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January 5, 2010 11:23 AM   Subscribe


 
Man, I'm glad they called out the Incredibles for being an Objectivist film. I've always hated, hated, hated that movie, but explaining why to people who are fond of the whole Pixar oeuvre is sometimes difficult.
posted by the dief at 11:28 AM on January 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's still my preferred film version of Watchmen.
posted by Artw at 11:31 AM on January 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


that's because it's not an objectivist film. we've had this discussion here before.
posted by shmegegge at 11:32 AM on January 5, 2010 [10 favorites]


Man, I'm glad they called out the Incredibles for being an Objectivist film. I've always hated, hated, hated that movie, but explaining why to people who are fond of the whole Pixar oeuvre is sometimes difficult.

I liked the moving pictures.
posted by mazola at 11:34 AM on January 5, 2010 [9 favorites]


Well, I suppose it's not an Objectivist film inasmuch as it wasn't a direct adaptation of the Fountainhead or something, but it's rife with Objectivist themes and in particular its slamming of socialism (in the *horror* we're supposed to feel when we discover the bad guy's TERRIBLE, EVIL, NO GOOD VERY BAD scheme is giving everyone in the world superpowers) I found really grating.
posted by the dief at 11:37 AM on January 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Stephen Russell-Gebbett compares the films of Pixar to the films of Studio Ghibli and finds them wanting in imagination and well-developed characters in Just a Toy: Pixar's Failure of Imagination.

Every animated film studio in the world falls short of Studio Ghibli. To single out Pixar, who runs a solid #2, is a bit unfair.
posted by GuyZero at 11:39 AM on January 5, 2010 [24 favorites]


OK, I'll bite. I don't think you're supposed to feel horror at the bad guy's plot to give everyone superpowers. I think you're supposed to feel horror at the bad guy's (1) desire to kill people with superpowers (2) desire to kill innocents in his manufactured final showdown (3) desire to keep the best of his goodies to himself.

He sounds socialist to me in much the same way that the autocratic governments of the USSR and China are socialists: a public veneer of concern for the common man over a core of lust for power.
posted by Fraxas at 11:44 AM on January 5, 2010 [45 favorites]


I liked Cars.

Plus I can bench like a hundred pounds so get steppin', haters!
posted by Mister_A at 11:44 AM on January 5, 2010


They should do a short about a snarky beanplater who can find no joy in life.
posted by Artw at 11:44 AM on January 5, 2010 [8 favorites]


Hooray! Something to spend my entire day cuddled up in a blanket reading!

Shmegegge: Got a link to that discussion? I'd love to see that conversation.

GuyZero: As much as Studio Ghibli makes a mean film, I've always preferred Pixar. Ghibli gets too surreal and too muted for me, to the point where I feel a lot of their imagery is beautiful but doesn't make sense. Pixar's work is always rooted in reality, but there's a genius to how inventive they are with making the world come alive. They don't seem as detached. (I'll give Ghibli that they take more risks with their storytelling, however.)
posted by Rory Marinich at 11:46 AM on January 5, 2010


Syndrome's evil scheme is SELLING everyone in the world superpowers, not exactly socialism at its finest. Most of the "pro-objectivism" lines are from an overweight, slightly incompetent man in the throws of a midlife crisis and a 10 year old boy.

Also, Cars does suck, whatever this guy might feel regarding the themes. It was lazy, and the re-imagined world just didn't make any sense at all.
posted by ecurtz at 11:46 AM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I always liked this take on Toy Story. I wonder what Elrod thinks of it?
posted by 2N2222 at 11:46 AM on January 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


Fair enough, Fraxas. I only saw the movie once, didn't care to see it again afterwards.
posted by the dief at 11:47 AM on January 5, 2010


Fraxas: " I don't think you're supposed to feel horror at the bad guy's plot to give everyone superpowers."

I felt horror at the bad guy being voiced by a Scientologist.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:48 AM on January 5, 2010


The most important target audience for Cars loved it.

I'll tell you something though - that Dr. Seuss? There's no plot! And he just makes shit up to fit the rhyme scheme! THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A SNEETCH!
posted by Mister_A at 11:49 AM on January 5, 2010 [19 favorites]


Ghibli gets too surreal and too muted for me, to the point where I feel a lot of their imagery is beautiful but doesn't make sense. Pixar's work is always rooted in reality...

it's like picking a ripe plum off a tree versus a three-layer frosted chocolate cake. Each has their place, but chacun à son goût I suppose.
posted by GuyZero at 11:49 AM on January 5, 2010


THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A SNEETCH!

You have got to check out my new thneed.
posted by GuyZero at 11:50 AM on January 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


My enjoyment of a movie requires no political litmus test. I think you're off-base in your interpretation of the film, the dief, but even if you weren't I'd enjoy the hell out of that movie.

And, yeah. Cars sucks. It's Doc Hollywood remade with the cars from the Chevron commercials. Dull. Deadly dull.
posted by brundlefly at 11:51 AM on January 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


I've always hated, hated, hated that movie, but explaining why to people who are fond of the whole Pixar oeuvre is sometimes difficult.

Maybe they're unable to understand you because they're so giddy from having seen The Most Awesome Movie Ever.

But I probably just fail to hate it because I'm ignorant or haven't ever read any Ayn Rand or something.

Sweet Moses' taint. What the hell is not to love?
posted by bondcliff at 11:52 AM on January 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


We've discussed the world of Cars before - conclusion: the cars ate the people.

I'm pretty sure it's the least favourite Pixar film of the people at Pixar, but Disney has them cranking out sequels regardless, cos that arthouse shit don't pay the rent.
posted by Artw at 11:52 AM on January 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Previous related FPP regarding conservative/right wingers reaction to Wall-E: Wow-e: Malthusian Fear Mongering Can Be Annoying.
posted by ericb at 11:53 AM on January 5, 2010


Yeah brundlefly, I don't know *what* it was about The Incredibles that really jarred me, but it did. I've seen plenty of other movies with similar themes, but something about that one just stuck.
posted by the dief at 11:54 AM on January 5, 2010


Well, I suppose it's not an Objectivist film inasmuch as it wasn't a direct adaptation of the Fountainhead or something, but it's rife with Objectivist themes

which is something a person CAN take away from it, but I think it's a mistake to think that's the point, especially since Brandon Bird himself has said it's not true.
"Sometimes I felt people got silly with their analysis of it, the Ayn Rand nonsense for example," (there's another interview out there with more about that, but I can't find it right now.)

honestly, it's well trod territory now to realize that you can read a lot of meaning into a text, entirely outside of any kind of authorial intention, and if that's your bag, then fine. but in this particular instance, I think it's important to note that Bird has specifically come out against that meaning for the film.
posted by shmegegge at 11:55 AM on January 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


bondcliff, donno. I've seen lots of superhero films, lots of animated films and liked or at least tolerated the vast majority of them.
posted by the dief at 11:55 AM on January 5, 2010


Recent cinematic attempts at creating a “conservative cinema” have been overly ideological and political and thus failures as art (An American Carol comes to mind, as does the continuing conservative love for Red Dawn)

You take that back. You take that back right now.
posted by brundlefly at 11:56 AM on January 5, 2010


Brad Bird. 'scuse me.
posted by shmegegge at 11:56 AM on January 5, 2010




And, yeah. Cars sucks. It's Doc Hollywood remade with the cars from the Chevron commercials. Dull. Deadly dull.

Wait, let me guess... you're not 6.

On the flip side, my six year-old didn't like "Pan's Labyrinth" at all. He actually begged to stop the movie several times, but whatever, what does he know. That's a great film. Next up: we fast-forward to the ending of "Life is Beautiful".
posted by GuyZero at 11:57 AM on January 5, 2010 [15 favorites]


I would be interested in a superhero movie/comic/book that was NOT rife with Objectivist themes.
posted by DU at 11:58 AM on January 5, 2010


Elastigirl/Mrs. Incredible was once an anti-marriage feminist, but that's only because she hadn't met the right guy for her. Once she met Mr. Incredible, she married him, took his name, and returned to her proper place in the home, at her husband's side, producing his children.

Fun twist: there is a licensing deal with DC Comics who owns the name Elastigirl. As part of the terms, Pixar is not allowed to refer to the character as Elastigirl, she can only be known as Mrs. Incredible. Isn't this the perfect metaphor?

Also, from the comments:
What if Syndrome's foiled plan to murder Mr. Incredible is a conservative, alternate history of the French Revolution in which partisans of Ancien Regime put down the insurrection?
posted by AlsoMike at 12:01 PM on January 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


For what it's worth, the people I know who've actually made that drive out west along Route 66 like Cars way more than other adults.
posted by kmz at 12:01 PM on January 5, 2010


I think it's a mistake to think that's the point, especially since Brandon Bird himself has said it's not true

The author does not necessarily have a privileged point of view regarding the meaning of their work. At best, they have a privileged point of view regarding what they intended it to mean.
posted by asterix at 12:01 PM on January 5, 2010 [9 favorites]


Just people wanting to co-op bits of popular culture for their own talking points by any obtuse method possible.

Man, it's like the whole world has turned into a giant group of Sophomore philosophy students hell bent on unilaterally imparting individual subjective meanings on every speck of existence while sucking the enjoyment out of every goddamned morsel.

I never thought I'd argue for less analyzing... yet here I am.
posted by edgeways at 12:03 PM on January 5, 2010 [16 favorites]


Man, I'm glad they called out the Incredibles for being an Objectivist film. I've always hated, hated, hated that movie, but explaining why to people who are fond of the whole Pixar oeuvre is sometimes difficult.
Oh dear god. Yes, stupid objectivists (is there any other kind?) made up ludicrous interpretations of The Incredibles that fit with their worldview but the fact is that the "message" of the movie was completely counter to objectivist thought.

The whole idea of Objectivism is that those who are smarter should only work for themselves and keep all the wealth and ideas to themselves.

But in the Incredibles the "good guys" are driven by altruistic desires, to help people. Those who want to use their abilities are prevented from doing so. And of course as an "ordinary" person Mr. Incredible is held down and oppressed by a corporation, the insurance company he works for which is shown as doing everything it's power to screw people. Mr. Incredible is even chastised by his boss for helping people in his capacity as an insurance adjuster, while his boss wants to profit by weaseling out of contracts. Finally he snaps when he sees a mugging going on and his boss doesn't care. Would Ayn Rand care? Hell no.

Finally, the central villan is a brilliant inventor, who gets ahead not because of his physical abilities (he's normal) but by his intellect. In fact, he even builds a mountain hideaway away from society that is keeping him down and preventing him from realizing his dream: of selling dangerous products to the masses. He's the very ideal of an Objectivist Hero.
He sounds socialist to me in much the same way that the autocratic governments of the USSR and China are socialists: a public veneer of concern for the common man over a core of lust for power.
Objectivism is the naked lust for and celebration of power, selfishness, and the concentration of material wealth. If "lust for power" makes you a socialist then Ayn Rand would certainly qualify.
posted by delmoi at 12:03 PM on January 5, 2010 [34 favorites]


Man, I'm glad they called out the Incredibles for being an Objectivist film. I've always hated, hated, hated that movie, but explaining why to people who are fond of the whole Pixar oeuvre is sometimes difficult

I dunno. Everyone says that “Back to the Future” is conservaporn at its peak, but I love love LOVE that movie too.
posted by Think_Long at 12:04 PM on January 5, 2010


GuyZero: "Wait, let me guess... you're not 6."

There are plenty of kids' movies that are not dull, dumb and unoriginal. For example, Babe... or maybe everything ELSE that Pixar has ever made! A film doesn't have to be inappropriate for children to be good.
posted by brundlefly at 12:04 PM on January 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Elastigirl/Mrs. Incredible was once an anti-marriage feminist, but that's only because she hadn't met the right guy for her. Once she met Mr. Incredible, she married him, took his name, and returned to her proper place in the home, at her husband's side, producing his children.

This aspect of the movie has always really bothered me. On top of it all, I don't know why they chose to make her a stay-at-home mom.
posted by Lobster Garden at 12:04 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've always hated, hated, hated that movie, but explaining why to people who are fond of the whole Pixar oeuvre is sometimes difficult.

I like The Incredibles. But I understand the difficulty you have in explaining the objectivist thing to people who are fond of the Pixar oeuvre. I have difficulty sometimes explaining to people who are not fans of Rocky that pretty much every movie ever made is a version of Rocky.

(Like the Rocky movie where Rocky and Apollo Creed are semi-retired but keep secretly doing underground fights without telling their wives about it, and then Rocky is hired to do a high-paying fight in a foreign country, but it turns out that the promoter of that fight is actually trying to get Rocky killed by pitting him against a series of increasingly powerful unknown opponents who will then take over the boxing world.

When Adrian is concerned about Rocky and goes to talk to Mick about it, Mick reveals that Rocky has been fighting in these underground fights and tells Adrian where they are. So Adrian goes to the underground fight, where she is able to find Rocky just in time to discover that the promoter is taking his biggest, baddest steroid-enhanced prize fighter to the U.S. to dominate boxing.

So Adrian, Rocky, and their kids, who it turns out are also boxers, go back to the States, where they meet up with Apollo Creed and defeat the evil boxer and promoter by working together. And with that, Rocky and Apollo Creed come out of retirement.)
posted by The World Famous at 12:05 PM on January 5, 2010 [24 favorites]


I'll tell you something though - that Dr. Seuss? There's no plot! And he just makes shit up to fit the rhyme scheme! THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A SNEETCH!

The story of The Sneetches specifically had the best plot out of any children's book I ever read as a kid. Societal classes get ostracized and oppressed for superficial and meaningless reasons, while the greedy capitalist exploits their prejudices and lack of self-esteem to become insanely rich. The only flaw is that all of sneeches make up and become friends at the end, rather than the conflict escalating into rioting and violence.

Fox in Socks was a load of crap though.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:05 PM on January 5, 2010 [10 favorites]


I also like this new "small-c conservative" meme. It's like "These people hate our guts and would never vote for us, but there are still some things common to almost everyone which we are going to pretend are opposed by liberals so that we can feel more normal!"
posted by delmoi at 12:06 PM on January 5, 2010 [9 favorites]


I've never understood this desire to boil down artistic works to one line summaries. The Incredibles has some "objectivist" points in it, sure. Who cares? It also has a mom that kicks ass, a goth daughter who avoids becoming a cutter by discovering she actually likes her family, and people actually like her. Not to mention the unadulterated joy of a 10 year old boy running, AS FAST AS HE CAN.

