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Tom requested a poll on the philosophy of The Incredibles. But, given that I'm me and not him, I'm going to preface his simple enquiry with a whole load of other quotes and questions.

Exhibit A:
The superhero was dreamt up by Nietzsche during the 1880s, and has been summoning humanity to transcend itself ever since. Does Mr Incredible's renunciation mean that the superman has finally despaired of the midget, puling race he was meant to lead onwards and upwards?

Exhibit B:
Is Dash, the supersonic third-grader forbidden from racing on the track team, a gifted child held back by the educational philosophy that "everybody is special"? Or is he an overprivileged elitist being forced to take into account the feelings of others?

Is his father, Mr. Incredible, who complains that the schools "keep inventing new ways to celebrate mediocrity," a visionary reformer committed to pushing children to excel? Or is he a reactionary in red tights who's been reading too much Nietzsche and Ayn Rand?

Is Syndrome, the geek villain trying to kill the superheroes, an angry Marxist determined to quash individuality? Or is his plan to give everyone artificial superpowers an uplifting version of "cooperative learning" in an "inclusion classroom"?

Exhibit C:
Who would have thought that an animated film would finally touch a nerve, putting egalitarians on the defensive? That is the achievement of Pixar Studio's new hit, The Incredibles, the story of a family of superheroes who struggle against the reign of mediocrity and finally break free to excel. Along the way it skewers the dumbing down of schools, the mantra that everyone is special, and the laws that give losers special status as victims.

Exhibit D:
The movie does come to some interesting philosophical conclusions, not least among them the way it advocates full-on Nietzschean ethics. The "Supers" -- literal Ubermensch -- are the strong, endowed with special gifts that place them beyond the range of normal men. The Supers also possess unimpeachably noble spirits, just as Nietzsche described. While competing amongst themselves to be the finest hero, they devote themselves and their gifts entirely to protecting the weak from themselves.

And, as mentioned in my earlier post, the Guardian has a roundup of comment here.

Have you seen The Incredibles?

Yes
40(69.0%)
No
18(31.0%)

If you have, did you enjoy it?

Hell yes!
29(69.0%)
Yes
11(26.2%)
Meh
2(4.8%)
No
0(0.0%)
God, no.
0(0.0%)

Do you think the film supports Nietzschian principles?

Yes, the film is making a deliberate statement.
7(14.9%)
Yes, the film is making an inadvertent statement.
10(21.3%)
Superficially yes, but in fact no, for reasons I will explain in the comments.
5(10.6%)
No, the film is not concerned with Nietzschian ideas.
11(23.4%)
I don't think the film has enough of a brain to be concerned with any ideas, Nietzschian or otherwise.
6(12.8%)
Other
8(17.0%)

Do you think Nietzsche was right?

Yes
2(4.0%)
No
12(24.0%)
Mu
36(72.0%)

Clicky?

Super
46(100.0%)


Note that if you answer 'other' to question three, you should explain that in the comments, too. Myself, I'm undecided. So, convince me, one way or the other!
 
 
 
 
 
 
It's like Harrison Bergeron - some people imagine that presents some kind of simple right-wing message (ha). The world is complex, it's difficult being at the high end of any scale, and if your only/primary response to that fact is to whine about it that probably means you're not as far towards the top end as you think.

(NB 'You' is hypthetical right-wing film viewer of course)

hey - do I sound splentic today? I'm just busy at work so I'm rushing off these comments at speed
It's like Harrison Bergeron

Tom said this, too. And it's mentioned in the New York Times article I linked to. Hmm. Must check if it's in Bagambo Snuff Box.
First off, Uncle Friedrich was an arrogant prig whose out-dated uberWhiggery remains accepted whilst other lesser examples of the creed are disparaged for some God-forsaken reason I'd rather not contemplate.

But you all knew I was going to say that, didn't you? :P

As far as the film is concerned, clearly it riffs on Nietzschian ideas but is simply incapable as a piece of work to answer the questions it asks. It's enough that a film of this sort asks any kinds of question, to be honest, and insofar as it has a viewpoint it seems to me to be an extremely ambivalent one. There's a sense to the film that Mr Incredible's points are all good ones ... but that there needs to be a very careful and complex negotiation between the tyranny of the weak and the tyranny of the strong. Neither is particularly fruitful.
First off, Uncle Friedrich was an arrogant prig whose out-dated uberWhiggery remains accepted whilst other lesser examples of the creed are disparaged for some God-forsaken reason I'd rather not contemplate.

