Podcast: Did The Incredibles CREATE Syndrome?

With the upcoming release of The Incredibles 2, we decided to go back to the original The Incredibles (from 2004) to dig deeper into that story! Daryl and Jay are joined by Josh and Angie Taylor from Network 1901 and Modern Mouse Boutique to dig deeper into The Incredibles super-family and their insane new villain, Syndrome…

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Ashley’s Take:

This movie came out before “Batman Begins,” the MCU, and the whole superhero movie craze. How do you think it contributed to the trend?

Superhero films — and superhero franchises — have become such a big part of Hollywood now that it’s weird to think of a time when that wasn’t the norm. But back before the original “Iron Man” in 2008 (four years after “The Incredibles” hit theaters), I don’t think anybody could have guessed how much the MCU was going to explode in popularity and what a power player this cinematic universe would become in Hollywood.

I think it’s tricky to say definitively how much of an impact “The Incredibles” had on the superhero movie trend. I think the X-Men franchise, the original Spider-Man films and Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy were bigger factors in the superhero franchise explosion. “The Incredibles” has always felt like a separate deal, at least to me, since I associate it more with the Pixar animated films than with that group of superhero movies.

However, it IS still fascinating to look at this film and compare it to the movies that came both before and after it, and I think it’s going to be really interesting to see the upcoming sequel this summer, now that we have so many other superhero sequels and franchises out there. It would be cool if the new Incredibles movie references or jokes about how the superhero genre has grown and changed.

If we had these types of heroes in the real world, do you think people would turn on them like they did in the movie?

I love superhero movies, and if we had superheroes in the real world, my first thought would probably be, “Wow, this is really awesome!” But after thinking more about it, I probably would have some concerns about who these superheroes were and how they would use their powers. It would be nice to have superheros that could help prevent disasters and rescue people in a crisis, but we also don’t have a guarantee that all superheroes would use their powers for good (that’s how we get super villains!).

It might be easy to use these superheroes as scapegoats, asking why they didn’t arrive sooner at the scene of a disaster and save more people, or second-guess the methods they use to fight crime, etc. Like we see in the X-Men films, people without superpowers sometimes fear the mutants because the “regular people” don’t fully understand those powers and can’t do anything to control them. If a superhero decides to go rogue and use their powers for evil, can you really stop them?

I still think having people with superpowers would be a net win for the world, because a lot of those people WOULD use their powers for good. However, it is a more complex issue than just “having superheroes would be so cool!”

How does it affect the Parr family when they allow society to impose its version of “normal” on them? What are people missing because of the resulting absence of supers?

It might have felt nice sometimes for the Parrs to live as just a “normal” family and not have to worry about the risks that come with being superheroes (getting into danger, having super villains possibly target your family, etc.). However, denying a key part of who you are is ultimately stifling, and I think we see the characters experience this in the film.

I feel like I bring up this line every time I talk about superheroes 😉 but I have to throw out the old, “With great power comes great responsibility.” I think the Parrs feel that weight of that responsibility and are frustrated they can’t really use their powers to do good in the world. If you DO have superpowers, it’s a shame to let these powers languish, when you could be using them to help people and possibly even save lives.

Violet wants to be normal and Dash wants to be special. Neither are happy or feel like they fit in. How do you think that shapes a superhero? If you’ve experienced that feeling, how has it shaped you?

A superhero who wants to be normal and fit in is probably hesitant to use their powers and attract a lot of attention. They might miss out on an opportunity to do something good that could really help people. A superhero who wants to stand out as “special” is going to be a lot more eager to use their powers, possibly for good. However, they might also be more prone to showboating or doing things just to attract attention.

A good balance for superheroes would be embracing those powers that make them unique/special while also recognizing that just because they have those powers doesn’t make them better than the average person. They need to use those powers responsibly.

I’ve actually experienced both sides — wanting to be normal and wanting to be special — at different times in my life. As a teenager, I felt super awkward and lonely at times, and I really wanted to feel “normal” and just blend in. But it’s interesting that during/after college, I wanted to stand out more and feel “special,” as I tried to find my place in the world and make a strong impression on potential employers.