Wall-E is more than an simplistic environmentalist diatribe (actually, it's not that at all, but it's a common complaint). It's got a love story, it's got nostalgia through the eyes of an abandoned robot with no real connection to the stuff he's nostalgic about, and M-O is just an effin' great character.

Cars might have way too much redneck appeal, but the whole theme that roads used to work WITH the land being supplanted by ones that goes through it is an interesting take on the costs of progress.

Pixar stories work because they're layered. Removing the layers to make 24 hour news network style arguments is insulting to the creators, the fans and most importantly, The Childrens.
posted by DigDoug at 12:08 PM on January 5, 2010 [16 favorites]


Now you mention it, I'm suprised the quota people haven't shown up.
posted by Artw at 12:11 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nobody can hate the small-c conservatism of a nice scoop of ice cream. Except for those lactose-intolerant liberals.
posted by mccarty.tim at 12:15 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Now you mention it, I'm suprised the quota people haven't shown up.

Why are you surprised? They're your fictional characters.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:15 PM on January 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


I liked the part where radio's Sarah Vowell was the voice of a moody teenager.

But as a Big-L Liberal, I'm guessing that was the Hollywood Liebrul bias what with NPR being backed by "donors like you," obvious code for GEORGE SORROS.
posted by mccarty.tim at 12:17 PM on January 5, 2010


On the flip side, my six year-old didn't like "Pan's Labyrinth" at all.

This might be my favorite line ever.
posted by quin at 12:17 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ghibli gets too surreal and too muted for me, to the point where I feel a lot of their imagery is beautiful but doesn't make sense.

I feel somewhat similarly about Ghibli. I've wondered if it's just that there's something lost in cultural translation. Or maybe it's that some of their movies seem to take themselves a bit too seriously. Even Ponyo, as juvenile fare as it is, seemed to seesaw between a kind of matter-of-fact realism and off the wall bizarroland that just left me feeling indifferent.

Pixar, like mothership Disney, on the other hand, remains disappointingly cloying to a large degree. I would love to see them do some work that isn't dumbed down for the kids (partly because I don't think the kids need things dumbed down very often). Their sophisticated depictions of life, death and sentimentality I find negated by hackneyed dialogue and antics.
posted by 2N2222 at 12:19 PM on January 5, 2010


Pixar is Objectivist for making the Incredibles to the same extent that Vonnegut was an Objectivist for writing Harrison Bergeron. Or to the same extent that Charlton Heston was an arms control advocate for appearing in Planet of the Apes.
posted by condour75 at 12:19 PM on January 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


BTW, Syndrome wants to expand the human condition by introducing super-powered suits to everyone (a bit like if Stark went retail), right? Aside from his whole "destroy the city and heroically save it" plot, aren't the Incredibles fighting progress, effectively making them Luddites or like treehuggers who keep a new Walmart from getting built?

Sure, the Increds will be out of a job, but society as a whole will be much richer because of Syndrome's products. And if you think his corporation is evil, vote with your dollars and don't invest in it.

Spin is fun.
posted by mccarty.tim at 12:20 PM on January 5, 2010


Okay. Now I've actually read the article comparing Pixar to Ghibli. And, while I'm loving reading through all these passionate, giddy interpretations of Pixar, this is one enjoyable essay I'm going to have to disagree with nonetheless.

When the balloons rose majestically to free Carl's house from its foundations in Up, I couldn't wait to see what bewitching sights from our world I would be treated to. I expected an exciting and profound journey both outward and inward. Instead, I got a big bird and talking dogs. This is bankruptcy of imagination.

This is a criticism I've seen a lot of, regarding up. I think it's the single thing that separates the people who loved Up and the people who found it disappointing. My take on it was that Pixar was dealing with a hell of a lot of potential stereotypes in kids' movies and got away with all of it.

Yeah, big birds aren't anything new. Neither are talking dogs. Neither, for that matter, are young irritating comedic sidekicks, and we had that also. But what's new is what Pixar did with those tropes. They infused each topic with an incredible imagination.

For instance, the idea that these collars directly translated dog thoughts was a new one for me. I've seen talking dog movies. Loved Oliver and Company as a kid. But those dogs have personalities of their own. They might be influenced by the dog type, but they're supposed to be distinct, individual characters that don't rely on the dog sort.

In Up, instead, the effort seemed to be to make characters that sounded as much like those dogs act in real life. I went in not expecting to find Dug funny at all, but the fact that his actions seemed so ordinary for a dog his type and his words simply reflected his body language? That was brilliant. "I hid under the porch because I love you" was stuck in my head for days, because, while simple, it so perfectly captures that sad look dogs give you. It's like you broke their heart. I loved the pug dog for the same reason. The voice and the dialogue was pitch-perfect for the sort of dog. No, it's not as elaborate or as evocative. It's something much subtler, and I suspect much harder to convey.

The same with Russell. Yes, his own plot isn't as complex as the plots of Miyazaki's children, but Pixar's not aiming for complexity with his character. Instead, they aim to convey a lot of the traits of little kids in a way that's fresh and inspired. So we don't see his deep thoughts, but so what? I don't see the deep thoughts of my little cousins who are his age. What we do see is the way he petulantly lets the house drag him along by a string, the muffled "Ow" as he sticks out his foot to get in Carl's way, the brilliantly conflicted expression on his face as he tries to figure out what to do while he's being dragged along the windowpane of the airship, right in the villain's sight. I laughed because I recognized it, and because it was realized in such a peerless way.

In fact, the criticism I do have for Ghibli is that I never believe in their characters. It's not that they're archetypes or stereotypes, it's that they never act the way I expect people to act. Their dialogue is stunted, their conversations are more expository than anything. It's a difference in aim. Ghibli aims for subtlety in plot, but they let their moment-by-moment characterization slip in the process. Pixar's plots are always one-way and moderately simplistic, but their focus is on characters' subtlety. They realize a lot that I think we take for granted because of how rarely they slip up. (Up had two lines of dialogue that jolted me from the picture, because they both sounded somewhat contrived. If they'd been in any other movie I doubt I'd have noticed. Few movies have captured such a realism of character for me.)

it's like picking a ripe plum off a tree versus a three-layer frosted chocolate cake. Each has their place, but chacun à son goût I suppose.

Nah. It's more like going out to a fancy restaurant to eat versus having your grandmother's matzohball soup. (Or whatever your grandmother makes you.) At the restaurant, you're not always certain what you're going to get and you're not certain you like everything you digest. But it's all different from what you expect, and it makes you think about food in ways you don't usually think. Your grandmother, meanwhile, makes only the few dishes, and you've had them a hundred times before, but she's spent years and years perfecting them. So while you know what you're getting when you have them, there's something soothing in just how well they're made, and you can appreciate that, too.

(There's the middle ground, of course, where you get a dish that's both familiar and unexpectedly original, but I can't think of any animated film that's ever managed both things at once. I can't think of many movies period that pull off both, and I don't expect every movie I see to try. One or the other is good enough for me.)
posted by Rory Marinich at 12:21 PM on January 5, 2010 [30 favorites]


Why are you surprised? They're your fictional characters.

I wish.

No, though you'd think counting all the incidences of thing X and and the incidences in thing Y in a work of art and dtermening it's value based strictly on that would be an utterly stupid form of critisim there's always someone willing to indulge in it.
posted by Artw at 12:21 PM on January 5, 2010


I feel like Ghibli is almost more a sensory experience in most of their films. The story is simple or very thin, and you're supposed to take in the atmosphere. In retrospect, I think I watch their films almost like I watch Koyanisquatsi.
posted by mccarty.tim at 12:22 PM on January 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


The author does not necessarily have a privileged point of view regarding the meaning of their work. At best, they have a privileged point of view regarding what they intended it to mean.

Look, I did the new criticism thing in college, too. Like I said, if you want to look at a work that way, bully. Don't let me stop you. But the author DOES have a privileged point of view, necessarily. It's his work, he meant a certain thing. that is his privilege, as its author. that doesn't mean you're forced to look at the work a certain way, or that you have to like it. but what it DOES mean is that if you say "this movie's point is to endorse objectivism," then you are factually incorrect. you can talk all you want about how those facets seem to be in there and you don't like the implication, and you'd have as good a point as you could want. a work can imply something unintentionally, it can endorse something without meaning to, it can have meaning for the audience the author didn't intend. sure. but that's not the same thing as making claims about what the point of the movie was. when it comes to that, that's the author's domain, and what we can do is talk about how well he made that point.
posted by shmegegge at 12:23 PM on January 5, 2010 [8 favorites]


re: the last link.
I dunno why there must be, of a necessity, a dichotomy there. Yeah, the Incredibles is objectivist. But is the moral obligation to act as an individual if one has the ability antithetical to working together to achieve a common goal?

I think there's more convolution here, and it should be easy to disregard the national reviews claim to the Incredibles (Brazil? Irony much? And Team America: World Police? C'mon). Granted there's the message that certain elements celebrate mediocrity, I don't see those as blatantly liberal though. And indeed, Mr. Incredible, and his family selflessly use their talents to serve society. And Elastigirl - there's an argument to be had there whether she's a true feminist, whether she's the most responsible and capable individual in the film (I think she is), but whatever the case, far from being a mediocre suburban hell, she is far more concerned with reality than Mr. Incredible (indeed, he lies to her about what's happening early on).

Comics historian Peter Sanderson writes (and lectures) about how the superhero concept is an extension of Nietzsche's ubermech (and notes those allusions when he talks about 'Watchmen') but contrasts this with American comics which takes the idea of "Nietzsche's superman and makes him into a servant of ordinary man who lives among them, just as Superman uses the Clark Kent disguise, and who doesn't impose his will on the rest of society but helps it and protects it." And there are activists campaigning for superhero rights (mutants would be a racial minority, no? There are X-Men themes here.)

I think it speaks more about the elitist mindset of the National Review that incredibly talented individuals can't live in the suburbs, can't live as one of us, a regular schmo, than that point says about the film. Indeed, Bob Parr is under social pressure to conform. On the other hand there's some anti-intellectualism in the film. But that's been the trend in comics recently. Back in the day you had geniuses like Reed Richards, Pym, Banner, Xavier, Stark, lawyers like Daredevil, even Peter Parker was brilliant enough to invent his own web shooters and fluid.
That last bit seems to have been retconned.

Still, in contrast to Elrod's point how 'conservative' is Bird if he makes a film showing sympathy for outsiders like a single mother who opposes the military and develops a relationship with a beatnick artist?
Although I agree with Elrod otherwise. And I like the small 'c' conservative concept. I don't think Incredibles, and pixar's films in general, can be shunted into these smaller pigeonholes. Although that's more attributable to the NR I'd think.
And indeed, given the wealth of essays, it does look like they have a lot of themes and readable perspectives.
I'd have never thought of the connection between Lester Burnham from American Beauty and Bob Parr from the Incredibles.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:24 PM on January 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


This aspect of the movie has always really bothered me. On top of it all, I don't know why they chose to make her a stay-at-home mom.

I honestly believe it's as simple as the fact that Sue Storm was/is a stay-at-home mom.* It's not like The Incredibles didn't wear certain influences pretty hugely on its sleeve.


*Come to think of it, what the heck did Ben or Johnny do, anyway? I mean, Reed Richards was/is an inventor, whose patents keep the FF flush with cash. But no other FF member seems to ever have expressed any desire to do anything with their lives other than sit around the Baxter Building** eating chips and complaining about the Yancy Street Gang. What were their jobs? Did they self-declare as "adventurers" or "consultants" or something on their IRS forms? Have they been officially unemployed for 70 years? At least "mother who chooses to stay at home to be with the kids despite being one of the most powerful beings in the universe" is something you can say you do at a party. And at least Brad Bird had the good sense to make the other two Incredibles members children below the employment age, so it doesn't look like they're just bums. I mean, what has Ben Grimm got? How do you explain that hole in your resumé?
  • World War II hero
  • Jet pilot
  • Spaceship pilot
  • Unemployed man that looks like an asteroid from the Velveeta System, but hella strong
Seriously. Get jobs, you fantastic bums.


 
**Or "Four Freedoms Plaza". Goddamn Mini-Me Doom knockoff childcreep Kristoff.

posted by Shepherd at 12:27 PM on January 5, 2010 [14 favorites]


Every animated film studio in the world falls short of Studio Ghibli.

Miyazaki's "Princess Mononoke" is what Avatar should have been.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:40 PM on January 5, 2010 [7 favorites]


Artw: No, though you'd think counting all the incidences of thing X and and the incidences in thing Y in a work of art and dtermening it's value based strictly on that would be an utterly stupid form of critisim there's always someone willing to indulge in it.

Does anyone ever do that? I mean, dang, I read a lot of feminist criticism, and it usually runs along the lines of, (using Avatar as an example) "yeah, the post-colonial politics were naive, and all of the female supporting characters were stereotypes, but the animation and character design were amazing and it was well-crafted."

Quite seriously, I've never encountered a feminist criticism of Pixar films that didn't take into account the fact that overall, the films are very good. Good works of art and good artists can handle that kind of criticism. Heck, Russ Meyer grindhouse films can take that kind of criticism and still come out awesome in the end.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:40 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


This aspect of the movie has always really bothered me. On top of it all, I don't know why they chose to make her a stay-at-home mom.

I kind of thought it was because The Incredibles was a throwback to an older, more repressed era? The oldest footage we see of superheros is grainy and black-and-white, so by the time they've grown up, a decade or two later, we're still in a fairly conservative time period. When the superheroes have to pretend like they're normal, it means Helen is trapped in this cliche stayathomemom role, whether she'd like to be there or not. Adds even more to the tension the family's forced into.
posted by Rory Marinich at 12:43 PM on January 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Seriously. Get jobs, you fantastic bums.

There's a kid's book, Ordinary Boy where the protoganist is the only non-superpowered kid in a town where everyone has superpowers. (his actual abilities become obvious as the book progresses but I won't spoil it).

