Incredibles 2 – Winning While Losing

Incredibles 2 – Winning While Losing
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Incredibles 2 – Winning While Losing

This is not about winning an argument through exhaustion. You know, the type of “victory” so many claim these days after yelling louder than an opponent, the opponent disengaging, and the screamer becoming, alarmingly, convinced of his/her own superiority on account of the disengagement.

Incredibles 2 was about an actual victory, even if the film fought hard against acknowledging it as such.

That victory was achieved by villain-in-name-only-and-maybe-a-little-because-of-willingness-to-put-people-in-danger-but-still Screenslaver.

The triumph began with a novel enough decree against technology. This is not new territory but remains worthwhile in part because of the ongoing paradox where we agree that endless screen time is bad, and yet nobody’s behavior changes.

Actually, it does change – we keep increasing our screen time. Which at least makes one wonder if the case against screens should be so unequivocal. It’s easy to romanticize the past, about the times when people talked to each other in person, as some higher good for human flourishing, but then why do we so readily sprint to our screens? Even the senior citizens who lived in those romantic times? Are we all really that easily manipulated into working against our own self-interests? And for those youths who don’t develop “people skills,” who is to say they’ll even need them in the future?

Still, I side with Screenslaver. We may be able to deceive ourselves quite convincingly, and we may be manipulated quite easily, but the fact that most people feel much better after a walk in the woods than after six hours of television bingeing means something. Screens, like bad food, show the difficulty all humans have in thinking beyond the immediate.

Incredbiles 2 truly shined in Screenslaver’s ingenious plot to turn citizens against superheroes. Unlike many movies, specifically horror films, where solutions are discovered first by the audience, and later by the protagonists, I was stumped.

Superheroes cause more damage through their involvement than would have otherwise occurred? Believable.

Believing someone will save you makes you weak, stupid and prone to inaction? Probably.

It’s naïve (at best) to completely trust someone you don’t know who promises to make your life better? Totally.

“Superheroes are part of your brainless desire to replace true experience with simulation … Every meaningful experience must be packaged and delivered to you to watch at a distance so that you can remain ever-sheltered, ever-ravenous consumers”? Wow. Yup. Really good.

So there I sat eagerly waiting to hear the rebuttal. There had to be a rebuttal coming. This was a kid’s film, and the Incredibles were going to win, and they couldn’t win without a strong rebuttal.

Or not.

They couldn’t even muster an attempt. This was Screenslaver as B Rabbit. She stepped on the stage first, made her case and her opponent (the Incredibles) just chose to walk away. Not because she was yelling. Not because she was offensive. Because she was right.

 

“Incredbiles 2” made me THINK.

 

We’ll take drugs. We’ll buy self-help books. We’ll watch videos by life coaches. We’ll meditate. All so we can get back what Dash still has: the ability to be amused by all this world has to offer.
From the seemingly mundane to the clearly exciting, Dash explores with such excitement it’s endearing. It’s also humorous. Like those times you start laughing without really knowing why. There may be many forms of joy, but I think that’s my favorite.

“Incredibles 2” made me LAUGH.

 

Avoiding all the pitfalls that plague too many “feminist” plots, Incredibles 2 offered great reason (risk factor) to leave Mr. Incredible at home with the kids. That’s an impressive accomplishment in isolation. More impressively, it was just one of several deep family dynamic points:
  • Should kids follow stupid rules?
  • Should parents alternate who is the breadwinner?
  • Who deserves more credit, the person who markets an idea or the creator?
Answers weren’t required for the discussions to be salient. Actually, perhaps that’s the point: If you think you need an answer before having a difficult conversation, you are missing the tremendous value that comes from working through problems with a loved one.
Part of what made leaving Mr. Incredible at home so complex (and thus realistic) was that it didn’t simply devolve into slapstick humor. There were laughs, sure. But there was also jealously and earnestness. The paradox of jealousy was perfectly depicted in the scene when his wife, who he should presumably be happy for, is over-the-top giddy, and he can only feel sorry for himself. This was real in the complicated ways that define humanity.
He would ultimately rise to the occasion and turn from hating math to accepting the challenge and from dismissing his daughter’s boyfriend concerns to trying to mend her relationship. This need to transform his attitude mirrored how humans often first face challenges they don’t want: this is stupid. Understanding his own defensiveness led to a powerful scene with his children, but not enough, for whatever reason, for tears.

“Incredibles 2” did not make me CRY.

 

Adam Schaefer

Adam Schaefer

Adam likes banana flavoring more than bananas. His first R-rated movie was "Beverly Hills Cop 3." He is also a semi-famous somniloquist.
Adam Schaefer

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