Mined from the notebooks, Friday, June 29, 2018. Posted Sunday morning, July 22.
Behold! The Underminer thwarted! The Parr family, aka the Incredibles---Elastigirl, Jack-Jack, Violet, Mr Incredible, and Dash---combine their powers and abilities in what turns out to be an unsuccessful attempt to foil a villain’s evil plan at the beginning of “Incredibles 2” leading to the Parr’s exile from the community they want more than anything to serve. Well, almost more than anything, which is the heart of their moral dilemma and why “Incredbiles 2” isn’t an Ayn Randian fantasy, as much as some conservatives would like it to be. Image courtesy of Disney Pixar via imdb.com.
I swear, there’s such a thing as a conservative milk shake.
Saw “Incredibles 2” this afternoon. First movie I’ve seen in months. The Mannion guys dragged me. Part of our belated Father’s Day celebration. But also part of their campaign to make sure I don’t wear myself out completely worrying and watching out for Mrs M. I would have loved the movie just for that, but I loved it because, well, you gotta! Unless you’re a conservative or a Randian or other species of Right Wing idealogue, apparently. Then you can only approve of it. Provided you can convince yourself its message is politically correct. If you decide it reinforces the party line and inculcates the proper anti-social justice lessons in children, you’re free to applaud and cheer, respectfully, the way you do the national anthem.
Conservatives can’t seem to enjoy anything, even a milkshake, unless they’re sure it won’t send them to conservative hell.
In this conservatives are like many leftists who also tend to judge all art based on its usefulness as propaganda.
As I remember it, back in the day, when the first Incredibles movie hit the screens, there were bunches of conservative fans who argued “The Incredibles” was a conservative movie because, among other things, it celebrated the nuclear family as the center of a free and stable society, as if they don’t revere the family in China. Conservatives have a habit of assuming they’re the only good people and assuming all virtues unto themselves. They’re the only ones who work hard and pay taxes, salute the flag, and love and raise children. There was also some stuff about how Supers represented individuals taking personal responsibility for their lives and not relying on the government to support them and bail them out of every trouble and solve all their problems, ignoring the fact that the Supers were a government sponsored and funded public works project.
Randian interpretations flourished alongside, with Rand fans making the case that “The Incredibles” was about how society was best served by the superior individuals being left free to put their talents and abilities to use to pursue their own selfish ends, missing the point that the most “superior” individual in “The Incredibles” was the villain! Syndrome was a technological and Machiavellian genius, smarter and more disciplined and more focused than all the individual Supers, including Mr Incredible, Elastigirl, and Frozone. He’s only defeated by a collective effort---and his own tendency to start monologuing.
Pretty much the same thing happens with the villain of “Incredibles 2”. Screenslaver is smarter and more talented and more focused than all the good characters and is only defeated by a collective effort that is larger and more inclusive than the one that defeats Syndrome.
Oliver told me about an “objectivist” “reading” of the movie he learned about in a rebuttal he saw online. I’m not about to go looking for either one. Like all ideological readings of works of art (Didn’t the word used to be critiques?), an objectivist reading practically writes itself.
Rebuttals of objectivist readings of works of art practically write themselves too, but like I’m going to let that stop me. Probably going to take me a few posts to do it, but let’s get started on the rebutting.
At the end of “Incredibles 2”, order and justice and fairness are restored by Government getting out of the way. Maybe that’s what conservatives like. If they’re Randians, though, what they like as well is that the superior human beings are freed up to be superior.
But...the government doesn’t get out of their way and they aren’t freed up in order for them to be free to use their powers and abilities with Randian selfishness to make themselves gobs of money. They’re expected to use those powers and abilities unselfishly and responsibly---that is they are responsible for people who aren’t “superior”, the people Rand through John Galt dismisses as “parasites”. In fact, not being Super is not even given a thought as a deficiency.