At any rate, all the "heroes" hold down day jobs. Ordinary Boy's dad makes flames shoot out of his hands, a la The Human Torch.

His day job is boiling the oil at the local potato chip factory.

At any rate, The Incredibles was yet another installment in the po-mo deconstruction of superhero comic tropes. You point out the obvious one, that most superheroes can't afford groceries due to being unemployed. The Incredibles touches on that. I think that the most novel thing in the movie is the interplay of them all being "super" with their mundane family dynamics. At least for me it was all about the deconstruction and not about the objectivist stuff.
posted by GuyZero at 12:43 PM on January 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


I always read the Incredibles as the battle between humanistic altruism vs. misanthropy born of apathy, greed and ego. All the sympathetic characters actually do care about people on some level, and all the antagonistic ones simply don't.

Syndrome's claim to make the whole world special didn't really ring true for me- he didn't even bother fully kitting out his minions, knowing they're going up against superheroes. It was more about him becoming special and acknowledged and showing everyone how "right" he was than anything about a real political agenda. Much in the same way he supposedly cared for Mirage's safety.
posted by yeloson at 12:44 PM on January 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


I've always hated, hated, hated that movie, but explaining why to people who are fond of the whole Pixar oeuvre is sometimes difficult.

The Objectivist theme in "The Incredibles" is pretty easy to ignore. It's only a couple of lines of dialog.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:46 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


By god, I love you nerds and your many varieties of beans.
posted by Mister_A at 12:48 PM on January 5, 2010 [12 favorites]


Syndrome's claim to make the whole world special didn't really ring true for me- he didn't even bother fully kitting out his minions, knowing they're going up against superheroes.

Yes, exactly. I thought we were supposed to hate Syndrome because he was lying--he didn't want to make everyone super, he wanted to be the most super super and have everyone else grovel for crumbs of super from his table.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:49 PM on January 5, 2010


Hmm. I'm more used to accusations of the media espousing small "c" catholicism.
posted by bizwiz2 at 12:50 PM on January 5, 2010


On top of it all, I don't know why they chose to make her a stay-at-home mom.

Why would they choose to make her a working mom?
posted by The World Famous at 12:51 PM on January 5, 2010


I kind of thought it was because The Incredibles was a throwback to an older, more repressed era?

That's a good point that I hadn't considered.

Why would they choose to make her a working mom?

It seems to me that that would fit her character better.
posted by Lobster Garden at 12:52 PM on January 5, 2010




I would be interested in a superhero movie/comic/book that was NOT rife with Objectivist themes.



First Spiderman movie.

and UP got dangerous close to my LD50 for sentiment. I like the one with the fish.
posted by The Whelk at 12:53 PM on January 5, 2010


We've discussed the world of Cars before - conclusion: the cars ate the people.

I'm pretty sure it's the least favourite Pixar film of the people at Pixar, but Disney has them cranking out sequels regardless, cos that arthouse shit don't pay the rent.


Pixar hasn't made sequels for any of their films except Toy Story.
posted by eyeballkid at 12:53 PM on January 5, 2010


Why would they choose to make her a working mom?

Moms who work outside the home are the norm, not the exception, in the US. So they did buck the trend by making ElastoGirl a mom with no paid work.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:54 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


eyeballkid: "Pixar hasn't made sequels for any of their films except Toy Story."

A sequel to Cars is in the works.
posted by brundlefly at 12:55 PM on January 5, 2010


It seems to me that that would fit her character better.

Why, because she's a strong and independent type? It takes a strong and independent woman to choose to spend more time raising her beloved children over the quotidian glory of the cubicle wars.
posted by Mister_A at 12:55 PM on January 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Just jumping in to say : Cars sucks. Big Balls. It's a lazy, lazy Pixar film that feels like it only had half the effort put into it as all their other films combined. Cars have newspapers? How the fuck to they turn the pages? No.No.No.No. Yes it's a kid's film but all the other Pixar films have complete rounded worlds that make their own sense. You never question Monsters Inc or A Bug's Life because they seem to have worked all the kinks out.

THAT SAID...

Pixar/Disney have made more money in merchandising with Cars than with any of their other films. So yay for that. In that light its a very clever move. Let's face it - little boys are always going to be into toy cars. I'm willing to forgive this one slip as long as they never do it again

(except for Cars 2 which I'm going to pretend doesn't exist)
posted by AzzaMcKazza at 12:56 PM on January 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Why, because she's a strong and independent type?

...And also the fact that she says in the beginning of the movie that she doesn't want to get married or settle down.
posted by Lobster Garden at 12:58 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Pixar hasn't made sequels for any of their films except Toy Story.

Which would be their second most toy freindly film. Their next two films are Toy Story 3 in 2010 and Cars 2 in 2011. It's going to be a while before we see anything from them that isn't a sequel.
posted by Artw at 12:59 PM on January 5, 2010


They should do a short about a snarky beanplater who can find no joy in life.

There are some problems with the script of The Incredibles, definitely, if it is taken seriously. Taking the movie to its logical conclusion, the invention of eyeglasses is an evil act, for example, because it gives everyone the opportunity to see clearly, making people with 20/20 vision less special.

Call it beanplating, I guess, but the script does try, however subtly and cleverly, to package Brad Bird's political views along with the usual superhero story. So it's fair for the audience to evaluate and criticize those views as they are presented.

It's perhaps down to Pixar's amazing run of movies and its production values that it garners so much scrutiny. That's not a bad thing. There should be the opportunity for better female characters, for example, which may happen when all the head writers aren't men. The studio is young, the product is good, there's always room for improvement, etc. etc.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:59 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I kind of thought it was because The Incredibles was a throwback to an older, more repressed era?

All the way down to its 1950s, atomic age furniture and John Barry-esque archetypal James Bond score.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:02 PM on January 5, 2010


2N2222: I always liked this take on Toy Story. I wonder what Elrod thinks of it?

This guy's argument against Buzz's 'God' is just an argument FOR Woody's 'God,' i.e. Andy.

"You're lost and missing out on so much without the boundless love of God. We'll pray for you." is the author's paraphrase of Buzz's response to Woody telling him he's just a toy, but Woody is saying this just as powerfully. Replace "God" with "Andy" and it's Woody's whole argument.

The author continues, "What better parable for secular humanism could there be? The main character confronts his delusions, rejects them in favor of truth, and finds a purpose in his life by making others, and in particular, a small boy happy. He abandons his delusions, and chooses instead to devote his efforts to improving the real world."

Well, if truth is that there is a higher power (Andy) who Woody and Buzz should live their lives trying to please as the author asserts, it's actually a pretty terrible argument against theism. Buzz's 'God,' Star Command, is unseen and therefore 'false,' but in the end it's just replaces with a more visible deity in Andy. So it's not an atheist argument, but just an argument between opposing theists.
posted by papayaninja at 1:02 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why, because she's a strong and independent type?

...And also the fact that she says in the beginning of the movie that she doesn't want to get married or settle down.
posted by Lobster Garden


I'm not arguing the merits of their decision either way, but in real life I think a lot of people espouse beliefs when they are young (that they fully believe, not saying these are fake beliefs or anything) that they then essentially betray when they are older. The best decision? I don't know, but I would say it was a realistic thing to have in a film.
posted by haveanicesummer at 1:03 PM on January 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


Helen clearly has more valuable real world skills than Bob. I assumed she was at home by choice, rather than say, becoming a pilot, which would keep her away from her family. Bob also clearly couldn't take it as a stay-at-home dad, he goes stir crazy enough at his office job without having to care for 3 kids. She's already proven that she could be equal to the men during her superhero days, and feels being at home is the best thing for her family as a whole.
posted by ecurtz at 1:05 PM on January 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


...she doesn't want to get married or settle down...

Yes, but lots of people say things like that in real life, even. And then they change. They don't feel that way anymore. That's one of the key things you must do to make a satisfying film - the characters have to grow, or at least change. If they end in the same place they started, then you have not made a very entertaining film.

My point is simply that a stay-at-home mom character need not be considered a regressive or chauvinistic trope. I don't know that that's what you're saying, Lobster, but some people do consider staying at home to raise the kids incompatible with being a modern woman. Obviously, I don't feel that way.
posted by Mister_A at 1:05 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


There should be the opportunity for better female characters, for example, which may happen when all the head writers aren't men.

Yurgh. I'd agree with the sentiment, but that thread is fucking hideous, utterly loaded down with quota driven negativity and sniping that KirkJobSluder says doesn't exist. Fuck that thread.
posted by Artw at 1:06 PM on January 5, 2010


Yours was better, Art ;)
posted by Mister_A at 1:09 PM on January 5, 2010


I share the opinion stated above that The Incredibles is about as far from Objectivist as one can get, but looking back at some of the comments something just clicked for me and I realized that it does have a certain amount of Objectivist lineage.

Follow the plot of The Incredibles and you find Watchmen. Watchmen gives us Rorschach, who is a deconstruction of the Steve Ditko superhero. I don't think that anyone will argue that Ditko's characters weren't mouthpieces for his Objectivist beliefs. I'm not sure that The Incredibles has a Rorschach stand-in, but it's interesting to me to see how these ideas have grown.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 1:10 PM on January 5, 2010


Yours was better, Art ;)

Not really.

I dunno, I guess if someone had gone out of their way to write an FPP that didn't immediately push the discussion into fightyness it might not have gone the way it did for, oh, another 50 comments or so, but I guess some things are inevitable.
posted by Artw at 1:12 PM on January 5, 2010


My point is simply that a stay-at-home mom character need not be considered a regressive or chauvinistic trope.

I hate to bring up the thread about GLB stereotypes in fiction, but I think this counter-argument ties in really nicely with what people were trying to point out over there. A single, individual female character who "makes the choice" to stay home "in the best interests of her family" is not regressive or chauvinistic, but when you examine the whole field of movie and TV entertainment and see that same plot line over and over again, and contrast it with the plot lines where "woman goes to work to feed her kids and family is punished for it", and the individual movies start to seem suspect.
posted by muddgirl at 1:14 PM on January 5, 2010 [9 favorites]


Lobster Garden : ...And also the fact that she says in the beginning of the movie that she doesn't want to get married or settle down.

Which is part of the recurrent theme that people change depending on the circumstances they find themselves in. Mr. Incredible's inability to do this is what gets him into trouble and drives the film.
posted by quin at 1:16 PM on January 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Like lots of female animation fans, I am both a fan of Pixar, and tired of rolling my eyes because all of their movies (except maybe Incredibles, though it is told largely through the eyes of Mr. Incredible at beginning) center around male protagonists and/or relationships.

I have a little boy, and I'm glad there's so much art devoted to the wonders of being a little boy and working out things with your father, and discovering girls, and so on, but little girls are out there too. Is Pixar scared to do something like Coraline, in which a little girl is the hero, and her dreams and actions are actually central to the story? It doesn't have to be Pretty Pink Princess Ponies, after all. It could actually be good, and touching, and universal, and include the other half of kid population in something beside as supporting role.
posted by emjaybee at 1:18 PM on January 5, 2010 [15 favorites]


My point is simply that a stay-at-home mom character need not be considered a regressive or chauvinistic trope.

I think in the context of everything else as AlsoMike describes, it could be considered chauvinist for this particular film. On the other hand, there is also the daughter character Violet, who learns to become confident and independent, so it's not actually that simple.
posted by Lobster Garden at 1:18 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


People need to stop thinking only in extreme black and white terms. Just because a movie is critical of some aspects of socialism, and The Incredibles certainly does that, doesn't make it objectivist. Hell...I think there's plenty to criticize about certain flavors of socialist ideals, but that hardly makes me a Randroid. Most people (outside of Metafilter, at least) live somewhere between the extremes.
posted by rocket88 at 1:20 PM on January 5, 2010


Honestly, I'd like to see Pixar spawn off a division to do arthouse. Give it the freedom to experiment with new techniques and narrative structures, and either have it timeshare space in between big render-farm jobs or keep it technically small. Treat it as a testbed for concepts that might get pulled into a future feature film, or sold off piecemeal as effects for a non-Pixar action film. Do small radical stuff that can go to festivals or bundled with more adult fare.

Is Pixar scared to do something like Coraline, in which a little girl is the hero, and her dreams and actions are actually central to the story?

The Bear and the Bow is currently in production and scheduled for release in Christmas 2011.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:22 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I hate to bring up the thread about GLB stereotypes in fiction, but I think this counter-argument ties in really nicely with what people were trying to point out over there. A single, individual female character who "makes the choice" to stay home "in the best interests of her family" is not regressive or chauvinistic, but when you examine the whole field of movie and TV entertainment and see that same plot line over and over again, and contrast it with the plot lines where "woman goes to work to feed her kids and family is punished for it", and the individual movies start to seem suspect.

And at the risk of re-hashing the counter-argument from that thread, this is a real tension that many, many real women feel and their choices come down on both sides of the fence. Women who give up an external job ("stops working" would be too loaded) to raise their families are reasonably common. I think Mrs. Incredible's tension over the issue is clear in the film as it is with any woman who has both a job and a child.

That the dad is portrayed as a dunderhead who doesn't contribute to the home while simultaneously underperforming at work is a far more tired cliche that I'd like to see die.
posted by GuyZero at 1:23 PM on January 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


By the end of the film, Elastigirl -- Mrs. Incredible -- ends up realizing her stay-at-home-mom life has been unsatisfying to her, and is thrilled to be back fighting crime again, this time with her family. She's living the modern "having it all" dream. It seems pretty pro-feminist to me.
posted by chowflap at 1:24 PM on January 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Your point is well taken, muddgirl; but there is a danger also in portraying outside-the-home work as the chief or only source of personal fulfillment.

On the other hand, one could make the argument that Mrs. Incredible's decision to stay at home was part and parcel of the "let's act normal" routine, in which case having this decision more-or-less foisted upon her would reinforce the patriarchal structure of 20th-century America. That would be bad.

