That Incredibles paranoia is still out there

mr incredible2Quite a few of you out in GetReligion land have joined me in the search for liberal paranoia about the smash hit status of The Incredibles.

Keep it up. I think the religion ghost in this is going to break loose sooner or later. At the same time, our comments pages on that last post includes more than a few raves about this film by progressive readers. Good for you.

The way I see it, it is impossible for a piece of pop culture to be identified as a Culture Wars zone without religious/moral issues getting involved. If you have doubts about the Culture Wars status of this Pixar sermonette, check out this recent essay from the London Times, with the lively headline “Pow! It’s an Incredible victory for morality.”

Writing from New York City, reporter Sarah Baxter notes:

After the re-election of President George W Bush by voters who ranked moral issues above terrorism, the economy and Iraq, the hit film “The Incredibles” has caught the national mood.

Just as Bush supporters believe that the president will always follow his conscience, so will Mr. Incredible, the beefy family man who cannot be forced to punch beneath his weight for long, and his wife Elastigirl, who bends but does not snap under pressure. It is as if Hollywood had found the perfect vehicle for the Republican-voting “red” states.

All of the usual parts of the movie are interpreted in all of the usual ways. Baxter also notes the box-office failure of the sexual-revolution tract Alfie, which is leading to more tears and second-guessing on the Hollywood left. But come to think of it, aren’t there enough blue-zone ticket buyers to have made this R-rated romp a hit?

But back to The Incredibles, which is said to be

(Red) state through and through. It opens with a pro-life condemnation of suicide and goes on to attack tort lawyers, whose powers Bush promised to curtail during the election campaign. . . . “Yes, this is a superhero action movie about the sanctity of marriage,” the National Review critic exulted. “As Mr Incredible’s daughter tells her brother, ‘Mom and dad’s lives could be in danger — or worse: their marriage.’”

Now I realize that blue-zone people have morals and marriages, too. What fascinates me is the news media’s perceptions of this film and the company that made it. Might this whole red-friendly image thing become a factor in the tense Pixar dance with Disney? That is a major, major story on the left coast.

I mean, check out this final quote from the London Times:

Liberals are dismayed by the cultural hijacking of a medium that they had once owned. Ted Rall, a newspaper cartoonist, said: “It’s kind of ironic that superheroes now have these fascist, right-wing connotations. The right has stolen our flag and our superheroes, too.”

He added: “I would be in favour of Empathy Man. The man who plants the seeds of empathy into the cold, stony heart of the average red-state American.”

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Molly

    How long was the Incredibles in production? If it was more than three/four years (which I bet it was), the only way to see the ghost is to ask Brad Bird if it was his intention all along to include it.

    I think that Violet’s fear for her parent’s marriage is as much a factor of a teenage girl’s insecurity as it is a subtle pledge for the institution of marriage per se. I remember what it was like to be adolescent and see my parents get “tense” with each other! It’s terrifying. And if you are already not sure of yourself or your emotional future, one’s parents splitting up can shatter your world.

    As to the underlying moral value of the movie, having now seen it and highly recommending it to everyone I talk to, it is there but it is no more a “property” of red staters than blue staters. It is a story about commitment to the people one loves. I’ll remind you to look again at the families in Finding Nemo, Toy Story, Toy Story 2, A Bug’s Life, and the Iron Giant. Not terribly traditional but all terrifically committed to one another. This is a moral value that belongs to all of us.

  • Will Duquette

    Has anyone else pointed out that Mr. Incredible begins the movie with a Blue suit and ends it with a Red one?

  • dlw

    I watched Alfie and it was genuinely cathartic. As a male, one needs to recognize our dark desire to have numerous non-relational sexual encounters with females and be reminded about how much psychic harm that would cause to us and others, at the same time.

    I have no doubt that the storyline of incredibles was rigged some to subtly help the republican party. Film is inevitably propaganda and propaganda is the life blood of staying politically in power.


  • elaine

    i find this topic a bit cloying. guys, it’s a movie. a cartoon, no less. let’s chill out a little.

  • Fr. Rob Johansen

    dlw wrote:

    “I have no doubt that the storyline of incredibles was rigged some to subtly help the republican party.”

    Very subtle, indeed. So subtle that the movie came out _after_ the election, no doubt as part of the producers under-the-radar plot to help George Bush get re-elected.

    Maybe Karl Rove was behind “The Incredibles”, as well.

  • Maureen

    Well, don’t all comics series eventually go to the time travel plotline? Ah, the long arm of Karl Rove….

    (TTTO that song from Rocky Horror)

    “Let’s do the time plot again….”


  • Andy Crouch

    Whoa. Whoa. The Incredibles was written and directed by Brad Bird. His previous film was The Iron Giant, one of whose prominent subplots is the folly of the Cold War-era military. Hardly a conservative theme.

    But then again, The Iron Giant–while praised by (liberal!) film critics–was not a commercial success. Perhaps sinister forces are at work in The Incredibles’ box office results! Or perhaps it’s these politicized theories that are really Incredible.


  • Gary

    “I have no doubt that the storyline of incredibles was rigged some to subtly help the republican party.”

    Mm-hmmmm … I find it interesting that liberals seem unable to distinguish between conservatives and republicans. (I guess it’s the old parochial idea of lumping all your enemies together.)

    This same theme is echoed on one of the anti-Fox News sites I read. Fox News is claimed to be a mouthpiece for the republican party. Has it occurred to anybody on the left that conservative and republican are not one and the same?

    I know it may be hard to understand the details, but try. I vote for republicans when they largely stand for what I believe. I would vote for democrats if they did it.

  • Dale Price

    Come on Fr. Johansen–are you really pretending to be unaware of the Unified Rove Theory?

    Harummph. It explains all of the evil in the world. After all, what other explanation can there be for such brilliant and enlightened folk ever being defeated?

  • James Kabala

    Bird was critical of Bush in a Time (or maybe it was New York Times) interview.

  • dlw

    Okay, my previous statement was an over-statement and not meant to blast being a Republican based on “the issues”.

    The point is that I believe that movie scripts are open to revisions and it wouldn’t surprise me one whit if partisan interests involved themselves with funding and modifying parts of a likely block-buster movie.

    The Republicans are planning on pushing for restrictions on lawsuits, in part as a means of attritioning the Democrats contribution, and so it’s not persay a coincidence that the heroes had to go under-ground because of fear of law-suits.


  • Dan Berger

    Methinks DLW doth protest too much. The movie’s a satire in many respects; one could just as well say that the movie is anti-jet engine because of the theme of superhero capes getting caught in the things.

    The take on trial lawyers forcing superheroes underground is partly just a plausible yet funny explanation for why we don’t have any visible costumed crusaders in the world.

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