In real life, I think the key is, again, to find balance. There really is no “normal”; we are all unique and have our own quirks and talents that make us special. Yet still, no one person is greater than another. We all matter, and we all have a part to play in life.

This movie places a lot of value in meaningful work that helps one live into their identity. Bob still wants to help people even in insurance, Edna doesn’t feel fulfilled designing for supermodels, etc. How important do you think that is? How have you seen it in your own life?

Kind of continuing my thoughts from the previous question, I think we all want to feel like we matter and have a place in the world. We like to feel needed, and all people want to feel like the work they do on a daily basis has importance.

I know that in my own life, the times I’ve felt the happiest are times where I feel like I’m able to help people and make the world a better place, even if it’s just in a small way, like helping a customer find a new book in the bookstore where I worked after college. If superheroes aren’t able to use their gifts to help people, I can imagine that would lead to confusion/frustration about their identity!

The Underminer says “Behold, the Underminer! I’m always beneath you, but nothing is beneath me! I hereby declare war on peace and happiness! Soon, all will tremble before me!” He’s only a minor (no pun intended) character in the movie, but that’s a pretty legit summary of evil. How do you feel about it

Even though “The Incredibles” is, by and large, a lighthearted movie, that’s actually a pretty dark villain quote, if you dig into it (no pun intended there, either). The “nothing is beneath me” bit is interesting, because a character trait of a lot of movie villains is that they’re willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish their goals, regardless of morals/consequences.

For example, Kylo Ren just wants to see the galaxy burn, because he’s in pain and doesn’t know how to act without spreading this pain to others. He’s proven that he’s willing to do just about anything for the dark side, in contrast to Rey whose moral code prevents her from taking certain actions, even if those actions would (seemingly) have benefits in the short term.

Sometimes, a villain’s goal isn’t necessarily bad, though, like Magneto, who wants to protect mutants from persecution. However, his methods of accomplishing this goal are sometimes violent and dangerous, and he’s scary because we don’t know what lengths he’ll go to “protect” himself and the mutants on his side.

Evil characters may not always declare war on “peace and happiness” so explicitly, but when they pursue their selfish goals at any cost, peace and happiness are often the first casualties. These villains may think they enjoy seeing people cower before them, but it’s really just an empty feeling, compared to the joy/fulfillment that comes from doing good.

Syndrome is essentially a neglected fanboy who becomes the villain. He says, “See? Now you respect me, because I’m a threat. That’s the way it works.” We seem to see a lot of that perspective in our world today. What do you think? Is that the way it works?

I think unfortunately, too many times people think that fear = respect. “If somebody is afraid of me, they must respect me and my power, right?” They think that they can gain people’s respect through threats and intimidation.

Although sometimes that strategy may appear to work, at least on the surface, fearing somebody really isn’t the same as respecting their leadership. Bad guys like Palpatine and Thanos get people to do what they want because people are too afraid to challenge them.

However, real leadership doesn’t involve threatening the people under you. Rather, it should involve leading by example and showing you care about the wellbeing of those following you. Somebody like Captain America is able to gain true respect as a leader because everybody around him knows how much he cares about saving people and doing the right thing. In order for people to respect you, you have to treat them with respect first.

What are your hopes for “The Incredibles 2”?

It sounds weird to say it, but I actually don’t have any specific hopes for “The Incredibles 2”; I just want to be surprised! 🙂 It’s hard to believe that it’s actually been 14 years since the first movie. Although normally I’d say that might be a bit too long to wait for a sequel, I think this will be an interesting opportunity to reflect on how the superhero genre has exploded and changed over the years. The MCU has definitely changed the rules of the game, and it will be exciting to watch how “The Incredibles 2” fits into this new world!

We hope you liked our blogger Ashley’s take! Don’t forget to listen to the podcast for deeper discussions of these questions:

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