I am going to re-watch the movie and then maybe come back here and argue with myself some more.
posted by Mister_A at 1:26 PM on January 5, 2010


Isn't Helen's staying at home her version of the cage that Bob is stuck in? She's capable of doing much more, but due to the necessity of hiding out by fitting in, she's taken on the role of mom — which, during the time the movie is set, would have been the most likely and least attention-grabbing choice for her. She seems more accepting of this, but I'd chalk that up to her being more pragmatic than Bob.
posted by papercake at 1:28 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


GuyZero: That the dad is portrayed as a dunderhead who doesn't contribute to the home while simultaneously underperforming at work is a far more tired cliche that I'd like to see die.

Now the fact that the whole thing is an entire cliche struck me as a point. They are both acting out stock roles to deflect attention from the fact that their lives are not that simple
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:28 PM on January 5, 2010


“We've discussed the world of Cars before - conclusion: the cars ate the people.”
And what’s inside them? They don’t need passenger space?
…kinda creepy if you think about it. Toting rotting corpses around inside of them forever. Perhaps they're filled with whipped cream. Yeah. That's a nicer thought. Mmmm.

And not to further beanplate the Incredibles, but you would have lawsuits aplenty if there were actual superpowered humans doing vigilante work.
In a work of fantasy, reality is the twist. Put too many of those together and suddenly it’s reality. And creepy too. Take the powers out of the equation – Bob Parr is a guy with an obsessive personality and a death wish who happens to be really strong and is pretty distant as a father. He might have had a football career but he’d still be on prozac.
Dash is hyperactive and manic. Probably wind up as a radio talk show host. Violet is suicidal. Not much future there.
Buddy would have been institutionalized after working for DARPA for 20 years. Helen’s the only sane, grounded one in the film.
And the only thing fantastic about her character would be despite the state of the economy she can stay home and take care of three children in a fairly nice house. But hell, look at the Simpsons. Reminds me of good old Frank Grimes. Or ‘Grimey’ as he liked to be called. But I digress.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:31 PM on January 5, 2010


The Objectivist theme in "The Incredibles" is pretty easy to ignore. It's only a couple of lines of dialog.

QFT.

I mean, if we're parsing themes here, why not point at the one conflict (aside from the one involving the overzealous, sociopathic fanboy) that sets the entire plot in motion? Namely: the overly litigious and responsibility-averse nature of modern American society, which leads to the glut of spurious lawsuits that in turn precipitates the banning of superheroes in the first place. The Incredibles aren't stuck being average because some socialistic Big Brother won't let anyone be Randianly extraordinary; they're stuck being average because of overzealous civil lawyers and insurance-company lobbyists who pressured the government into banning them as a liability dodge.

Add in the crucial plot device of the injury-prone cape - and, moreover, Mrs Hogenson's spirited argument in favour of The Incredibles taking the responsibility themselves for avoiding potential injuries (and costly, court-jamming compensation and disability lawsuits) by abandoning capes entirely - and you've got a pretty strong case that The Incredibles, while mildly and tangentially a film in favour of Randian individualism, is much more emphatically a screed against the pernicious influence of rapacious personal injury lawyers and deep-pocketed insurance-company lobbyists. Which is as nonpartisan as screeds go, in that it's a simultaneous indictment of the careers of both John Edwards and Joe Lieberman.

QED.

*walks to front of booth*

*straightens "Beanplating Help - 5 cents" sign*
posted by gompa at 1:31 PM on January 5, 2010 [11 favorites]


Regarding Elastigirl as a housewife, consider that the original status quo of the movie is that their lives suck, and that they aren't living the lives they want.

Bob is miserable at the insurance company; Dash is sick of holding back; Violet is just plain miserable being alive and entering adolescence; and Helen? Does the movie suggest she loves what she's doing? Or is she making the best life she can out of the options left to her?

The movie would be retrograde if Helen couldn't wait to get back to housewifery when the adventure was done, if she lamented her career as a superheroine. (Though she didn't seem to revel in superheroing either. Her character could be summed up as "do what you have to to protect loved ones." If that means single-handedly infiltrating a supervillain's secret missile base, do that. If that means playing normal and being a housewife to keep from being sent to prison and losing your kids, do that.)

Of course Helen's starting position was less than ideal. That's the point of the dang movie. If she were already a fulfilled high achiever in the first reel, the movie would have been thrown off-balance.
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 1:36 PM on January 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


On the other hand, one could make the argument that Mrs. Incredible's decision to stay at home was part and parcel of the "let's act normal" routine

But it's NOT normal for a middle-class family with three children to be able to afford to live on one paycheck, is it? It's sort of a Hollywood dream of middle-class life, which would be fine for a movie all about subversion of dreams etc. etc. etc. if it wasn't the same damn middle-class dream that every movie presents.
posted by muddgirl at 1:36 PM on January 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure I understand what you're getting at, muddgirl, but I'll say this: I know a lot of smart and talented stay-at-home moms. It may not be the statistical norm, but it's not abnormal either, by any stretch. I also know a lot of smart and talented moms who work full time, part time, or something in between. I know some who freelance. None of these are the norm. If you ask me, there is no norm.
posted by Mister_A at 1:43 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's true that Elastigirl's return to a stay-at-home mom is a kind of reduction of her status, paralleled by the humiliations experienced by her husband in cubicle-land. But how does this work in the movie? A hero, reduced to an office worker; a heroine, reduced to a stay-at-home mom; the grand Elastigirl & Mr. Incredible turned into the ordinary Bob & Helen Parr. The point is that this is a tragedy - these baseline roles are fine for ordinary people, but not for the Incredibles, they deserve better. Why? Because they are better. Being a stay-at-home mom is appropriate for ordinary women, but not for Elastigirl.

Syndrome's claim to make the whole world special didn't really ring true for me...

Yes, Syndrome tries to elevate everyone and equalize everyone, but he's presented as not sincere, he's not really concerned about the underclass, they are just pawns in his scheme to take power. This is obviously the same old conservative trope that liberals don't really care about the poor, they're just manipulating them, even oppressing them by depriving them of the individualistic struggle to elevate themselves. Syndrome's technology might even represent "Big Government" - in the conservative mind, the official purpose of helping the people is a ruse that conceals its (supposedly) true destructive force.
posted by AlsoMike at 1:47 PM on January 5, 2010


As a single-income family, I can tell you that it is not normal. It is a struggle. Why indeed was Mrs. Incredible a stay at home mom?
posted by KokuRyu at 1:48 PM on January 5, 2010


papayaninja:


This guy's argument against Buzz's 'God' is just an argument FOR Woody's 'God,' i.e. Andy.


Well, no, not really.

Andy isn't a god so much as owner, since Andy is a boy, Woody knows he really is just a toy, and merely a possession of Andy. Buzz, on the other hand, seems to believe his own background story, which is of course, just an elaborate fabrication to provide context for his existence. There is no such thing as Star Command, he cannot actually fly, at least the way he believes he can, his whole mission and "creation myth" is a stubbornly held fiction. Buzz is in denial about his existence and true purpose. It causes him a good deal of distress to find this all out. And he manages to reconcile his existence with cartoon reality in the end.
posted by 2N2222 at 1:50 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Personally, I thought the whole family setup had to be set up along stereotypical lines because it was phony as heck.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:54 PM on January 5, 2010


Mothers who do no paid work outside the home are not the statistical norm in the US these days. So making ElastoGirl into a mother with no paid work outside the home was a choice by the screenwriters that bucked real-life trends; making her a mother with paid work outside the home wouldn't have bucked real-life trends.

So the question is why did they do that? Was it to play with media stereotypes? Was it to suggest that the Incredibles were modeling their cover personas on media stereotypes? There are lots of reasons, but suggesting that having Helen not have a paying job isn't a choice doesn't cut it.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:00 PM on January 5, 2010


The Parr's lifestyle is clearly being subsidized by the taxpayers as part of the superhero ban. Frozone has that sweet apartment and he doesn't seem to have any job at all (although perhaps he is supported by his off-camera wife / girlfriend.)

Logically at least one of the Parrs does need to be there providing child care. They have a baby with unknown super powers after all (although they say Jack-Jack has "no powers" the fact that both older children do shows it is at least a reasonable expectation.)
posted by ecurtz at 2:03 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


So making ElastoGirl into a mother with no paid work outside the home was a choice by the screenwriters that bucked real-life trends; making her a mother with paid work outside the home wouldn't have bucked real-life trends.

Re: the earlier comments on the throw-back atmosphere of the entire movie. It's perfectly normal if you've set the movie in a world where the cultural context is stuck in 1950's USA.
posted by GuyZero at 2:05 PM on January 5, 2010


They have a baby with unknown super powers after all...

Given the baby's age - around 12 months, up to 16 months - it would be possible for her to still be on maternity leave in real-world Canada. Perhaps Incredibles-land has decent family benefits encased in their anti-superhero laws.
posted by GuyZero at 2:07 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


What an awesome land Incredibes-land would be then - with most of the stay at home parents I know with kids that age it's been in whole or in part an economic choice - childcare is expensive, for younger kids especially so. Being able to have both parents work is actually kind of a luxury unless you both make a lot of money.
posted by Artw at 2:11 PM on January 5, 2010


Taking the movie to its logical conclusion, the invention of eyeglasses is an evil act, for example, because it gives everyone the opportunity to see clearly, making people with 20/20 vision less special.

This is a ridiculous interpretation of the film. Not one of the good guys in the film ever expresses any disapproval with the idea of "ordinary people" having tech-augmented powers. That's just Syndrome's self-justifying excuse for his bad behavior, "You're just jealous! You don't want other people to have powers like you." No, Buddy/Syndrome, we just want to stop incompetent kids/murderous adults from doing stupid/evil things.

Similarly, when Dash gets in trouble for his bad behavior at school, his self-justifying cry is, "But dad says our powers make us special!" He mistakenly thinks that his special powers should put him in a special moral category. His mother rebukes him with the phrase "Everyone's special" which in this context has the same meaning as "all men are created equal" that is, all people should be equal in the sight of the law, all people deserve to be treated the way we treat those who are special to us.

Dash misunderstands this, thinking that affirming the moral worth of everyone and holding everyone to an equal moral standard is the same as trying to handicap his abilities. When he says, "If everyone's special, then nobody is," he really means, "If I'm special, I should be allowed to get away with behavior that gets other people in trouble."

The ending of the movie, in which Dash's conflict with his mother is resolved by using his speed but not to misbehave at school and not in a way that endangers his family, makes it clear that the movie's message about power is not the Objectivist "Excellence vs. Mediocrity" but rather "Responsibility vs. Irresponsibility."
posted by straight at 2:11 PM on January 5, 2010 [26 favorites]


I didn't really think the Incredibles were out to stop Syndrome because he was going to sell rocket boots to the masses, I thought they were after him because he'd been murdering other superheroes for years, and had attempted to murder Mr. Incredible and his entire family. I don't think they really cared about his rocket boot sales scheme.
posted by notmydesk at 2:14 PM on January 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


the superhero concept is an extension of Nietzsche's ubermechSmedleyman

Little known fact: Nietzsche was a huge BattleTech fan.
posted by nicwolff at 2:14 PM on January 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


Lobster Garden This aspect of the movie has always really bothered me. On top of it all, I don't know why they chose to make her a stay-at-home mom.

Personally I thought it was because the baby, Jack-Jack, is less than two years old. Violet's ~13yrs, Dash ~10yrs; Helen probably worked between Dash being at kindy ~6 years ago, and her being ~6 months pregnant with Jack-Jack, ie 2.5 years ago. So that's found 3.5 years for high-powered law work or maybe cleaning and shelf-stacking in Helen's past, if you want it.

As to their economic status, IIRC the "Keene Act"-equivalent included what amounted to witness protection at a decent middle-class lifestyle standard, so they probably own that Eichler house of theirs free-and-clear. That being the case--a mortgage is the most common shackle around the neck of a working parent--Bob's wage probably does feed and clothe them all in reasonable comfort.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 2:15 PM on January 5, 2010


It's perfectly normal if you've set the movie in a world where the cultural context is stuck in 1950's USA.

Exactly. If the Eisenhower modern furniture, narrow lapels, black and white flash-back "news real" footage, and the entire 50's "space-age" design weren't a tip off to people, I don't know what else would be.

But context schmontext. I insist all art fit into my worldview. I get worked up over Pablo Picasso only doing Guernica that one time. I mean how dare he be such a sexist pig all those other times. Damn it. I want all art to be a perfect reflection of my values. And one of my values is animal abuse in that I love beating the same horse to death at least sixty times.
posted by tkchrist at 2:17 PM on January 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


Having Helen be a stay-at-home mom with no outside income is a story choice that makes the story less complicated, less time-consuming to tell, and requires less animation than having to portray not only her work as a mother in the home but also some other additional income-generating activity. I have no doubt that it was, at least in part, an expedient choice made to simplify the storytelling process, reduce the number of scenes, and save money and screen time.
posted by The World Famous at 2:17 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, of course it was a choice on the part of the writers and producers, Sidhedevil. It is entirely possible that they thought Helen would be too intimidating if she had an outside income AND amazing stretchy powers. I think the real reason is something a little simpler and a little more insidious:

It is important for the film to show the sort of quotidian hum-drum existence The Incredibles are reduced to. We see Mr. I in the office suffering the usual indignities of the cubicle drone. Showing Mrs. I in a similar setting would have been boring, so we see her petty troubles in a domestic setting. There is no chance of the roles being reversed in a popular film like this, unless you make this role reversal the core of the film. OMG! The DAD stays home and takes care of the kids!

Also, there's the fact that the troubles and disappointments Helen and her husband face have to be obvious, broad, and stereotyped.
posted by Mister_A at 2:17 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I thought they were after him because he'd been murdering other superheroes for years, and had attempted to murder Mr. Incredible and his entire family.

So it's about the morality of getting some payback, and less about protecting the public from rocket boot sales.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:19 PM on January 5, 2010


Not one of the good guys in the film ever expresses any disapproval with the idea of "ordinary people" having tech-augmented powers. That's just Syndrome's self-justifying excuse for his bad behavior

That's exactly where the disapproval is. Syndrome is a dishonest caricature of liberalism, which is what makes this movie conservative/libertarian.
posted by AlsoMike at 2:19 PM on January 5, 2010


Fantastic Mr. Fox. Best Animated Film of the year! Seriously.

