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Why are Objectivists hyping "The Incredibles"?

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In case you guys are interested, a critique of objectivist reaction to The Incredibles from Danny Taggart's Blogarama:

I'm somewhat befuddled as to why objectivists seem so enthralled with The Incredibles. I suppose some of it has to do with some press coverage labelling the movie "Randian". It is understandable for objectivists to bask in the national spotlight that so rarely shines on them.

Objectivists seem to be confused by The Incredibles. What underlies their confusion with this movie is their reflexive attempt to fit cultural events into the narrative of Atlas Shrugged. The proper dichotomy should be, they argue, between the strong and the weak, the able and the incompetent. So it is not surprising that they should scratch their heads at a competing narrative: one of special people born with unearned gifts and of regular people who must make do with what they have. One of the regular people dares to rise above his station through hard work and innovation. As did Prometheus (an Ayn Rand favorite), this rogue attempts to bring the “fire of the gods” to man by means of a technology that gives everyone the Incredibles’ powers. For his impertinence, he is labelled a villain.

Now, I'm not arguing that Syndrome is not the villain - he is. That is how the writers have presented him, but that's not the point. The moral message of the movie lies beneath the superficialities of presentation, in the fundamental traits of its characters. Given their complaints about the false choice presented in this movie, one would expect objectivists to remain neutral in judging it on moral grounds. But, disturbingly, they are not. It's disturbing because, in a choice between a self-made innovator and a hero with innate powers, they side with the "hero". Instead of praising the American spirit of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, they engage in royalty- and god-worship. Anyone familiar with objectivism would find this sickeningly ironic.

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I'm somewhat befuddled as to why objectivists seem so [...]

Anyone familiar with objectivism would find this sickeningly ironic.

What do you mean by "objectivism"?

Ayn Rand created a philosophy and named it "Objectivism" -- but what is "objectivism"?

I have met egalitarians who oppose capitalizations of the names of any products of the human mind as being elitist.

I have also met individuals who try to hijack Ayn Rand's creation and popularize it by removing the capitalization.

What is your reason for writing "objectivism"?

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What is your reason for writing "objectivism"?

Hi BurgessLau,

I don't mean to offend with my spelling. It is fairly typical for ideas which were initially capitalized, as they enter mainstream society, to be written with lower-case. For example, the word "Utopian" was originally capitalized, but today is more common as the lower-case "utopian". Hope this clears it up.

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Just because one guy is self-made does not make him a hero. Just because another guy is "innately" good, does not disqualify him from being a hero.

Now I will concede that there were times during the movie that I wished the creators would show the heroes' moral heroism, from making some good moral choices, from displaying mastery of a difficult but important moral habit, etc. As an example, I really liked the scene in the first Spiderman movie when the hero had to choose between saving a whole lot of people, and just one - the girl he loves. To my delight he chose her over them, but managed to save them as well. I wish there were move choices like this in The Incredibles, but that is the only omission in an otherwise excellent movie.

It seems strange to me how people so often look at things outside of context. Would I watch The Incredibles in the perfect world where every other book is akin to Atlas Shrugged and every other movie is akin to Inherit the Wind, or Gilda? I don't know, I'd probably still find it entertaining, but wouldn't give it much thought after that. But in our world where mediocrity is the new shrine and anyone who steps above it is automatically guilty, would I watch The Incredibles over and over, and enjoy its theme as well as its emotional aspects and its fantastic animation? You betcha.

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In case you guys are interested, a critique of objectivist reaction to The Incredibles from <a href="http://dannytaggart.blogspot.com/2004/12/why-are-objectivists-hyping.html">

It was a good movie, not a great one.

It is understandable for objectivists to bask in the national spotlight that so rarely shines on them.
I never think that way. I'm not interested in a "national spot light".

The proper dichotomy <em>should</em> be, they argue, between the strong and the weak, the able and the incompetent.

I'm not sure what you mean by this. Are you saying that the strong versus the weak is the point? If so, I don't agree with that. Objectivism doesn't pit the strong against the weak. Rather, it upholds the value of achievement, and the achiever. People who achieve at a supremely high level are the greatest benefactors to man, just by virtue of living their lives and pursuing their dreams.

