History's End

History will end only when Man does

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  • Sunday, November 14, 2004

    Super-Hero or Super-Ordinary

    Michael Totten has started a discussion on the the new Pixar movie, The Incredibles, about a family of super heroes trying to cope with 'ordinary' life. His reaction to some of the comments originating from the political left:
    Whoa. Superheroes are right-wing? Anytown USA, conformity, and charmless suburbia are left-wing? Really? When did that s--t start? The sixties really are over if that’s how it is.
    Go read the whole time to appreciate where this statement comes from. (Spoiler Warning) Once done with that, I have a few observations to note:

    First off, this film does indeed seem to be a social critique, perhaps even one from an objectivist point of view. That is difficult to determine in full. However, I do notice some striking similarities between it and another work "aimed at children", The Giver. Both works are supposedly aimed, or rather, written, for children, but the fact of the matter is that most children won't fully understand them. They are not childish in their design. Let me explain The Giver a little. It is a dystopian social critique of post-modernist liberalism, disguised as a children's book. It attacks leftist notions of equality and perfectibility, while at the same time upholding the nobility of the human spirit. The idea of "easy way outs" is critiqued, by virtue of the role of the protagonist, Jonah, a young boy who is charged with the job of eventually holding the collective memories of society. These all of the tough memories, the harsh memories, the ones that would haunt you at night. Everyone else is sparred the horror of the past, they don't have to worry about remembering sadness, or misery, or suffering. Jonah is forced to suffer in order for others to be happy. He has no choice in this, because its for the greater good of all. Ultimately the society described is one in which there is no such thing as free will, because everything has long been set out ahead of time. In order to achieve equality, people are brought down to the lowest common denominator. Race problems? Remove the ability to see color. Forced equality is the key to the maintenance of Jonah's community. The society is a picture of what the end result of Leftist social engineering might achieve.

    The Incredibles has its own philosophy, which is not dissimilar to that of The Giver. Mr. Incredible and his wife are forced to live as ordinary people by the government, which doesn't want to have to deal with the cost of maintaining them as super-heroes. This comes about as a result of a lawsuit made against Mr. Incredible by someone who didn't want to have his life saved. This lawsuit results in dozens more against all the manner of super-heroes. However, the true reason for the backlash against super-heroes is a jealousy of their power, ordinary people who hate the fact that they aren't 'special.' And so Mr. and Mrs. Incredible are forced to live as ordinary people, and cover up their true talents. Here you can see the obvious parrallel between the two. Forced equality, and the inability of people to truly express themselves, definitely has a similarity to objectivist thought. There are others. Indeed, Syndrome, the arch-enemy in the film, has the goal in mind of making everyone super, everyone special when he decides to retire. And as he puts it: "... and when everyone's special, then no one is." Once again, through social engineering we see a way to create a form of forced equality. However, what The Giver alludes to, and isn't fully alluded to in the movie, is that doesn't work. You can't bring everyone up. So in order to achieve equality, you bring everyone down.

    Ironically, we see here in the desire to "make everyone special" (something that one would no doubt often here at modern day elementary schools), a desire for conformity. In his desire to get back to the days of his super-hero past Mr. Incredible is actually trying to establish his own identity, to become who he wants to be, and not what society wants him to be. That isn't "right-wing", its individualistic, and as a philosophy should transcend the "left-right" boundaries. What we see in The Incredibles is actually a very simple message: be yourself, not what others expect or want you to be. There are plenty of other messages, of course, but that one is most striking. And woe to us if only one side of the political spectrum says to be yourself.

    Update: Curtis also sounds off on the movie. His favorite line:
    "They're always coming up with new ways of celebrating mediocrity."
    So very true.

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