I'm trying to watch Wall-E now (My first Pixar movie). It's okay, looks great. But "stealth Michael Moore attack on America? It's not very stealthy in its attack of America.
posted by JBennett at 2:19 PM on January 5, 2010


For a more concise and on-the-nose version of my comment, see here.
posted by Mister_A at 2:20 PM on January 5, 2010


Having Helen be a stay-at-home mom with no outside income is a story choice that makes the story less complicated, less time-consuming to tell

If that were the storytellers' only motivation, then they could easily have made Mr. Incredible a stay-at-home father and Elastigirl work. But I agree with the idea that others have mentioned that it is simply the family's way of blending into the 1950s culture.
posted by Lobster Garden at 2:23 PM on January 5, 2010


Personally, my admittedly friendly reading of the film is that the Parrs have superficially adopted an idealistic nuclear family structure because they are overcompensating for the sake of social acceptability. Incidentally, the same conflict is presented in Fantastic Mr. Fox.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:30 PM on January 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


2N2222: Regardless, they both end up living to serve some higher power. They're not living only to please others as the author states because Andy isn't a peer, he's someone who can dictate and control them any way he sees fit.

Buzz is valuable in the beginning because Star Command gives him value. In the end, like Woody, he's valuable because Andy gives him value.

Arguing about Toy Story is great! I'm actually a pretty solid atheist, but it seems clear that pleasing Andy is just as theistic as pleasing Star Command, even though Andy is real.
posted by papayaninja at 2:44 PM on January 5, 2010


Another connection: part of the appeal of the movie is the Promethean hero/romantic egotist/misunderstood genius that is above the common herd. This ideal is critiqued in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and interestingly enough, she was an early feminist.
posted by AlsoMike at 2:44 PM on January 5, 2010


I don't think it was a bad choice to make ElastoGirl a mom with no paid work outside the home, despite the straw-woman tkchrist has created which implies that anyone who questions any depiction of women in popular media is obviously some kind of funkilling ideologue.

The thing is that it is a choice, not an automatic "that's just the way things are" like making the sky blue. I tend to agree with the "1950s stereotype lifestyle as camouflage" take on it, and I think the "it would be too boring to show two mind-numbing office jobs" is another good point.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:54 PM on January 5, 2010


The living at home part was a retro cliche. Hence, stay-at-home mom. Remember?
posted by fleacircus at 3:00 PM on January 5, 2010


The Bear and the Bow is currently in production and scheduled for release in Christmas 2011.

Oh well, that's just...two more years or so.

While we're beanplating, my beef with Wall-E was not it's Sesame-Street level ecological message so much as the bad bad BAD science. Oh man. Especially in the end credits, we see oceans full of life and birds and whatnot, and I'm thinking, did the ship have those in stasis/gene banks? Cause they sure as hell were not around before the humans came back.

And the overarching headslapper that any civilization capable of making a spaceship w/ freaking hyperdrive could somehow not figure out how to recycle-and they didn't recycle in space, so where the hell were all the new parts/food coming from...aRRRRGH.
posted by emjaybee at 3:00 PM on January 5, 2010


Ah, Artw, my comrade-in-arms from the Great Pixar Quota War.

*stares off into distance, shudders*

Yeah.

And hey, I can't tell you if Cars sucked or not ... because I refuse to see anything with such an obnoxious racist asshole in it, even if he's playing a truck or some shit.

Fuck that guy.
posted by Amanojaku at 3:06 PM on January 5, 2010


Jesus, this is a huge plate of beans...
posted by Thorzdad at 3:10 PM on January 5, 2010


All critiques of media depictions of women are made by funkilling ideologues? All of them. Everywhere in the universe. Made by anyone. Even the critiques made by me.

Is that what I was implying? Gosh. I had no idea I was being that thourough. But I appreaciat your implication that I'm a sexist reactionary. Always a favorite default.

Now. Your strawman is in a heated battle to the death with my straw-woman. With light sabers.

Let's laay down our lightsabers and take it down a notch and consider that this discussion, this one right here, about The Incredibles, has been beaten to death on Metafilter a dozen times already. Let's keep it contained.

If you inist on broading my implications than I'm implying one thing for sure: that in general these so-called media critiques, which is a highly charitable way to describe Taste Wars, boil down to tiresome repeated axe-grinding.

Am I accusing you personally of axe grinding you ask? No. Not really. I wasn't responding to you personally. But to the general tenor of often repeated Incredibles hate fest and, bigger picture, the general tendency by many members of this community who seem to expect art to fit a perfect-world template.

We may not see our own "critiques" that way. But I assure you a quick perusal of these threads will display a clear pattern. And it's not at all limited to reactions sexism. It runs the gamut.

I'm all for fair critiques. Fair critiques.

But that pattern in general usually manifests in an unfair reading of the subject and actually is an unproductive buzzkill about half the time.
posted by tkchrist at 3:24 PM on January 5, 2010


Ah, Artw, my comrade-in-arms from the Great Pixar Quota War.
...
And hey, I can't tell you if Cars sucked or not ... because I refuse to see anything with such an obnoxious racist asshole in it, even if he's playing a truck or some shit.


Wow, from lurid paranoid fantasies of non-existent quotas to rejecting a film on the basis of who starred in it. Wow.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:33 PM on January 5, 2010


I refuse to see anything with such an obnoxious racist asshole

See what I mean?

Wow X 2.
posted by tkchrist at 3:46 PM on January 5, 2010


As a small-l liberal, I shall now gnash my teeth at the conservative frame that 'We're pro-family and we're pro-family values, unlike those dirty liberals who are anti-family and anti-family-values'.

*Gnash, gnash*
posted by sebastienbailard at 3:49 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Not on topic at all (other than being film related), but I thought you nerds would be interested in this news:

Sam Mendes to direct next Bond pic

What bizarro world are we living in?
posted by brundlefly at 4:15 PM on January 5, 2010


Hey, I had no idea there was a 650-plus-comment thread about the Pixar essay from NPR in June, or indeed, I'd have showed up and said something. (I lurk here relentlessly and somehow missed it nevertheless.) Lots of very thoughtful comments, and I totally understand why it tends to turn into a referendum on the validity of snitty demand-making, because the world contains a LOT of snitty demand-making, and it's a very slippery slope. I tried to be as clear as I could that it was aspirational and not perturbed, but that's a fine line, I know.

I love -- no, really, I love -- Pixar. They owe me nothing; they've given me plenty; I will see everything they ever put out until they get bored or I move to some miserable, cinema-free locale. But I also feel like as someone who writes about culture, it's fair for me to advocate for the kind of entertainment I want to see more of, and I know they will take that kind of thing for whatever they think it's worth and then ultimately ... do whatever they want, which is the absolute inalienable right of everybody who makes or writes or draws or plays anything. It's like, "I love your restaurant; I wish you also made soup." I'll still show up if you don't make soup, but now you know that soup seems to me to be conspicuously missing, and considering how great everything else is, I can't help wishing that you also had soup, because good soup is hard to find. But it's still up to you. (And by "soup," I mean "female non-princess lead-role heroines.")

Thanks, all, for the thoughtful discussion, er, six months ago. Pardon the digression.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 4:38 PM on January 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


2 FPPs even. Because it was good. And, my comments regarding the eventual and fairly innevitable horridness of the thread, worth discussing, I guess.
posted by Artw at 4:43 PM on January 5, 2010


The Bear and the Bow is currently in production and scheduled for release in Christmas 2011.

Oh well, that's just...two more years or so.


IT'S NEXT YEAR FOR CHRISSAKES! BRENDA CHAPMAN IS WRITING AND DIRECTING! KATHERINE SARAFIAN IS PRODUCING! THERE'S ONLY ONE MAJOR MALE CHARACTER! THIS IS THE MOST ESTROGEN-DRENCHED ANIMATED FILM EVER CREATED FROM AN INDUSTRY THAT'S SO MALE IT MAKES THE NBA LOOK LIKE A NOW CONVENTION!

I mean, goddamn, it took Disney 53 YEARS to go from Snow White to Beauty and the Beast. It's only taken Pixar 16 years to go from Toy Story to Bear And The Bow. And on top of that, they are doing something Disney has NEVER done -- had women getting producer, writer, and director credits on a single animated film. Hell, of the 11 non-Pixar animated films Disney released between 2000 and 2009, only 3 have a woman listed as a writer, producer, or director. Only one of them has a woman producing (Home On The Range). NONE of them have a woman directing.

NONE.

And the next two movies -- Rapunzel and King Of The Elves -- have NO women listed as writers/directors/producers.

So, honestly. Bear And The Bow is a huge step forward. And I'm pretty freaking tired of the snarking about it. It's like whining that it took this long for a black man to be president, and even then it's only because he's half-white and because the last president was one of the three or four worst presidents ever, and oh, we still haven't had a woman president or even a viable Hispanic/Asian/GLBT candidate.

WE HAVE A BLACK PRESIDENT.

PIXAR IS MAKING A MOVIE WITH A FEMALE LEAD WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY A WOMAN AND IT IS COMING OUT DECEMBER OF NEXT YEAR.

DEAL WITH IT.

This is why I so hate Pixar FPPs, just makes me want to rant and yell.
posted by dw at 5:06 PM on January 5, 2010 [16 favorites]


Another connection: part of the appeal of the movie is the Promethean hero/romantic egotist/misunderstood genius that is above the common herd. This ideal is critiqued in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and interestingly enough, she was an early feminist.

Very true. And it's the critique and subversion of the ideal of the "Superior Man" that needs to be free of the responsibilities of society, that makes the movie so anti-Objectivist

...wait, you ARE talking about Syndrome, right?
posted by happyroach at 5:12 PM on January 5, 2010


I actually wrote a piece in a journal about The Incredibles a few years ago. It's locked up behind paywalls now, but anyone with university access could probably find a free copy floating about somewhere. I was pretty happy with it. Basically I argued that The Incredibles is certainly a little bit problematic, but it's a good film because it allows itself to be problematic and leaves it to both adult and child audiences to deal with that. A negativist film, if you want to break out the hermeneutics.

One thing I have noticed with most Pixar films - and one of the reasons I suspect they're so popular with adults particularly - is that they revolve mostly around themes of fostering, or adoptions; themes and anxieties of parenting and the parent-child relationships. E.g Toy Stories, Nemo, Monsters Inc etc. etc.

Contrast this with Disney films, which are typically themes of emancipation, independence and/or coming-of-age, eg Mulan, Little Mermaid, Beauty & Beast, Lion King etc. etc.

It doesn't make one studio better or worse, just different. I think this difference is eroding somewhat, but initially was very stark. I personally prefer the emancipation themes - I think they are healthier texts for kids, but I do think it follows a wider cultural trend and focus in parenting.
posted by smoke at 5:22 PM on January 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


I believe it is possible to enjoy objectivist art and literature without having to be an objectivist or even a libertarian. I think objectivist works by nature are entertaining because they are so insane/extreme.
posted by niccolo at 6:43 PM on January 5, 2010


I believe it is possible to enjoy objectivist art and literature without having to be an objectivist or even a libertarian.

Well, that presume that's it's any good, and with Ayn Rand that's quite a presumption.
posted by delmoi at 6:57 PM on January 5, 2010


Late to the party, but:

I always figured Elastigirl was a stay-at-home mom because her middle child is a willful, competitive and impulsive boy. With superspeed. Can you imagine what he was like as a 2-year-old?!
posted by Decimask at 7:16 PM on January 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wow, dw, considering that a) we haven't yet seen if Bear and the Bow is any good, and b) you think it's whining when, in the turn of the 20th century, it still takes a "young" "forward-looking" studio 16 goddamn years to make one goddamn movie with a female protagonist...

..well, I guess I've been told. I guess I should be grateful they're not making Pixar Presents: Girls Are Bitches, huh? Go sit over here in the corner and count my girly blessings?

Women make up 51% percent of the population, and our representation in media as anything but fucktoys, idiots, sidekicks or comic relief is waaaay lower than that. So yeah, I'm not grateful for the crumbs I've been handed. It still sucks for little girls sitting in movie theaters being told their highest aspirations/assigned roles are about being fucking pretty, for fuck's sake.

It's way past time for this to improve, and so pardon moi if I'm not properly kissing Pixar's ass.

/edited to remove a few "goddamns"
posted by emjaybee at 7:23 PM on January 5, 2010 [7 favorites]


2 FPPs even. Because it was good. And, my comments regarding the eventual and fairly innevitable horridness of the thread, worth discussing, I guess.

lions,
and tigers,
and quotas,
oh my!
Burma Shave
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:53 PM on January 5, 2010


dw: Bear And The Bow is a huge step forward. And I'm pretty freaking tired of the snarking about it.

1) Most people snark because we love it, the product, and the brand.
2) Who is really hating on Pixar here, the people who would really, really, really love to see a Pixar movie with a female protagonist? Or the people saying without qualification "Cars sucks."
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:02 PM on January 5, 2010


It still sucks for little girls sitting in movie theaters being told their highest aspirations/assigned roles are about being fucking pretty, for fuck's sake.

No different than llttle boys being, apparently told, that they have to be insensitive lager louts, strong silent types, or fucking morons, not to menti0n the utter horrible psychological damage men suffer when they fail to be heroes. Nonsense of course, for fuck's sake, but essentially the same thing is being said.

People do grow up. I've seen it. Really.

Fortunately we can raise our kids to be sensible enough not to take fiction as a reflection of reality and the definitive source of what one can aspire to and what one is assigned to. Fortunately we can educate them about fiction, about archetypes, symbolism, metaphor, analogies, etc. and how thse are not real life but an imaginative construct not subject to reality and often times revolutionary in meaning if you can look past relating it to social constructs.

My sisters and I watched the same movies and tv shows when growing up. One is a lawyer, one is a restaurant manager and I'm a project manager. None of us are handsome or beautiful, none of us are heroic, none of us are princesses. Maybe I should fucking hate fiction because it doesn't reflect my life. But then it has nothing to do with movies or TV.

Fiction is one thing, reality another. Reality needs buckets of fixing with passive endorsement of rape, lack of equal pay for women, lack of respect for women as human beings. Pixar and fictitious works are not the place to look for fixing these issues unless you want to write and produce tripe instead of good stories.
posted by juiceCake at 8:22 PM on January 5, 2010


juiceCake: Pixar and fictitious works are not the place to look for fixing these issues unless you want to write and produce tripe instead of good stories.

