5 Ways The Incredibles Is Ayn Randian Propaganda
Most adults love Pixar movies because Pixar movies are awesome. I'm not arguing that point. However, when you're an adult watching a Pixar movie you just kind of experience it like any other flick and go on about your business.
Once you have children you can now expect to watch any given film at least a dozen times in a row until you pray for the sweet release of death in order to not hear cartoon animals talk about friendship. In my house, my daughter has recently rediscovered The Incredibles, or as she calls it, The Amazing I-Man.
Somewhere between the eighth and the ninth run through last week I started to realize that the whole thing is really just a cartoonish representation of the ideas put forward in Atlas Shrugged. It doesn't mesh up perfectly, as we'll see, but sometimes it really is eerie how well the two works compliment each other.
The Fall of the Elite When The Incredibles opens up we see a society that is openly policed by super-powered ubermensch. These highly gifted individuals perform wonders for society, and receive as their due admiration, obedience, and as implied by the special features on the DVD release some sort of monetary compensation and support for their services from the government.
All that comes crashing down when Mr. Incredible saves a man from suicide and is subsequently and successfully sued in a frivolous lawsuit that sparks a series of legal challenges that unfairly brings the age of the hero to a close. That's exactly how the world of Atlas Shrugged begins its descent as well. Midas Mulligan is sued by people he denied an investment loan to, and a federal judge dedicated to the flawed fairness ideals that are the obsession of the novel's protagonists rules against him. Just as the superheroes in Pixar's world go into hiding, so is Mulligan the first to leave Rand's world to its own devices over the act.
The Weight of the World What is Mr. Incredible's punishment and purgatory? He goes from feats of daring do to working as an unappreciated insurance agent. In that position he is able to help people, but only from the corruption of his own company, and as evidenced by a mugger he is unable to stop without being fired the world is clearly unable to continue as it did without his and his peers' special gifts.
The insurance company represents two of the three antagonistic forces of Atlas Shrugged First, by nature insurance is inherently socialist. The means of the many to the needs of the few. Yet despite all that it clearly can't (Or won't) help an old lady with a legitimate claim without prodding, and reacts with indifference to a man being injured from assault.
This shows of the other force, inept capitalist unwilling to subvert to their betters. When Mr. Incredible's boss sneers about his profits over the protection of others, he is essentially just like James Taggart trying to circumvent Dagny Taggart's running of their railroad. In both cases a gifted person is in a submissive place from which they can only act covertly because an unfair bureaucracy has placed their inferiors ahead of them in a chosen task.
The Galt Syndrome But what about Syndrome? Surely he represents the perfect Randian ideal. He's a self-made millionaire who built his fortune on his gifted technological abilities and can surpass the super-powered. He's basically Tony Stark.
Except not really. Syndrome's goals have nothing to do with excelling. He wishes to sell off his science to the world's governments in the hope to create and entire race of techo-powered citizens that are the equal of the supers. He's basically the Dr. Robert Stadler of the Pixar universe, using his brilliant scientific mind to undermine the elite and by his own admission create a world where no one is special. Even his main powers involve not really harming or outfighting supers, but simply rendering them inert after stealing their abilities.
No Capes Even the "no capes" jokes have a root in superman-worship. If you read Rand you see that she has a distaste of ostentatious ornamentation. Occasionally she allows her heroes a lush material reward, but most of them are happier building empires in stark environments.
Aside from Batman and The Shadow the cape serves no real purpose in superhero costuming. Alan Moore even made a joke about it in Watchmen when Dollar Bill is killed because of it. In The Incredibles we see both inferior heroes and Syndrome himself undone because of the impracticality and non-essential nature of the cape. It's a trapping adopted to look like a hero without being a hero.
The Strong Survive At the end of the movie Mr. Incredible comes to accept his family life better after allowing his wife and children to more openly embrace their superiority.
Side note: Notice how Syndrome, Bomb Voyage, and the Underminer all exhibit mechanized powers rather than innate ones.
Yet when he finally allows Dash to compete in track they caution him to curb his abilities to just being the best by a little. It comes across as an act of humility, but it's here that Randians show what they have learned. This isn't a moment of humility, it's another market strategy. Don't upset the masses with your blatant perfection or they will once again harness the might of bureaucracy to hamstring you again.
That's the real message of The Incredibles. Some people are simply better than others, and we should not question them when they exceed us. Surely it is theirs by right.
After all, who defeats Syndrome? A baby who is essentially the embodiment of inherited superiority.
Get the Theater Newsletter
Get a rundown of upcoming theater events and ticket deals in Houston.