Give me the philosophy 101 version. Beyond saying that some people are Just Better, what did Uncle Fred say?

As far as the film is concerned, clearly it riffs on Nietzschian ideas but is simply incapable as a piece of work to answer the questions it asks.

Why?

insofar as it has a viewpoint it seems to me to be an extremely ambivalent one.

This is my gut reaction, yes, but I think I need to see it again to judge properly. And probably read a book about Nietzsche before I go into the cinema.

but that there needs to be a very careful and complex negotiation between the tyranny of the weak and the tyranny of the strong. Neither is particularly fruitful.

So--what do you think of the handling of Syndrome? I've seen comments around to the effect that it's a bit rich for the film to present him as a villain, given that what he actually wants to do is make everyone equal. Of course, he does build an invincible deathbot, and he does kill over a hundred supers in the process of making it...
Untitled by Anonymous :: Expand
Okay, I haven't seen The Incredibles, though I want to. But a couple of points.

1) It's superheroes FFS! They do the physically impossible whilst wearing bonkers outfits! Readers of superhero comics (for the most part) understand the basically adolescent nature of the genre, and accept the conventions of the genre without thinking that they apply to reality. Just because Superman behaves in a given fashion doesn't mean people are going to apply his lessons to the real world. That's what Frederic Werthham thought, and he was wrong, wrong, wrong!

2) Gosh, what a lot of crypto-fascists have piled out of the woodwork! I have no issue with developing people's talents, but just because you're good at one thing doesn't make you a better person overall, which is the unpleasant subtext to Peter Hitchens and his ilk. Down that road lies thinking someone is a better person because they're male, or white, or rich, attitudes which ought to be consigned to the dustbin of history. I find it amusing that these torch-bearers for the talented also think that George W Bush is a good president.
I have no issue with developing people's talents, but just because you're good at one thing doesn't make you a better person overall

Obvious provocative question: so what, if anything, does make one person better than another?
Let's begin with Exhibit A:
Mr Incredible - whose jaw looks as if it was carved from Mount Rushmore, though his puffy face wears a permanent expression of dim-witted bemusement - resigns in disgust after swooping down to catch a man who has hurled himself off a skyscraper.
Er, no, he's forced to by federal law.
The superhero was dreamt up by Nietzsche during the 1880s, and has been summoning humanity to transcend itself ever since.
Bollocks. Nietzsche's superman is not the first superhuman ever dreamt of. Get a fucking grip. If Nietzsche had detailed the costume Zarathustra and spoke of the big Z on his chest, you might be on to something. Otherwise, shut up and stop making yourself look stupid.
The trampling arrogance of the Nietzschean ideology briefly raises its voice in The Incredibles when the villain Syndrome jeers about high-school graduation ceremonies, which give illiterate cretins mortar boards to wear and diplomas to brandish: 'They keep creating new ways to celebrate mediocrity!'
That was Mr Incredible that said that actually.
Batman's motives are obsessively and neurotically personal: traumatised in childhood after witnessing the murder of his parents, he wants to avenge them, and his adventures are the rampages of a ruthless, irresponsible urban vigilante.
Highly debatable! Ask Mark Waid and he'll tell you Batman just wants to make sure no-one is ever murdered again. Ask Grant Morrison and he'll tell you Batman is the world's most dangerous protector, a man become strategic god as he saves the world, who does the urban vigilante bit as a sideline.
The film at once abruptly ends; no one ventures to fight the new menace
In his rush to get back and write this, it seems Peter Conrad missed the bit with the entire family gearing up to fight Cliff Clavin The Underminer.

So that's a load of old toss then.

Look at this way. The supers are told to go away. They're too much trouble and they should just fit in with everyone else. Now, the X-Men have always been used a social metaphor. Those who are different and feared. In this way, The Incredibles isn't different. It's saying we shouldn't be forced to conform to what society says and everyone is getting hung up on the fact that the metaphor it uses can punch through steel walls. I mean, the Supers are shown as stupid and vulnerable and ultimately human throughout the film, from unsafe fashion choices to Mr I's dismissal of Buddy (The villain's called Buddy? D'you see?) setting up the whole plot. Bob Parr (Parr? D'you see?) doesn't sit and plot how to dominate and crush all those meddling little guys but sits with Lucius (alright, there's probably no meaning to this name) listening to the police scanner to save lives. One more time: Superman != Nietzsche's Superman.
Hmm, I've just looked up the meaning of Lucius and it's derived from "light" apparently. And supposedly his last name is Best. Not sure if that fits as well as some of the other names.
I'd argue you're taking this whole thing *way* too seriously. It's a movie, after all, and shouldn't you just be enjoying it rather than trying to dissect it's meaning?