Great example where Pixar "defenders" are more insulting that their "critics." We can have a high degree of confidence that The Bear and the Bow and Rapunzel will be both commercial and critical successes, first because Pixar has very good writers, second because Pixar has done a great job with female supporting cast characters, and third because animated films with female protagonists have had both commercial and critical success.

Better representation isn't a panacea, but it does matter. And I'm really have to wonder what planet this discussion comes from where a desire to see Pixar handle female characters is more outrageous than considering whether The Incredibles is an Randian Objectivist screed.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:37 PM on January 5, 2010


Pixar and fictitious works are not the place to look for fixing these issues

It makes no sense to abstain from discussing sexism when we find it, especially subtle sexism in the form of pervasive popular culture. One type of sexism is not more "real" or valid a concern than any other, and when you try to restrict the discussion, you are limiting what can be accomplished. (In my opinion, The Incredibles is not sexist, but others are still arguing the point and it's worth hearing their arguments.)

I have little patience for comments that say things along the lines of "Let's stop talking about this, it's pointless." Discussion fosters change.

Fiction is one thing, reality another.

We will not learn anything about ourselves if we don't take a moment to closely examine the texts (or films, or music, or what have you) that we as a society produce. The assumptions, attitudes, and beliefs of our culture are reflected in our art.
posted by Lobster Garden at 8:45 PM on January 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Art is the technology of the soul."
posted by Artw at 9:06 PM on January 5, 2010


(Man, you could do a great "Ayn Rand or Socialsit Russia" quote game. "Anyone who fights for the future, lives in it today!"
posted by Artw at 9:07 PM on January 5, 2010


And we shall call this Moffs Law
posted by jcruelty at 9:42 PM on January 5, 2010


Heh. Of course it should be noted that Avatar IS constructed entirely of a previously undiscovered mineral with the unlikely physical property of being irrisistably attracting to know-it-all jerkwads.
posted by Artw at 9:49 PM on January 5, 2010


papayaninja:

but it seems clear that pleasing Andy is just as theistic as pleasing Star Command, even though Andy is real.

I think you're off the mark here. It matters not whether Woody and Buzz regard Andy (or Star Command) as a deity. What matters is that Andy is a real person in the story, and Star Command is a fiction. Woody knows his place in the universe and accepts it, while Buzz cannot or will not face that truth, allows his faith to interpret the world around him and reinforce his belief in the non existent entity, even to the point of believing he has powers he does not really have. This is very much analogous to strong religious believers across the spectrum.
posted by 2N2222 at 10:16 PM on January 5, 2010


It's way past time for this to improve, and so pardon moi if I'm not properly kissing Pixar's ass.


Pixar's had, what, four people in charge of writing/directing all those films? They aren't exactly auteurs, but it's four people making the big choices for those sixteen years' worth of movies.

Is it really obnoxious that four bright male writer/directors have made two/three movies each, and that they've all featured male leads? I mean, each one, relatively speaking, is still a fairly fresh writer, and a fairly fresh director. Pete Docter has written a total of four Pixar films, and directed two. It's nice to think of him as part of a faceless corporation, but when you look at the individuals behind the movies none of them have an obnoxiously long list of successes. I wouldn't look at their resumes and think any one of them was unfair in his male protagonists.

The fact that Pixar's founding creative minds were all male has a lot to do with the state of that sort of animation. It's still incredibly new, remember, compared to any other technology, and when it started off the field was a boyzone. So it's not surprising that the top people were all men.

Remember also that Pixar isn't this magical confident entity capable of anything. Have you seen The Pixar Story, the documentary about their origins? Half a decade into their success and the company was still struggling, with Disney, with critics who thought they'd fail, with personal issues on the parts of the big guys. The fact that they've had so many hits is extraordinary, and certainly not taken for granted until their last few movies. Look at critics before then and you'll see a lot of people convinced the company was about to pratfall.

Given all that, given it started with a bunch of guys who wanted to write, each of whom did only a few projects, given the immense risk they've been taking all this time, and it's not too surprising that they weren't feeling the need to jump out and tackle gender issues. It's not like they've been sitting on their asses, you know. They've matured as writers all. They just haven't gone in that one direction.

But from my perspective, the fact that the second director after Brad Bird to join this carousel of directors is a woman, and was also the screenwriter, says that Pixar's gone after getting diversity in their group pretty quickly. Not quickly in the way that we might like if the industry was more flexible, and if 3D movies were around before Pixar, and if they hadn't almost bankrupted, and if they hadn't been fighting Disney, and if the people founding the company were old pros with enormous reputations, but the fact remains that each guy has only made two or so movies before the first girl movie's coming out.

Tell me: Do you complain like this about authors like Philip Roth, who's only ever had one female protagonist? Or about the countless other directors who focus on male leads? David Lynch took how many years before he had a female lead for the first time? I'm betting you don't, because in film in general and in literature we don't fret as much about individual writers. We take it for granted that some people write girls and some people write guys and some people write both but that it's a matter of comfort, or inclination.

It's only with Pixar that I've seen people get so fucking hissy. I don't mind people saying they'd like a female protagonist — I'm anticipating The Bear and the Bow — but people act like Pixar's doing something terrible, twisting facts conveniently so there's no obstacle between them and their vision of animation, ignoring the company's history to assume there's this autonomous brilliance that could do everything and simply hasn't decided to. When you take one goddamn minute to look at how Pixar's gone about making their movies, it doesn't seem quite so offensive.

Sixteen years to progress from a bankrupt boys' club to releasing — not starting, but releasing — a movie written, directed, and produced by women? That's pretty fucking progressive. I'm sorry making movies takes a really long time and a lot of red tape, and I think there's a worthwhile conversation to be had about this topic (and several have already occurred), but you can state a point without the self-importance or the assumption that this is the only (or biggest) issue here, and when you do that you don't irritate the people on the other side into lashing out at you.
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:16 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow, from lurid paranoid fantasies of non-existent quotas to rejecting a film on the basis of who starred in it. Wow.

See what I mean?

Wow X 2.


Sorry guys -- I just don't think a comedian who's made his millions off of "good ol' boy" jokes about blacks, "fags," and "ragheads" is an appropriate person to get for your kid-friendly movie. But hey, maybe you guys just have higher standards for what it is about someone that'll make you skip a movie, like "she's overexposed," or "he's a crappy actor."
posted by Amanojaku at 10:31 PM on January 5, 2010


From jcruelty's link And we shall call this Moffs Law

If you have posted such a comment, or if you are about to post such a comment, here or anywhere else, let me just advise you: Shut up. Shut the fuck up. Shut your goddamn fucking mouth. SHUT. UP.

You know what irritates me? People who insist that they have the right to tell other people to shut up. Analysts have the right to analyze. Their peers have the right to tell them they are full of it. That's how it is, and that's how it should be.

Incidentally, if they'd restricted their insistence to their own page, I could understand that. Your site, your rules, and repetition of certain arguments must breed some serious frustration at times - god knows, there are certain subjects on which any Metafilter veteran can probably predict not only the arguments but the specific comments that will appear before even opening the thread.

Which brings me to the present topic...we've hashed this out pretty solidly before, it seems to me. The lines in this thread appear to be basically the same, likewise the rhetorical strategies employed, the same tone of put-upon-ness appears on both sides, as in previous threads relating to the representation of women in Pixar films. Could we just make some sort of an informal agreement to post new ideas or arguments or not to post?

Hmmph. On the other hand, I suppose that contradicts my starting point though, doesn't it? That was rather pointless. Ah, well, I feel better now, anyway.

/self-indulgent rant
posted by AdamCSnider at 10:34 PM on January 5, 2010


On the other hand, the subthread on the metaphysics of Toy Story is completely new and pretty damn interesting.
posted by AdamCSnider at 10:37 PM on January 5, 2010


Woody knows his place in the universe and accepts it, while Buzz cannot or will not face that truth, allows his faith to interpret the world around him and reinforce his belief in the non existent entity, even to the point of believing he has powers he does not really have. This is very much analogous to strong religious believers across the spectrum.

Yep. Woody worships the one true deity, whom he has witnessed firsthand, whereas Buzz erroneously worships a false god. Interestingly, Buzz' belief system (i.e. that he is an astronaut sent by a government agency) is more logically plausible than Woody's (i.e. that they are all a child's toys). And there is quite a bit of physical evidence to support Buzz' belief, as well. Occam's razor loses in the Toy Story universe, I suppose - at least initially.
posted by The World Famous at 10:56 PM on January 5, 2010


Pixar and fictitious works are not the place to look for fixing these issues

Fictious works are a great place to look at fixing these problems. I can't wave a magic wand and make a Jewish American president, but I can trivially portray one in a work of art, and maybe cause some dialogue as to why there hasn't been one in what likes to believe it's the best country to be a Jew (outside maybe Israel) in the world.

Is Pixar scared to do something like Coraline, in which a little girl is the hero, and her dreams and actions are actually central to the story?

Where is my daughter's Paper Bag Princess movie?
posted by rodgerd at 11:00 PM on January 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


She's got the right attitude to Cthuloid monstrocities, that one.
posted by Artw at 12:00 AM on January 6, 2010


I just don't think this Bear and the Bow sounds like it'll measure up to Marvel's take on the female gender...
posted by haveanicesummer at 5:14 AM on January 6, 2010


Rory: Do you complain like this about authors like Philip Roth, who's only ever had one female protagonist? Or about the countless other directors who focus on male leads? David Lynch took how many years before he had a female lead for the first time? I'm betting you don't, because in film in general and in literature we don't fret as much about individual writers.

Actually? Yes I do. The question is why do you find that to be "hissy" and not "Cars sucked?" I also will talk about the use of Papyrus and bad science in Avatar, anachronisms in Sherlock Holmes, and the use of psychological drama in horror movies. It's all generally the same thing.

I'm sorry making movies takes a really long time and a lot of red tape, and I think there's a worthwhile conversation to be had about this topic (and several have already occurred), but you can state a point without the self-importance or the assumption that this is the only (or biggest) issue here, and when you do that you don't irritate the people on the other side into lashing out at you.

It's not. It is an issue that seems to draw an unreasonable amount of meta-discussion compared to claims that their movies reflect a conservative or Objectivist ideology, that they "sold out" on their production schedule, that their human characters don't quite look like, that certain movies are too saccharine, refusing to see a film to protest an actor cast in it, or that one of their films outright sucked.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:26 AM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Anyone up for talking about the actual articles in the FPP? Because it's quite an impressive collection of quality articles, even if I don't agree with all of them.

I was kind of interested to know what people thought about the amusing comparison between Buzz and Nora from Isben's A Doll's House. I enjoyed the author's self-deprecating way of pointing out that there's no deliberate connection but gee isn't it fun finding them anyway - seems like he's a natural bean-plater. Did anyone else agree with Colin Low's critique of Wall-E, that it suffers because it's unwilling to let real harm come to it's protagonist? I thought it was a good point, but not the only problem with the film.

I thought D.W. Gardner's article (about how Pixar is inconsistent about whether or not it approves of boundary-breaking) was a bit stupid. If there's no consistent message over 11 movies, maybe that's because it's not a subject that's easily categorised into "for" or "against" teams. Or maybe it's just that Pixar's directors don't actually consider boundary-breaking to be all that interesting a subject compared to the creation and dispersal of family groups.

But maybe that's a reflection of what smoke mentions above - Disney movies are about moving towards independence (breaking boundaries) while Pixar's are interested in individuals negotiating how they fit into groups, which may or may not include challenging existing groups, or finding new groups to belong to.

I do have a problem with some of the talk in this one though, about why Pixar doesn't make realistic human characters, or in Up, only makes some of them realistic. 3D animation is still a new technology - it's only recently become possible to get that level of detail and it takes a huge amount of rendering time. It's really only available to the main characters at this stage, it's nothing to do with how Pixar fits into the paradigms set by 2D animation. A technological limitation, not an artistic one. People always assume that anything done on computers just needs the creator to push a button.
posted by harriet vane at 6:07 AM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is it really obnoxious that four bright male writer/directors have made two/three movies each, and that they've all featured male leads?

obnoxious? maybe. it's certainly problematic. Because they're not just 4 bright male writer/directors. They're the team Pixar has cultivated, and while no single guy in there is responsible for Pixar's cultural diversity single-handedly, Pixar as the company that built that team can reasonably be asked to attempt to represent the half of the population they have so far neglected. That doesn't mean forcing 4 bright males to do something they can't, won't or simply haven't been inclined to do. It means finding someone who WILL. If we're talking about Pixar as a business that delivers products to a userbase - as opposed to a collection o' dudes just doin' their thing - then we're talking about an entire administrative and managerial structure that has, so far, shown zero interest in portraying women as the central figures of its stories. and for that COMPANY, that's a telling thing.

And no, I'm not a quota person. But I think that people can absolutely reasonably hope for Pixar to broaden its appeal in that direction.

Do you complain like this about authors like Philip Roth, who's only ever had one female protagonist?

What a completely ridiculous statement. There's practically an entire cottage industry around criticizing Philip Roth's attitudes toward women. Further, Philip Roth is not an entire publisher. Philip Roth is and always will be the sole determinant of what Philip Roth wants to write about. But if his publisher never had a book written by any of its authors that had a female protagonist? oof. also? even Roth's arguable misogyny has resulted in more female protagonists than Pixar has had.

It's only with Pixar that I've seen people get so fucking hissy.

This is an awful form of argumentation. choose your words more carefully next time, because shit like this is dismissive and pejorative in a way I'd bet you don't really want to be.
posted by shmegegge at 6:41 AM on January 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


I take The Incredibles as just good storytelling.

I take the message in the movie to be something like, "you should not be ashamed of having talents and you should use them for the common good."

The same message is (through irony) contained in Harrison Bergeron by Vonnegut.

Would proponents of the "anti-Objectivist message" in The Incredibles really like a movie where no one is special, where any talent is squashed, and where any kind of heroic act should be dismissed?
posted by imneuromancer at 7:19 AM on January 6, 2010


I just don't think this Bear and the Bow sounds like it'll measure up to Marvel's take on the female gender...