Now, those who maliciously hold back the strong are an enemy, but holding back anyone from pursuing their life and happiness is immoral.

But, disturbingly, they are not.  It's disturbing because, in a choice between a self-made innovator and a hero with innate powers, they side with the "hero".  Instead of praising the American spirit of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, they engage in royalty- and god-worship.  Anyone familiar with objectivism would find this sickeningly ironic.

I definitely was aware of the fact that Syndrome was self-made, and that the heroes were simply born with gifts. I would have much preferred it if Syndrome were an inventor presented as a hero.

However, the heroes were heroes. They made choices and acted on them. The choices they made were fundamentally good. They weren't immortal and indestructable, nor infallable, i.e. not gods. I saw their powers as simply latent talents, which they weren't allowed to exercise. However, they weren't going to be kept back by society, which was wrongly trying to keep them back, and to enshrine mediocrity.

It's not "royalty" nor "god worship". It's different in kind, because these people were valued for their abilities and actions, not for their station in life.

Edited by GreedyCapitalist
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I agree with Free Capitalist that you may be looking at The Incredibles out of context. Having heroes in movies at all in these days when mediocrity is enshrined (as a few people said before me) is a cause for celebration, and to have ones upholding life, ability, and courage (among other things) as values and acting on them is refreshing and inspirational. And in addition, to have them presented in a children's film makes those ideas and image accessible to people of all ages. I would take my children to see this film, had I any.

An important thing to consider is that the Incredible family was given their powers but they had to choose to use them for good. On the other hand, Syndrome created his powers and could of chosen to use them for good but did not. By no stretch of the imagination does Syndrome's ability to invent and create automatically entitle him to a hero's status - not if you keep in context with what it is to actually be one. On the other hand, the Incredibles are not heroic by default and their children are a primary example of this - they must learn to use their abilities and learn to make the right choices. Even for them, those choices are not automatic.

I would like to point out, especially after noticing you refer to Objectivism without the capital "O", that whether or not the film was called "Randian" can mean little to Objectivists. Ayn Rand's philosophy is called Objectivism, not "Randism".

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In case you guys are interested, a critique of objectivist reaction to The Incredibles from http://dannytaggart.blogspot.com/2004/12/w...sts-hyping.html

Danny Taggart's Blogarama:

...

Objectivists seem to be confused by <em>The Incredibles</em>.  What underlies their confusion with this movie is their reflexive attempt to fit cultural events into the narrative of <em>Atlas Shrugged</em>.  The proper dichotomy <em>should</em> be, they argue, between the strong and the weak, the able and the incompetent.  So it is not surprising that they should scratch their heads at a competing narrative: one of special people born with unearned gifts and of regular people who must make do with what they have.  One of the regular people dares to rise above his station through hard work and innovation.  As did Prometheus (an Ayn Rand favorite), this rogue attempts to bring the “fire of the gods” to man by means of a technology that gives everyone the Incredibles’ powers.  For his impertinence, he is labelled a villain.

No, it was not for his impertinence. He had the potential to be a hero, but he didn't use his mind for productive purposes--instead wanting desperately to eliminate any exceptionally talented individuals. Just because he was an inventive genius does not mean he should have been the hero of the movie--remember DR. STADLER in ATLAS SHRUGGED?

Now, I'm not arguing that Syndrome is not the villain - he is.  That is how the writers have presented him, but that's not the point.  The moral message of the movie lies beneath the superficialities of presentation, in the fundamental traits of its characters.  Given their complaints about the false choice presented in this movie, one would expect objectivists to remain neutral in judging it on moral grounds.  But, disturbingly, they are not.  It's disturbing because, in a choice between a self-made innovator and a hero with innate powers, they side with the "hero".  Instead of praising the American spirit of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, they engage in royalty- and god-worship.  Anyone familiar with objectivism would find this sickeningly ironic.

