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The Incredibles, released in 2004, championed many admirable movements; inclusivity, visibility and equality. The premise of Supers (as superheroes are called within the film) being illegal and forced to go into hiding echoed many minorities’ struggle with political hegemony – the lives of many gay men living in the UK prior to the Sexual Offences act of 1967; Jewish men, women and children having to flee Germany in the 1930s; black people having to travel in secret through a network of safe houses in the 19th century to escape enslavers in the United States… the list goes on.  Whilst these undertones were subdued enough to ensure The Incredibles appealed to the masses, reflecting on the film as an adult makes for an entirely different experience. With Syndrome as a clear villain, his desire to make everybody ‘super’ so that nobody would actually be super whilst systematically killing off those who were naturally born that way was reminiscent of previous world leaders. It was a well-loved film, the favourite of children everywhere. Naturally, anticipation was high, and excitement was plenty as social media was busy discussing previews and trailers of what appeared to be a sequel that concentrated on Elastigirl - the mother, the woman. Previously, it had been Mr. Incredible who had headlined the film and been the object of interest. And so, the franchise that already called for representation of minorities and showcased inequalities added feminist undertones to its repertoire, sounding almost too good to be true.

The recently-released Incredibles 2 picks up right where the other left off — with the family fighting the Underminer after Dash’s school race. The parents get arrested, for Supers are illegal, and leave for the motel they’re staying at after their house was destroyed following Mr. Incredible’s last mission. A very miserable existence is interrupted by Frozone, who says he has heard from Winston Deavor, a superhero fan and telecommunications tycoon, that wants to legalise Supers once more. After attending a meeting with Winston and his sister Evelyn Deavor, the genius behind their company’s inventions, Elastigirl is selected as the first superhero to don a personal camera that will show the regular public what life as a Super is really like in order to gain empathy from a dubious public.

"Mr. Incredible visibly swallows his pride on multiple occasions, reminding Elastigirl that she needs to do this for their children but also for him."


Elastigirl is selected not for her skill or her power but because out of the three of them, she is the least messy: the one most likely to have the least number of casualties and/or collateral damage. She reluctantly accepts, leaving a very stunned Mr. Incredible to wonder just when it’ll be his turn in spite  of him having very recently returned from a mission that cost his family their home. While she mulls the proposal over, she considers her duties as a mother, to her husband, and even her skills as a Super.
         Mr. Incredible visibly swallows his pride on multiple occasions, reminding Elastigirl that she needs to do this for their children but also for him. He’s visibly upset as she describes the success of her first mission whilst he struggles with putting their baby to bed, helping Dash with his homework and understanding Violet’s boy troubles — something Elastigirl could manage with ease.

"Mr. Incredible is thus portrayed as a stellar dad even though he’s only just filling Elastigirl’s shoes as a parent. He gets praised for doing what mothers do on a daily basis."


The issue with this narrative, of the very manly man being unable to meet his children’s needs, is not only that it portrays fatherhood and masculinity as polar opposites but also that it fuels the thought that men are inherently bad at being the stay at home parent. Mr. Incredible redeems himself by studying Dash’s textbooks, trying to mend things between Violet and her love interest, and learning to manage Jack-Jack’s budding powers — but these are all things that Elastigirl is innately good at. Mr. Incredible is thus portrayed as a stellar dad even though he’s only just filling Elastigirl’s shoes as a parent. He gets praised for doing what mothers do on a daily basis. Even though these are in fact commendable tasks, this reinforcement of patriarchal gender roles, of fathers being less adequate as stay at home parenting than mothers are, is both damaging to media texts that fight for accurate representations of fatherhood and also contributes to the stereotype of men as clumsy, amateurish caretakers. 
Moreover, this whole time, Elastigirl is fulfilling a predominantly male role, taking over Mr. Incredible because of her innate delicateness as a woman. This echoes what Angela Watercutter discussed regarding Ocean’s 8, that women need entirely new movies, not just opportunities to take over traditionally male narratives. Even though the plot of Incredibles 2 can be touted as a call for equality, Elastigirl is later taken advantage of by Evelyn Deavor precisely because of her trusting nature - yet another stereotypically feminine quality. It becomes clear then that she was selected out of the three Supers not only because she would be the least messy but because she would be easier to manipulate - something that Evelyn wouldn’t be able to do to either Frozone or Mr. Incredible.

"Violet’s main concern is going on a date with the boy she likes, whilst Dash’s is finishing his Math homework. Girls are allowed to like boys, but they should also be allowed to exist within a film without this being a main concern."


The film is also comical and sentimental. It portrays Elastigirl as a badass mother and superhero who takes Dash’s call mid-mission yet still manages to get shit done. It chronicles Mr. Incredible’s struggle with perfecting parenthood on his own while soothing his ego. Even though upon first impression these might seem as very noble themes, there are still gender stereotypes encoded throughout the film. Violet’s main concern is going on a date with the boy she likes, whilst Dash’s is finishing his Math homework. Girls are allowed to like boys, but they should also be allowed to exist within a film without this being a main concern. Violet is later on praised when she decides to stay back and take care of Jack-Jack, a sweet gesture that’s also coded with patriarchal ideals of women. Perhaps these observations only come after one has been exposed to multiple feminist texts and lived through patriarchal oppressions. Or perhaps these gender roles that are encoded in texts shown to audiences so young should be challenged, they should be contested and we should ask why couldn’t Elastigirl get an origins movie? Why couldn’t Mr. Incredible be overjoyed at her being chosen, and pick up fatherhood as easily as she picked up motherhood? Whilst Incredibles 2 does its predecessor justice with the entertainment factor, it robs Elastigirl of her spotlight as a hero and Mr. Incredible of his potential as a father, perpetuating gender roles through underlying sexist themes that it could’ve done without, in order to continue the legacy as a franchise that questioned those in power and supported the underdog. 

image: Pixar