Have you read it?
posted by Amanojaku at 7:40 AM on January 6, 2010


Would proponents of the "anti-Objectivist message" in The Incredibles really like a movie where no one is special, where any talent is squashed, and where any kind of heroic act should be dismissed?

This kind of question misses the point of critical analysis. Critics of The Incredibles aren't criticizing it because they think talent should be squashed and heroism should be dismissed, they think the creator stacked the deck, by defining talent and heroism in ways they disagree with that are, in the world of the film, virtually impossible to criticize.

Your question is essentially, "Would you prefer the villain to win?" when the real issue is "Why did the filmmaker portray this character as the villain and this character as the hero?" You're looking at the film from within the structural world created by the film, the critics are taking a step back and taking a closer look at that very structure.

In The Incredibles, the "villain," Syndrome is a normal person who uses technology to make himself more powerful. That is the basic core of the character, upon which, Brad Bird has added a number of other traits: a disrespect for justice, a disregard for the value of life, and maniacal insecurity. The "heroes" are super-powered people whose powers are innate, gifted to them by fortune and luck through no effort of their own. On top of that template, Brad Bird has also added traits: they are well-meaning, just, and upstanding, and underappreciated.

Now, Bird could have just as easily made a movie where craven, oppressive super-powered people are thwarted by an upwardly-mobile normal person with an aptitude for technology. But he didn't. He made a movie where people with innate gifts are portrayed as virtuous and where "normal" people who work to raise themselves up are craven, evil, and duplicitous. Whether or not this pegs him as an Obectivist is beside the point. It's entirely legitimate to ask "Why?" he made his film this way.
posted by mpbx at 7:47 AM on January 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


My daughter is a huge Studio Ghibli fan, but has yet to see a Pixar film she likes. Her response to seeing WALL-E (which was her first movie theater experience):

Me: So did you like the movie?
Kid: I liked seeing a movie at the movie theater, just not that movie.
Me: What didn't you like about the movie?
Kid: Hel-lo-oh? Robots? Boys?

Apparently she doesn't like robots. She loves the strong female leads in all of Miyazaki's films. We took her to Ponyo this summer and still she sings the theme song.

While at a friend's house, his parents put on Cars for the pair of them to watch. It didn't hold her interest at all. Another friend quipped, "Well, she didn't like Doc Hollywood either," which still cracks me up to this day.
posted by frecklefaerie at 8:53 AM on January 6, 2010


re: mpbx

This kind of question misses the point of critical analysis....think the creator stacked the deck

Stacking the deck is normal. Not everyone or everything is the same (thankfully). Having special people is a normality of life.

I think Mr. Bird was more worried about the tyranny of mediocrity than extolling the virtues of some Randian/Objectivist hero*. See also The Iron Giant wherein Bird lays out an essentially existentialist philosophy. The Iron Giant is designed to be a "bad guy" (a weapon of some sort) that chooses to work for the common good, instead. You are what you choose to be.

As to why he chose to go with special+good v. mundane+bad rather than the opposite is a valid question, but then you would have to ask the same question about every other story that has ever been told, ever, no really I mean it.

* Yes, I realize this phrase plays into the "Death of the Author" versus "Intentionality" debate that is simmering in this thread, but I am responding to It's entirely legitimate to ask "Why?" he made his film this way.
posted by imneuromancer at 8:59 AM on January 6, 2010


Apparently she doesn't like robots.

Heh. My daughter loves robots. I guess I must be lucky.

I also found some movies that she now really likes via this ask me.
posted by Artw at 9:08 AM on January 6, 2010


mpbx: Now you see, my answer to that question would involve Lex Luthor, Professor Moriarty, and Captain Nemo. The self-made supervillain emphasizes that the bad deeds are the product of years of introspection and planning. He didn't succumb to a spur-of-the-moment temptation, he planned what he wanted to be at a tender age and spent much of his life preparing for it.

In most narratives you have the virtuous everyman: Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Dr. Watson, Ned Land. I suppose we could say that the foil to Syndrome is Edna Mode, who also appears to be technically brilliant and has an obsession with the safety of her clients.

"Why did he make the film this way?" is a really problematic question that gets to the heart of the whole Author is Dead concept of criticism. Biographical and autobiographical accounts of "why" are often biased, muddled, and contradictory. Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder have told almost completely incompatible stories of the origin of the "Putting on the Ritz" scene in Young Frankenstein. As an example.

And secondly, trying to figure out author motivation and attitude from fiction can be difficult because fictional characters only sometimes serve as mouthpieces for the author's politics.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:13 AM on January 6, 2010


smoke: "One thing I have noticed with most Pixar films - and one of the reasons I suspect they're so popular with adults particularly - is that they revolve mostly around themes of fostering, or adoptions; themes and anxieties of parenting and the parent-child relationships. E.g Toy Stories, Nemo, Monsters Inc etc. etc.

Contrast this with Disney films, which are typically themes of emancipation, independence and/or coming-of-age, eg Mulan, Little Mermaid, Beauty & Beast, Lion King etc. etc.
"

Interesting point. It's cool how a production company can have auteur-ish themes, institutionally.

I may be stating the obvious, not having read any criticism on this subject, but I've always been struck by the thematic differences between the Disney animated shorts and the Warner Brothers shorts.

The Warner Brothers shorts often have trickster characters, one step ahead of the rubes (Bugs, Coyote & Roadrunner), whereas the characters in Disney shorts are often completely powerless in their situations. Two (Donald Duck related) shorts that spring to mind are Drip Drippy Donald and Der Fuehrer's Face. Also, Goofy Gymnastics.

Granted, I may be pulling this out of my ass, as my knowledge of cartoons from this era is sadly limited. I'd like to rectify that some day.
posted by brundlefly at 9:29 AM on January 6, 2010


This is an awful form of argumentation. choose your words more carefully next time, because shit like this is dismissive and pejorative in a way I'd bet you don't really want to be.

Indeed. I'm very sorry if that's how it came across.

What a completely ridiculous statement. There's practically an entire cottage industry around criticizing Philip Roth's attitudes toward women. Further, Philip Roth is not an entire publisher. Philip Roth is and always will be the sole determinant of what Philip Roth wants to write about. But if his publisher never had a book written by any of its authors that had a female protagonist? oof. also? even Roth's arguable misogyny has resulted in more female protagonists than Pixar has had.

Perhaps it's very naive of me, but I don't view Pixar in the same way I'd view a publishing company. Pixar doesn't exist because distribution is a problem. It exists because making the sorts of films it makes would be impossible without having a gigantic production team.

The difference between the people criticizing Pixar and the people criticizing Philip Roth is that at least the people criticizing Roth are going after the man responsible rather than the faceless company. Roth is notably misogynist, and people complain about that. But the discussion focuses on the actual person who's writing these stories.

In Pixar's case, people don't do that, and something about that really bothers me. I mean, yes, it's a corporation and not an author, out of necessity for the medium, but the people responsible for Pixar are unique, distinct individuals, and they're not reclusive, and they are very friendly and talk a lot about the processes behind their writing. Several of them have mentioned how important it is to them that they create complex female leads. And, when you look at Pixar films, you get a handful of female characters that are deep and mature and serve as great noncliches in the genre.

You addressed my Philip Roth mention. What about David Lynch? The man took fifteen years to release a film with a female lead. But when it's an individual choosing to take that long, there isn't the same amassed criticism.

If Pixar had shown a misogynistic streak in any way, I'd be fine with the complaints against them. If they weren't in the middle of making The Bear and the Bow, I'd understand them. Fact is, Pixar's in the middle of putting out a film with a strong girl lead, and they did it relatively quickly, and they did it not to buckle to pressure from complainers, but because presumably because they love Brenda Chapman's work and Brenda Chapman loves Pixar.

I don't like the self-righteousness of certain of Pixar's critics here. They've been given exactly what they were asking for and still they generate this anger that's unnecessary and a bit childish. And they generate it not for Andrew Stanton and John Lasseter and Pete Docter and Brad Bird, the creative minds behind the company who have individual agendas that could be discussed, but for Pixar, this straw man of a company that does no wrong and deliberately excludes female leads.

Perhaps I could have dismissed those complaints with a snarky one-liner, as is the fashion, but I'm not a fan of snark and thought it might help to explain why the irritation.
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:47 AM on January 6, 2010


The Incredibles hadn't seemed like an Objectivist film to me, but I did come out of it utterly hating a film that I wanted to love. The crux of that was portraying villainy as a frustrated aspiration to become more, that it should be put down by a master race of superpowered people, and that the villain needs to be executed by jet engine for trying to reach out of his bio-caste infuriates me to this day (slow life).

I don't care why Bird wrote the film that way, and I see lots of good stuff in it as well (which is why I wanted to love it), but I do fault him for writing such a strongly eugenic theme.
posted by holycola at 10:51 AM on January 6, 2010


He made a movie where people with innate gifts are portrayed as virtuous and where "normal" people who work to raise themselves up are craven, evil, and duplicitous. Whether or not this pegs him as an Obectivist is beside the point. It's entirely legitimate to ask "Why?" he made his film this way.

Because, per a fairly standard hero story convention, Superman is the good guy and Lex Luthor is the bad guy, and Bird followed the convention (See also Spider Man v. Doc Oc or Green Goblin, Holmes v. Moriarty (as stated above), and many others). The Incredibles is a pretty standard superhero story, and that's about it. It seems silly to expend a lot of energy asking what secret motive there may have been for following pretty much every standard convention of mundane superhero storytelling.
posted by The World Famous at 11:06 AM on January 6, 2010


Any analysis of The Incredibles that doesn't account for 50 years (60?) of superhero comic tropes, cliches and themes is going to have a lot of holes in it. One could take the POV that it's an homage fit into the mold of Pixar's own themes of family and group belonging.
posted by GuyZero at 11:24 AM on January 6, 2010


Rory: Why do you think that a desire to see more female protagonists in Pixar films constitutes an accusation of personal misogyny rather than an observation about the products delivered by a company? And I reject the whole notion that we can't criticize or praise the products produced by corporate entities. It's a standard that we don't apply to Apple, Microsoft, Google, or Coca-Cola.

It is no more outrageous for Pixar fans to think that more female leads would be cool, than it is for Apple fans to think that a tablet or mid-line tower would be cool.

They've been given exactly what they were asking for and still they generate this anger that's unnecessary and a bit childish.

It's not Pixar that makes me angry.

holycola: Yes, yes, get a puppy, or mass murder. Get a puppy, or mass murder. Get a puppy, or mass murder. Doesn't it occur to you that Syndrome might be rationalizing in the same way that Luthor blames everything on Superman, and The Joker just wants to liberate everyone from conventional morality?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:27 AM on January 6, 2010


KirkJobSluder: Syndrome's origin strikes me as different because he tries to ally himself with Mr. Incredible early on and is rejected, which starts him down the bad path. What really bothered me was the author's need to execute him in the end; it was a really unsettling message.

I don't understand the puppy/mass murderer thing x3. Dumb it down for me a little? :)
posted by holycola at 11:40 AM on January 6, 2010


Syndrome is a dishonest caricature of liberalism, which is what makes this movie conservative/libertarian.

I strongly disagree that when a villain makes an argument or uses a philosophy as a transparent excuse for his own villainy, that we should automatically read that as a critique or caricature of said argument or philosophy. What a simplistic, impoverished way of understanding stories that would be!

In The Incredibles, the "villain," Syndrome is a normal person who uses technology to make himself more powerful. That is the basic core of the character, upon which, Brad Bird has added a number of other traits: a disrespect for justice, a disregard for the value of life, and maniacal insecurity.

I'm sorry, but this is a textbook example of begging the question. The whole argument here is whether Syndrome's defining characteristic is his use of technology or his insecurity and disregard for the value of life. Syndrome's words focus on his use of technology, but his actions are insecure and murderous, which I think is a much better criteria for determining the basic core of his character.

The crux of that was portraying villainy as a frustrated aspiration to become more, that it should be put down by a master race of superpowered people, and that the villain needs to be executed by jet engine for trying to reach out of his bio-caste infuriates me to this day (slow life).

That's certainly the story Syndome is telling himself in the movie, but I think you have to ignore most of the rest of the movie to see that as the actual story of The Incredibles. Buddy made a mess of his first use of technology to better himself, and instead of trying harder, he became a self-aggrandizing murderer. He met a bad end not because he tried to better himself, but because he stopped trying to better himself.
posted by straight at 11:48 AM on January 6, 2010 [6 favorites]


holycola: It's a reference to the old quip that if you want unconditional love, your best bet is to get a dog. And most people who are not homicidal maniacs generally tend to prefer non-violent solutions to their self-actualization.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:51 AM on January 6, 2010


straight: good points, and yes there is much more to the movie and I admittedly fixate on this aspect. If Buddy had been contained and corrected in his initial misuse rather than punished with ostracizing by his genetically superior mentor, maybe he would have turned out differently? It makes me think of how responses to early criminal behaviour, when they focus on punishment rather than rehabilitation, tend to produce more entrenched criminality.
posted by holycola at 11:53 AM on January 6, 2010


KirkJobSluder: Gotcha. A dog, or Superman. Or Jebus. They all seem to have the unconditional love thing as part of their mythologies.
posted by holycola at 11:57 AM on January 6, 2010


If Buddy had been contained and corrected in his initial misuse rather than punished with ostracizing by his genetically superior mentor, maybe he would have turned out differently?

But to me, that scene reads much more like "inexperienced kid screws up trying to be like an adult" than "ordinary joe screws up because he's not genetically superior." So, it's really the family theme again. Mr. Incredible was being a bad parent, not an Übermensch.

The other piece that's missing from this discussion is that Syndome is definitely not an ordinary everyman who tries to use technology to try to make up for not being genetically superior. In comic book terms, Syndrome is a Super Genius in the mold of Doctor Doom or Lex Luthor (or Mr. Fantastic or Tony Stark), which is basically a superpower itself. These are characters whose fantastic intellect allows them to invent technology that no one else has, making them almost as far "above" ordinary men as any superhero.

