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Currents of Truth in The Incredibles
Through suppressing one’s capabilities, the spirit of individuality conflicts with society’s fear of competition. In Brad Bird’s, The Incredibles, the American Dream is expressed through the socialistic society; it is symbolized by Mr. Incredible’s family structure, Buddy and Mr. Incredible’s conflicting pursuit towards superiority, and the conflicts that the superheroes endure to express their worth in society’s standards. In the course of the characters’ persistence, the true meaning of “super” is unveiled as the characters define their own meaning of success.
Mediocrity is the key to conform to society’s regulations for the superheroes. Because of conformity, the Incredible family is struggling to express their individuality. The balance between conformity and uniqueness makes it difficult for Violet and Dash to fit in. Violet strives to be normal; her black apparel symbolizes her yearning to sulk into society by masking her greatness. Her disillusionment and low self-esteem is portrayed through the way she hides her face and her invisibility powers. She conceals her true beauty and potential, out of fear of society and her authoritative family structure. At the dinner table, Violet states that “we act normal, Mom. I wanna be normal!” She struggles to fit in and balance her life to accept the fact that she is a super—torn by the two identities.
Helen symbolizes the socialist in the family who masks the family’s powers from society. By doing so, she restrains her children from competing with other children. When Dash strives to join the track team because of his power of speed, Helen discourages him out of the fear that her family would be exposed. She assures him by saying that “the world just wants us to fit in; and to fit in, we gotta be like everybody else.” Helen wishes to align with the currents of socialism in society, even if that means unquestionable equality and uniformity.
As Helen hides her family from exposure by suppressing their identity, Bob does his best to be different in order to “relive the ‘Glory Days.’” Throughout the film, Bob represents the rebellion of authority—even if it means to sacrifice the safety and comfort of his family. By sneaking at night to rescue people, Mr. Incredible yearns to experience the success that he is secretly striving towards—the American Dream.
Bob does this by encouraging his children to use their powers by telling them that “your powers are nothing to be afraid of. [Your] powers make [you] special.” He does not approve of his children suppressing their powers in order to dissolve into society’s waves of conformity. When Helen questions Bob why he isn’t going to attend his son’s fifth grade graduation, he says that, “[the society] keep[s] creating new ways to celebrate mediocrity but if someone genuinely exceptional. . .” When the children deprive potentials by becoming mesmerized by society’s conformity, their identity as superheroes will deteriorate; Bob does not want his family to lose pride.
Bird uses an ironic tone throughout the movie by naming Mr. Incredible, Bob. Bob is a typical American name and Bird portrays how Mr. Incredible rebels against his secret identity in order to show pride for his genuine identity as a superhero. In the beginning of the film when Mr. Incredible is interviewed, he states that “every superhero has an identity . . . who wants the pressure of being super all the time?” However, now that his “super” identity is concealed, he does not guard it as much as he did before. Mr. Incredible becomes hysterical with his boss after he witnesses an individual being “mugged” outside of the building. When the suspect “got away”, the boss tells him that it is a “good thing. . . you were this close to losing your . . . [job]” Mr. Incredible chokes his boss and thrashes him through multiple walls. His rebellion causes him to lose his composure and secret identity. Even though the government officials state that “it’s time for their [super heroes’] identity to become their only identity,” Mr. Incredible rebels against his family, his boss, and his own secret identity in order to express his individuality. The “Glory Days” were the days when he believed he was part of the American Dream; his heroism, his contentment, and success surrounded his life as a superhero.
Through his rebellion and his lack of appreciating his priorities, Bob’s realization comes through a direct threat. Buddy, a once hysterical fan of Mr. Incredible, grows to despise the superheroes after Mr. Incredible tells him, “Fly home, Buddy. I work alone.” Buddy’s genuine pursuit throughout the film is the thirst for power and his desire for fame. Through artificial powers he seeks to defeat those who are naturally destined to be powerful. Bob’s identity becomes revealed through an organization created by Buddy, intended to dispose of the superheroes. Mirage, Buddy’s secretary, assigns Mr. Incredible to do “superhero work” in order to test his strength. However, Bob does not realize that Buddy is luring him into a trap. Bob is being paid well for being “super.” Through this romantic phase in Bob’s life, he believes he has regained the spirit of the “Glory Days”—American Dream—by balancing his family life and his contentment. It merely is a “mirage.” Behind the romantic image of a perfect life, Buddy, who symbolizes the reality of life, awaits. Buddy, in essence, is the negative side of Bob. He is an individual who thirsts for power. Bob’s weakness of pride hinders in his present through Buddy to make him realize that moderation is the only way to be content.
It is because of Buddy that Bob realizes how much his family contributes to his stature. After the missals hit the plane that Helen and the kids were riding, Bob realizes how weak he is without the support of his family. He realizes that it does not take an individual with hope and strength to spark the ashes of the ‘Glory Days,’ but it is through love and combined persistence of family and contentment that enflames the American Dream. When Bob discovers that his family is alive, he admits to them that he was “. . . blind to what [he has], so obsessed with being undervalued that [he] undervalued [his family].” Even though Buddy is a symbol of a thirst for power, he also symbolizes the persisting obstacles in life that one must overcome.
Through the “black and white” society rises a family in a bright red uniform—the uniform of unity and ironically, individuality. The red color of their suits symbolizes how they are not afraid to be prominent in their stance as they stand out to face life’s challenges. As they fight the robot and Buddy’s persisting offenses, the Incredibles combine each other’s skills and powers in order to persist through the difficulties. It is not the individual effort of Bob that helps the family rise out of the dust of suppression, but it is the activism and the unity that enhanced the spirit of freedom to break the conformity.
By the realization of valuing family, the strength and confidence of the characters rises. Violet isn’t afraid to conceal her face because she is confident to accept her identity without being ashamed. She wears different colors because she can, like rocks in the sea, enjoy the society’s opportunities with her own identity without dissolving her dignity and stature. Dash can compete with others by expressing the appreciation of his advantages. As a family, they carry their identities and overcome difficulties through moderation and self-acceptance.
The Incredibles realize that as long as the true colors of individuality bloom from the cores of the heart’s cowardice, they can express the beauty of diversity in a way that is accepting to society. Through the wave of overwhelming pressures, there are the currents of truth that drift the family onto the shores of acceptance. Expressing the beauty of diversity is where the true strength lies; the American Dream is merely the path one takes to find success. For the Incredibles, success lies in the power of dignity.