NO, you're presenting a false dichotomy. It's NOT a choice between the self-made innovator (Syndrome) and heros with innate powers (The Incredibles). Again, Syndrome is far more akin to Dr. Stadler than John Galt.

Edited by GreedyCapitalist
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It's a pity so many Objectivists (though not all) seem to have a problem with viewing movies. If I publicly praise something that's good, I often get responses that are critical of the movie, or of my recommendation.

All of Pixar's movies have been terrific, and "Incredibles" was the one I most enjoyed. It has some moderately good thematic elements (i.e., praising the great and dismissing conformity), but it is a far cry from Galt's speech. I didn't make an Ayn Rand connection to the movie until I saw reviews that did so. Yet some Objectivists are upset because, apparently, they went in expecting some sort of deep connection with Objectivism.

I'm all for getting excited about an upcoming film, but I don't drop context in doing so. Did Hollywood suddenly change? Did the film-going public? Of course not.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Lets look at the actual critique:

One of the regular people dares to rise above his station through hard work and innovation. As did Prometheus (an Ayn Rand favorite), this rogue attempts to bring the “fire of the gods” to man by means of a technology that gives everyone the Incredibles’ powers. For his impertinence, he is labelled a villain.

Now, I'm not arguing that Syndrome is not the villain - he is. That is how the writers have presented him, but that's not the point. The moral message of the movie lies beneath the superficialities of presentation, in the fundamental traits of its characters. Given their complaints about the false choice presented in this movie, one would expect objectivists to remain neutral in judging it on moral grounds. But, disturbingly, they are not. It's disturbing because, in a choice between a self-made innovator and a hero with innate powers, they side with the "hero". Instead of praising the American spirit of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, they engage in royalty- and god-worship. Anyone familiar with objectivism would find this sickeningly ironic.

1)The point is made that the argument is NOT that Syndrome ISN'T the villian, but that Objectivist's don't make value neutral judgments on the issue you present and that is a bad thing given the fact there are things that *SOME* Objectivists have differing opinions on (false choice for example).The fact is though, despite claiming that you aren't arguing Sydrome is the villian, YOU present the fact that it is "sickenly ironic" by the fact that Sydrome isn't the hero while at the same time making your OWN value judgment that isn't neutral.

2) Syndrome isn't labeled a villian for being creative or innovative. He is labeled a villian because his LIFE is defined by conflict and other people. When he is rejected by an individualist (Mr. Incredible) he decides to seek power for the sake of power. He decides to make himself a hero while taking down the actual people of ability. What part of this can't you see? He killed several superheroes by perfecting his war machine. He defined HIS powers and himself in terms of Mr. Incredible and the real superheroes. Could he BE a bigger second hander?

The fact is, Syndrome had hurt feelings like a little Hitler getting rejected from art school. Syndrome is a sycophant from the beginning...he is a drooling fan boy who can't get enough of Mr. Incredible. Getting autographs and pictures is one thing, but being something your not is another.

Syndrome tried to MAKE himself into Mr. Incredible. From an Objectivist standpoint the ideal situation would be Syndrome making himself into the best possible individual that played on his own strengths.

Instead of trying to be "Incredi-boy" (look...more secondhanding) when his help (or lack thereof) wasn't wanted he should have focused on developing the math and science to do what he really wanted to do.

You can be a hero without being Mr. Incredible or any of the superheroes. What about the little lady on speed who developed the maxed out clothing? Was she not pretty important to the overall picture? She used math and science to enhance the natural abilities of the superheroes...just like education enhances a thinker's natural abilities (think Galt and Hugh Akston. Does that little lady not deserve some mention?

Syndrome/Incrediboy wannabe could have done so much with his life for the positive. He could have BEEN an individual...a true individual because he was extremely talented. The talent was meaningless the second he decided to live his life for another man.Think of it this way, "Incrediboy" wasn't interested in fighting crime and making himself the best damn superhero out there. He was interested in being a collectivist...a "part of the team" when no such help was wanted and he didn't let it stop there. He made himself such a pest that like an annoying socially inept twit that he was, he was swatted away like a fly. Obviously that affected his self esteem. The thing is though, how much esteem did he have to begin with if all he was doing was chasing someone else's life and living vicariously by chasing them from crime scene to crime scene?