In fact, Doom and Luthor and Syndrome are even more the Übermensch than Superman, in that they believe their superior intellect puts them in a different moral category. "Right and Wrong are for lesser men," they say. The desire to be a moral Übermensch rather than simply a gifted person of equal moral worth is the temptation Dash escapes, further proof that the movie is actually actively rejecting Objectivist ideology.
posted by straight at 12:23 PM on January 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


KirkJobSluder: Most of the people asking for a female protagonist are asking in reasonable tones of voices. I was objecting to the handful of people here and on the earlier thread who I think are a little ridiculous in their claims.
posted by Rory Marinich at 12:57 PM on January 6, 2010


I strongly disagree that when a villain makes an argument or uses a philosophy as a transparent excuse for his own villainy, that we should automatically read that as a critique or caricature of said argument or philosophy. What a simplistic, impoverished way of understanding stories that would be!

Did I say that? In the context of Mr. Incredible as the natural aristocratic or meritocratic right of a superior person to enjoy a privileged position in society, Syndrome represents the antithesis of that - radical egalitarianism.

I'm sorry, but this is a textbook example of begging the question. Syndrome's words focus on his use of technology, but his actions are insecure and murderous, which I think is a much better criteria for determining the basic core of his character.

OK, let's not beg the question. You're saying that the core of Syndrome is that he is a Bad Guy, and Mr. Incredible is a Good Guy, so the movie is basically an allegory about how bad things are bad? That's not how you read an allegory. Superficially, yes, it's about good vs. evil, but the ideological question is what does the movie think is good or evil? The only way to answer that is to subtract the all the obvious propaganda - that Mr. Incredible is noble, friendly and kind to small children and animals, while Syndrome scowls and plots murder. There's nothing interesting about this, it's the same as any two countries going to war, and each side presenting themselves as the noble defender of peace & civilization and the other side as aggressive, dark-hearted savages.

Ignore the moral propaganda in the film, and find the basic positions that the antagonists represent. The film's message lies in what political ideology it casts as the Good Guys or the Bad Guys.
posted by AlsoMike at 1:05 PM on January 6, 2010



Is this sort of like how Bond films are all about an agent of an entrenched monarchy assasinating a series of world changing visionaries in order to maintain the status quo?
posted by Artw at 1:08 PM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


The film's message lies in what political ideology it casts as the Good Guys or the Bad Guys.

Really? A film without political ideologies has no message?
posted by The World Famous at 1:23 PM on January 6, 2010


Did I say that? In the context of Mr. Incredible as the natural aristocratic or meritocratic right of a superior person to enjoy a privileged position in society, Syndrome represents the antithesis of that - radical egalitarianism.

Syndrome's actions speak louder than his words, and they are incompatible with any kind of egalitarianism on three points: violence, gatekeeping resources, and not trusting others with processes built on consensus. To consider him a champion for radical egalitarianism is to buy the obvious and self-serving bullshit of a huckster.

And at the conclusion of the film, the Incredible family accept an anonymous suburban life as long as they retain the privilege to use their skills and talents.

Perhaps a weakness of the film is that it sacrifices broad sociological views of the superhero and society for what's basically a psychological narrative based on Maslow's Hierarchy.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:44 PM on January 6, 2010


That's not how you read an allegory.

Allegory is a legitimate method of interpretation, but I usually find it to be among the least interesting and least compelling. I don't think it's a very productive interpretive tool for understanding The Incredibles.

You're saying that the core of Syndrome is that he is a Bad Guy, and Mr. Incredible is a Good Guy

No, I'm saying that the whole "genetic superiority" issue is not central. Syndrome and the Incredible family both have great power. The difference is not natural power vs. artificial power. The difference is how they use their power.

As far as the theme of natural power and giftedness goes, the ideology of the movie is that, against the Objectivist view, having special ability does not mean you hold yourself to a different moral standard.

In fact, even the "Outlawing of the Supers" goes along with this theme. The supers are not outlawed because society jealously resents them. They're outlawed for the same reason machine guns are outlawed -- because society thinks they are dangerous. In other words society is treating people who want to recklessly use stupid amounts of natural power the same way they do people who want to recklessly use stupid amounts of artificial power. In the end, the Incredibles are allowed to use their powers for the same reasons and under the same restrictions that a policeman is allowed to use a gun.
posted by straight at 2:22 PM on January 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


that the villain needs to be executed by jet engine for trying to reach out of his bio-caste infuriates me to this day

Well, he was in the process of abducting a child after committing a long string of murders. Plus, duh! No capes!
posted by notmydesk at 2:23 PM on January 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


And if you really want to analyze the difference between Syndrome's powers and Mr. Incredible's, I think it's more interesting to think about them as nerds vs. jocks. Why do nerds love to read stories about jocks beating up evil nerds?
posted by straight at 2:24 PM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


straight: "Why do nerds love to read stories about jocks beating up evil nerds?"

You just blew my mind.
posted by brundlefly at 2:30 PM on January 6, 2010


Why do nerds love to read stories about jocks beating up evil nerds?

It is a cautionary tale that nerds tell themselves, with the message that one day, their nerdiness will afford them virtually limitless power and provide them with an opportunity to take revenge against the jocks - but that they must not use their nerdly power in that manner, because to do so will inevitably lead to their downfall.
posted by The World Famous at 2:39 PM on January 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


Syndrome's actions speak louder than his words, and they are incompatible with any kind of egalitarianism on three points: violence, gatekeeping resources, and not trusting others with processes built on consensus.

LOL ah yes, who can forget the commitment to nonviolence in the French Revolution? And the inclusiveness and consensus-building of the dictatorship of the proletariat?
posted by AlsoMike at 3:08 PM on January 6, 2010


I think to say that The Incredibles functions poorly as an in depth analysis of the French Revolution of 1789 is a fair statement.
posted by Artw at 3:23 PM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


AlsoMike: LOL ah yes, who can forget the commitment to nonviolence in the French Revolution? And the inclusiveness and consensus-building of the dictatorship of the proletariat?

There also, the commitment to egalitarian ideals was merely ideological window-dressing.

But then again, I think that reading political allegory into The Incredibles primarily involves painting gang tags onto a mostly-blank surface.

The Incredibles is, first and foremost, a Comic Book story. And at least within that narrative frame, supervillains are often given sympathetic ideals to make the case that extremism in the pursuit of them is generally a bad thing.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:20 PM on January 6, 2010


Wow, dw, considering that a) we haven't yet seen if Bear and the Bow is any good, and b) you think it's whining when, in the turn of the 20th century, it still takes a "young" "forward-looking" studio 16 goddamn years to make one goddamn movie with a female protagonist...

Quick, name a Dreamworks/PDI animated movie with a female lead. Can you?

Try Monsters vs Aliens, which came out last year. In fact, it's the only Dreamworks Animation film to ever have a female primary actor (and the only computer-animated film with a female lead). Writing credits were shared amongst three women, it was directed by a woman, the lead role (Ginormica) was anything but a pretty princess, and it made $360M worldwide, three times what Coraline made. And this from a studio where roughly half their output (traditional animation + CGI, 17 films) has had women in one of the writer/director/producer chairs.

And for all that, for what's essentially a movie you can point to and say, "See, Pixar, that's how you do it!" it's been the subject of exactly zero FPPs on MeFi. It's not been discussed as a major step forward for women. It was out there, it made a heap of money, and then everyone went back to piling on Pixar. (Could be because MvA had poor reviews, but 72% on Rotten Tomatoes is reasonably fresh.)

And while we're at it, let's discuss Princess And The Frog. I mean, ye gods, the princess character is the foil for the female lead, who is a labor-minded, self-determining African-American woman who wants to own a restaurant. All in a movie, by the by, co-produced by Jon Lasseter himself. And it got a FPP back in 2008 (that somehow turned into a referendum on Randy Newman) but nothing since.

So I'm left wondering why MeFi obsesses over Pixar but has never discussed Dreamworks' relatively integrated staff or Disney's dichotomy between Belle/Mulan/Tiana while relentlessly pushing their Princess toy lines. Or, for that matter, how Coraline had no women with writing/producing/directing credits while being the movie it's lauded for being.

..well, I guess I've been told. I guess I should be grateful they're not making Pixar Presents: Girls Are Bitches, huh? Go sit over here in the corner and count my girly blessings?

They tapped Brenda Chapman to direct and write the film. The first woman to direct an animated feature (Prince of Egypt). Story supervisor on Lion King. Writing credits also for Hunchback of Notre Dame, Chicken Run, and Cars. CalArts grad. One of the few women to break through the obscenely low glass ceiling within the animation world.

I mean, let's talk about that ceiling for a second. Do you know how many women have ever directed an animated feature? Five, maybe six. Keep in mind that that's out of ALL the animated films ever produced. Again, the animation field is so male that it's a wonder there are ANY women in the field.

That they're handing the keys of this movie to Chapman (and having Katherine Sarafian be the managing producer) says that Pixar is actually concerned about getting it right the first time. They know they have to. Just as Disney knew when they struggled getting Beauty and the Beast right, made even more vital by the scouring feminist critics gave them over The Little Mermaid.

What if it's bad? Well, let's face it, the worst movie Pixar ever did beats the best movie any other studio is putting out right now.

Women make up 51% percent of the population, and our representation in media as anything but fucktoys, idiots, sidekicks or comic relief is waaaay lower than that. So yeah, I'm not grateful for the crumbs I've been handed.

Well, you know, the problem is the animation industry and Hollywood. Ripping Pixar for being part of an industry where only three women have ever been nominated for Best Director is kinda like criticizing a steakhouse for serving meat.

The point I've been trying to make is that Pixar recognized everyone's concerns and pulled out all the stops on Bear And The Bow. Not only are they trying, they're doing their damnest to get it right. So, you know, give them the benefit of doubt.

It still sucks for little girls sitting in movie theaters being told their highest aspirations/assigned roles are about being fucking pretty, for fuck's sake.

My daughter, raised on a steady diet of Pixar films, wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up.

My niece, raised on a steady diet of Disney films, wants to be a princess.

Ponder that.
posted by dw at 5:31 PM on January 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


dw: So I'm left wondering why MeFi obsesses over Pixar...

How dare we discuss Pixar in a Pixar thread! How dare we!
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:10 PM on January 6, 2010


What really bothered me was the author's need to execute him in the end; it was a really unsettling message.

Standard Silver Age trope: if you didn't see the body, he isn't dead.
posted by SPrintF at 8:59 PM on January 6, 2010


My daughter, raised on a steady diet of Pixar films, wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up.

My niece, raised on a steady diet of Disney films, wants to be a princess.


I would just like to say that obsessing about vocations in children is, in my opinion, a little bit redundant. Kids don't have jobs. They have no idea what jobs are like. They don't *actually* want to be a princess; they have no idea of what life for a real princess is like than most people.

Princess (in the Disney model) is co-sign for a number of things, most crucially I would argue agency - which is what most kids really want. So when they say, "I want to be a princess", what they're really saying is "I want to be able to make my own decisions about things, and be right about it, and live somewhere amazing and huge, with lots of toys and dress-ups and excitement, and tell people what to think and do - and they will be grateful for it, and listen to me and respect me - and do what I want when I want it".

I would argue this is a) not that uncommon a desire for any child - boy or girl - and b) a pretty darned accurate description - not of being a princess, but of the act of play (really awesome play, but play nonetheless). Play which is, not coincidentally, virtually the only time they have any agency and furthermore is developmentally speaking vital practice for socialisation and enacting 'adult' behaviours (and yes, norms) in a safe setting.

So your daughter may 'want to be' a veterinarian, but that really is no more or less valid - or realistic - a choice than princess. Both choices reflect a desire for autonomy, respect and doing fun stuff.
posted by smoke at 9:44 PM on January 6, 2010


My daughter has recently discovered an incredible faculty for pushing objects around to use to climb up to previously inaccessible areas - clearly she is going to be a theoretical physicist.
posted by Artw at 9:53 PM on January 6, 2010


I'm going to invent a pizza tree.
posted by dirigibleman at 12:23 AM on January 7, 2010


Why do nerds love to read stories about jocks beating up evil nerds?

It is a cautionary tale that nerds tell themselves, with the message that one day, their nerdiness will afford them virtually limitless power and provide them with an opportunity to take revenge against the jocks - but that they must not use their nerdly power in that manner, because to do so will inevitably lead to their downfall.


There's always Kit Whitfield's take on the subject - she makes a pretty good case for The Incredibles as an aging jock fantasy, which seems to clear up the otherwise rather weird themes in the story...
posted by lucien_reeve at 3:59 AM on January 7, 2010


Have been digging around on the blog that posted the Pixar articles - lots of really thoughtful and fun film analysis there, lots of good links too. Thanks for posting it, chunking express.
posted by harriet vane at 6:06 AM on January 7, 2010


it got a FPP back in 2008 (that somehow turned into a referendum on Randy Newman)

Whaddaya mean "somehow"? Are you new here?
posted by grubi at 6:58 AM on January 7, 2010


My daughter has recently discovered an incredible faculty for pushing objects around to use to climb up to previously inaccessible areas - clearly she is going to be a theoretical physicist.

Or she's planning a trip to Super Mario World.
posted by grubi at 7:00 AM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Try Monsters vs Aliens, which came out last year...And for all that, for what's essentially a movie you can point to and say, "See, Pixar, that's how you do it!" it's been the subject of exactly zero FPPs on MeFi.

No. No. No. Dear Pixar: THAT IS NOT HOW YOU DO IT.

I mean, this is the movie that managed the incredible feat of making Stephen Colbert lame.

So I'm left wondering why MeFi obsesses over Pixar but has never discussed Dreamworks' relatively integrated staff

Maybe it's because Dreamworks has made exactly one picture (Kung Fu Panda) that's better than Pixar's worst (I'm not giving them credit for any of the stuff from Aardman Animations)? And, unfortunately, it has fewer and tinier female roles than most Pixar films.

It's not hard to find mediocre films with female leads. What some of us would like to see is a fantastic Pixar-at-the-top-of-their-game movie with a female lead.
posted by straight at 9:46 AM on January 7, 2010


I suspect being 3 is like being in Super Mario World ALL THE TIME.
posted by Artw at 10:36 AM on January 7, 2010


foo
posted by kuatto at 2:15 PM on January 20, 2010


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