I got some skepticism from my family after we saw The Incredibles when I said I enjoyed it but I didn’t like the politics. But it really was the most conservative movie I think I’ve seen since S.W.A.T.. What’s interesting is the way it turns the liberal paradigm of a super hero film like Spiderman 2 on its head. In Spiderman the basic conflict is one extraordinarily powerful man’s struggle to resist, and then comes to terms with the great responsibility that comes with his great power. His exercise of great power for just ends is critical in facing down society’s great enemy: A creature seeking to consolidate all power for itself, at the expense of the most vulnerable members of society.

In The Incredibles, the victims are not the powerless, but the empowered. The movie is soaked in what Jon Stewart called “the anger of the enfranchised.” Society’s superior, more powerful members are held back by the resentment of the masses who are driven by jealousy to bring them down. Armies of lawyers and reams of regulations are deployed by the masses against their betters, leaving the super heroes bored and petulant and the masses unsafe. And who’s the ultimate adversary this elite must spring into action to confront? A scientist who resents that he couldn’t be a super hero. What’s his dastardly plan? To use science to give the masses super powers of their own so that they can be special too. And, various characters contend throughout the script, “If everyone’s special, then no one is special” (Says who?). The society of Spiderman is threatened by Enrons and Halliburtons; the society of The Incredibles is threatened by affirmative-action-admits and welfare queens.

The question posed by these movies, then, is which represents the real threat. Is America more endangered by those working to empower the disempowered, or by those working to further consolidate power for a narrow elite? I think it’s clear where I come down on this one.

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6 thoughts on “

  1. I’m curious for your thoughts on Spiderman’s patriotism, which, particularly in light of images of his leaping from tall building to tall building, I personally find extremely disturbing.
    =Evan

  2. i disagree. the message of the villain (that we should resent those different from us) and his plan (to give everyone superpowers so no-one will feel the pain and humiliation of inadequacy) are contradicted by the over-arching themes of the movie. that everyone actually is special, and trying to conform is futile and dishonest — and pressuring others to do so will hinder their growth. i think the movie had a lot more to do with the endemic suffocation of greed, litigiousness, and the flimsiness of political pretense. Superheros (except Captain America) are libertarian almost by default. So it’s not welfare queens and aff. action-hires that are threatening the world of _The Incredibles_, it’s the genuinely greedy opportunists.

    another thing: the most powerful political undertones i drew from the movie involved the potency of schemes that manufacture threats to a terrified populace, then supply the solution so they’ll worship you. make an enemy you can defeat to bring you power.

    that was ringing some bells.

  3. Pingback: ARE ARTISTIC STANDARDS ENOUGH? « Josh Eidelson

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