And, while the government gets out of their way, it doesn’t become uninvolved or give up its role as regulator and watchdog. And it’s not clear if the Supers are going to remain on the public payroll. Actually, it looks more like the Supers project is going to be a partnership between the government and the private sector, although maybe it’s going to be a United Nations agency or an NGO. At any rate, In the end, it looks sort of like the Supers project will now be at least partially privately funded, administered, and directed, but not by the Supers themselves, a condition no real Randian hero would stand for. It’s the kind of program liberal Democrats have pursued since Jimmy Carter’s presidency.
(Off on a tangent: Carter doesn’t get the credit---or blame---for this redirection in the Party’s agenda away from the New Deal and Great Society’s dances with socialism and towards privatization and deregulation as integral to workable---pragmatic---government policy and programs. As far as most contemporary progressives are concerned, it’s all on Bill and, to a lesser degree, on Barack. They should read Stewart Eisenstaz’s memoir of working for Carter as one of his top aides and closet advisers, “President Carter”. I should finish it before I try to use it to make points about movies whose creators and main target audience weren’t even born when Carter became President. End of tangent.)
The central action of the Right Wing libertarian bible, “Atlas Shrugged”, is the hero-genius-businessman John Galt’s organizing his fellow hero-genius-businesspersons in a strike against the parasites who benefit from their heroic genius at making money but then dare to demand that they share even more of their wealth. Galt leads them into exile where they intend to live happily and triumphantly ever after while the parasites, unable to thrive on their own, suffer and starve while they learn the hard lesson of who should be the boss of whom.
Just about all Pixar’s movies---I need to asterisk myself here. I haven’t seen all of Pixar’s movies, although the only ones I haven’t seen are “Brave” and the “Cars” sequels. And it’s been forever since I last watched “A Bug’s Life” and “Toy Story” and “Toy Story 2”.---just about all Pixar’s movies have at their center a selfish, self-absorbed, or alienated main character who has cut himself or herself off from the community or been cut off from it. They’ve withdrawn or been exiled to their own private, usually figurative---that is psychological or emotional--- or, in WALL-E’s case almost literal version of Galt’s Gulch. The cause of their withdrawal is sometimes a wound (Marlon in “Finding Nemo”, Carl in “Up”), sometimes arrogance (Lightning in “Cars” and actually Mr Incredible in “The Incredibles”), and sometimes simple alienation resulting from the hero’s being “different” (Remi in “Ratatouille”, by virtue of his being a rat). The plot of every movie (asterisk) revolves around how these characters join or rejoin the communal dance.
Always, they are forced by circumstance or a villain’s machinations to leave their Galt’s Gulch and return to society to save the day and in the process they end up being saved themselves by being welcomed or welcomed back into society. All Pixar’s movies---asterisk again---end with the formation or reformation of families, traditional and non- and the family claiming its place within a community, either a pre-existing one or one formed or re-formed (and reformed) through but not necessarily by the hero’s efforts.
The theme threading its way through all the movies is that we’re all in this together, we’re here to take care of each other and help each other, nobody gets through it alone, nobody is superior to anyone else, and nobody should be left behind.
If that’s too liberal for you, note that these reformations are not brought about by any visible government.
On the other hand, they’re not sanctioned by any voice of a higher authority, including God’s. There’s no organized religion in the Pixar universe.
Finally, though, Incredibles 2” is a Brad Bird movie. Bird is a storyteller not a polemicist. This means that things are in his movies first because they help him tell his story---and as with all good storytellers, how they help him reveal character---and then, far down the list, how they help him make a point. He’s an artist. And artists do have themes they return to again and again. Bird laid his out in what is still the Brad Bird movie, which, as it happens, is, like “The Incredibles” and “Incredibles 2”, a great superhero movie, the second best Superman movie, in my opinion, even though Superman himself isn’t a character, until the end, when the hero becomes his avatar in a moment of very un-Galt-like self-sacrifice…