November 28, 2004

The Incredibles

Kip Manley has some interesting stuff up about the politics of The Incredibles. Well, we don't spoil our enjoyment of culture worrying about political correctness, do we? No. So, it's very entertaining, I wouldn't say great of all time or anything, and I think I would be leery of taking a kid, but anyway the closing credits rock and you should stay through them. OK, let's go.

[The rest of this post consists entirely of spoilers.]

Kip rebuts the view that the movie is Randian--the fact that some people are superheroes is just part of the genre, he points out, and the Incredibles don't exactly act in a Randian way. True, true. And capitalism is specifically dishonored as something that crushes the independent spirit who just wants to help people till he's just a cog in the wheel.

But I think there is something cod-Nietzschean about it. Kip says that Syndrome has super powers, being the mad inventor. But he doesn't have powers--he's just smart. And the movie leans heavily on this difference--eventually Syndrome wants to make sure everyone has his inventions, so no one will be special (which Kip quotes as counterevidence to his view, to be fair).

So what we have is your basic story of the smart taking revenge on the strong--the Superheroes are not very bright--because they resent (what's the verb form of ressentiment?) the strong's power(s). In the movie there's a bit of the hurt feelings of not being allowed to join the strong yourselves, but that doesn't fit the pattern too badly. And Syndrome wants to exalt himself--but isn't that what the slaves really want to do when they declare themselves good?

Anyway, having thought of this during the movie (my mind's warped, OK? And I'd read Kip's post already), I was quite amused when the last villain turned out to be Untermensch. Well, Underminer, who looks like a pig. Still.

And Kip is right to point out all the ways in which The Incredibles differs from this Nietzschean story. (The nobles never went around saving everyone else from stuff.) I sure wouldn't want to claim that this is in any way a Nietzschean allegory. (A classmate of mine thought Revenge of the Nerds was, but I haven't seen it so can't comment.) And of course my story doesn't even capture much of Nietzsche--there's the whole story about how the slave revolt is what makes humanity interesting. The Nietzschean stuff just gets at a bit of the archetypal undercurrent to the whole movie, maybe.

(And to why I wouldn't maybe take a kid--the body count is, as Kip says, distressing. Especially the comic montage of cape-related fatal mishaps--cool in Triplets of Belleville, maybe, not so much here. Though the designer is brilliant. Anyway, stay for the credits.)

Posted by Matt Weiner at November 28, 2004 10:47 PM

Darn, I didn't stay for the credits.

I know better than to leave during the credits for a film like that, but it was a date, etc. Ah, well.

Posted by: Jonathan at December 1, 2004 10:06 AM

Well, dates trump other considerations. It occurs to me that my enthusiasm about the credits may mean that I like drawing better than computer animation. Oh well.

(In case the credits were computer animated too: I said "may.")

Posted by: Matt Weiner at December 1, 2004 10:45 AM