The Incredibles is a weird movie. Don’t get me wrong, I love The Incredibles. It’s one of my favorite movies of all time but it’s still weird. What kind of children’s movie centers around a fully grown adult’s midlife crisis due to the mundaneness of everyday life, alleges that said man had an affair, and delves into deep philosophies such egalitarian, exceptionalism, and objectivism? If you think about it, this isn’t exactly a kid friendly movie. Still love it though.
Within this weird yet amazing movie, the villain of the film, Syndrome, says a truly profound line. While taunting Mr. Incredible, Syndrome laughs and says “when everyone’s super… No one will be.” This is a deep statement that my 10 year old self wasn’t able to truly grasp but upon multiple rewatches in recent years this statement has often been on my mind. It made me think about what it means to be special and whether it’s possible to be special in the real world.
The idea of being special is something that actually comes up a lot in this movie. Earlier on in the movie when Helen presses Bob about their son’s graduation he lashes out and says “It’s not a graduation. He’s moving from the 4th grade to the 5th grade. It’s psychotic! They keep creating new ways to celebrate mediocrity but if someone is genuinely exceptional…” The fact is that certain people are special and certain people just are not but for some reason the society we live in tries to push the point that we all are special which is clearly false because when everyone is special no one is.
This leaves us in a tough spot. We’ve all been raised with parents and teachers telling us that we are all special and we all have the potential to change the world but are we? The very definition of the word special implies that in order to be special, most people must me ordinary or inferior. Realizing that you’re not special can easily cause one to panic because in life we yearn for meaning. If we’re not special than we lack meaning. The realization that you’re not special is scary but I think it’s important to ask oneself… does it really matter to be special?
This whole bull shit ideollogy that everyone in the world is special has actually poisoned us. It has tied meaning and happiness with the near to impossible goal of being special or exceptional when in fact they are independent factors. Bob Parr, A.K.A, Mr.Incredible, has the strength to lift a car over his head and take down super villains but he still has troubles at home and is stuck in the past reminiscent of his glory days. Another thing I gained from this film was that even if one achieves exceptionalism that person could still feel empty and yearn for meaning. Of coarse one could find meaning in being exceptional (Bob’s entire character arc was him moving from being a superhero for glory to being a superhero to protect and serve the people), but that doesn’t mean that it’s the only route. The truth is that different people find meaning in different things. Whether it’s contributing to a greater whole, helping others, making money, raising a family, power, or success, there are many routes to go down. What works for some may not work for others but one of the big tasks in life we all face is finding that thing that gives us meaning.
Being special isn’t necessarily important. Only a select few people will be remembered generations after they die but that doesn’t actually matter because once you pass on you’re too dead to know whether or not you’re being remembered. The rest of us ordinary people will certainly be forgotten through the passage of time but that also doesn’t actually matter. What really matters is that we enjoy our time on this earth and leave feeling good about how we spent that time.
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