Or am I, in my semi-deluded state, just being way too simplistic in my expectations?
I'm doing both, ta.
Haven't seen the Incredibles yet (*sob*), but in general I find myself agreeing with Hoggy. Which is nothing if not disturbing.
Welcome to the Rightheaded Club.
On the one hand, all these comments about the philosophical underpinnings of these superheroes in society are correct. On the other hand, there are several crucial points in the film that also need to be recognised:

1. Mr. Incredible's subversive help to the little old lady at the beginning - an act of goodwill within the system, not over it through brawn.

2. At film's end, the entire family makes the effort of returning to some normalcy - telling their son to slow down in the race, even as they love his known potential in secret; that they are superpeople - but in service to society, as apart from ruling it through their inherent superiority.

---

The question then becomes one of the role of authority vis-a-vis these superfolk. The machines of democracy are almost entirely absent from this story, except with regard to police enforcement and court lawsuits.

By a strange comparison, perhaps, The Powerpuff Girls could be considered even more subversive to democratic institutions since they often act without the authority of the often incompetently-depicted Mayor of Townsville.

See, for me, the crucial aspect of Nietzche's philosophy was less about the superiority of the individual, but how that superiority frees that individual from the bonds of 'mediocre' society ... both as limits and responsibilities. Which, I feel, Dostoyevsky (sp?) answered quite well, if only in part.

So, I remain as I stared, undecided.
On the one hand, all these comments about the philosophical underpinnings of these superheroes in society are correct.

Which comments--the ones made here, or the ones I originally linked to?
Syndrome can be superpowered. That's the point. Anyone can be superpowered, even the most annoying and whiny child. But his concept of 'special' is, simply, power.

In the sense that the American Dream, such as it is, encourages people to aspire to be 'the best that you can be', the Incredibles don't actually want to be special. They want to be allowed to make the most of their talents, just like everyone else can.

You stop people being able to do that, you breed resentment and repression. You get Syndromes.

It's got naff all to do with Nietzsche. It's about potential, and what you do with that potential. Do you abuse it? Ignore it? Or make the most of it and try to do some good with it?

The one person who has anything to do with a Nietzschean concept of a 'superman' is Syndrome, because of his own arrogance and desire for power. And we're explicitly shown that this is Wrong.

It's journalists with too much time and not enough thought. Again.
Is Syndrome, the geek villain trying to kill the superheroes, an angry Marxist determined to quash individuality? Or is his plan to give everyone artificial superpowers an uplifting version of "cooperative learning" in an "inclusion classroom"?

No, he's an angry geek, fed up with being ignored despite his abilities, who wants to show the people who ostracized him how much better he is than them.
I haven't seen the film.








Yet.
Don't let that stop you - I didn't :-)
A pivotal scene in the first act of Dirty Dancing (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0092890/) features The Fountainhead (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fountainhead) - it's used as a symbol of the selfish attitude of the bad guys, a bunch of Harvard boys, which standd in opposition to the class-crossing friendship of the good guys, Patrick Swayze and his mates. Patrick Swayze wins in the end, because he has a nicer bum.

In other bum news, there is a vague chance that The Fountainhead will once again be perpetrated on celluloid, this time starring Brad Pitt (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0041386/board/nest/8555553), who was planning to learn architecture for the role. Oh, and Oliver Stone to direct. The mind boggles.

I feel in my bones that this all Fits In Somewhere - crypto-fascism, architecture, Oliver Stone and inexplicably bad 80s movies are all rich in conspiracy mana.

-- tom
A fascinating conspiratorial link to Baliol College, Oxford. hehehehehe...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raymond_Massey
Re: And... by Anonymous :: Expand
You know what - I just enjoyed the film for being what it was. Why when every children's film comes out - someone has to spoil it by saying it's something deeper? :P

IT'S JUST A CHILDREN'S MOVIE!

So there ;)
*pats Rachel on the head and gives her a lolly*
Syndrome is clearly the worst kind of BNF. He wants the adulation his idol gets without having to do the work. He's happy to use his associates purely for his own ends. He grows to hate his idol and thinks that he himself is far superior to them. He even tricks his idol into proofing his work. Now, discuss whether fandom follows Nietzschian principles. :)

<tongue-in-cheek>