When Mr. Incredible told him to buzz off, this kid didn't ever grow up and instead devoted his creative energies into destroying all that is good. His main product (the spider-weapon) was made to kill superheroes. Even his product that he was to sell on the open market was defined by an external force and honed through deception, trickery, and murder. He is a Dr. Ferris...and I find it sickenly ironic that someone familiar with Objectivism would embrace Syndrome as a hero.

3) Just because the fact that The Incredibles have superpowers and Syndrome does not doesn't make The Incredibles less or Syndrome more. One person's lack of ability or presence of it doesn't automatically make someone worthy of condemnation or praise either way. Think Ellie Willers (the best of the average) and John Galt. The fact that they both choose to be made them great people. The reality is though, John Galt was born with more natural ability so he is going to be looked up to because he has more stuff to work with. You can bemoan that as unfair or not cool, but I LIKE having people who work at such brilliant and super-productive levels. I would rather have one Michael Johnson than 10 million Joe Shmoe's and no MJ. I don't resent athletes like Michael Johnsonfor being more physically gifted than I am.

One of the best track athletes of all time gave an interview in Playboy(the Michael Johnson I'm talking about) =

http://baylorbears.collegesports.com/sport..._michael00.html

In this interview he talks about pushing himself to the limit and focussing on his game.

Playboy asks: "Now we're going to make you a choach. How do you get a guy ready to beat Michael Johnson?"

MJ: "If I were a coach, I'd tell an athlete not to think about Michael Johnson, not to worry about him. I saw a very good athlete last year, Jerome Young-one of the only people who I feel at this point can run 43 seconds- totally screw himself out of a medal at the world championships because he was trying to run with me. I think he can run 43 and would have been a silver medalist last year. But he admitted that his strategy was based on my race and what I was going to do. There's nothing he can do about what I'm doing. So If I'm a coach, I tell the guy, 'don't think about him, it's dangerous.'"

I'm NEVER going to be as physically gifted as Michael Johnson. Sorry, just isn't going to happen. That doesn't make MJ a better person than I am because he was blessed with something I don't have. He also shouldn't be burdened because he was "unfairly" blessed with an ability that 99% of the world doesn't possess. Shit happens. Serendipity happens. Life happens. At some point you have to quit living your life around other people and simply be the best you can be. After all, you can't be anyone else, so why bother?

That is why Syndrome/Incrediboy was a fundamentally flawed human being and became a villian. Not because he wasn't born with a special ability that didn't require any talent or effort on his part and was thematically "penalized" for his impudence at rising up against the gifted oppressors. :lol:

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I enjoyed the film and recommend it, but I think it is typical in its mixed premises. In terms of the ideas it represents, I don't think it's anything special.

As with "Finding Nemo", there was one scene that I found totally offensive:

Mr. Incredible physically assaults and almost kills his obnoxious boss in a fit of rage. It was unjust and completely criminal, enough to put Mr. Incredible in jail for the rest of his life, yet it is not only glossed over and made to seem laudible, but Mr. Incredible is utterly unpunished for it (other than losing his job).

Apart from that one glaringly awful scene, I thought the film was fun (though not side-splittingly funny), beautiful to watch, and excellently performed. I'd like to see a sequel.

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The Incredibles finally decide to use their powers, even if society wants them to blend in the masses. That's the Objectivist theme. I see it like Rearden believing in his metal, even if public opinion is against him or Dagny creating the John Galt line. The fact the Incredibles powers are innate and not developped is not of the matter. In Atlas Shrugged we don't know how the heroes got their talents. We don't know if Dagny's determination was there from birth, if she developped it or got it from education. Galt was a brilliant inventor, I suppose he would be a briliant kid in his youth.

In a society where briliant kids don't get a chance to develop their full potential because every kid has to be special, the Incrdibles are a breath of fresh air.

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  • 2 weeks later...

When I saw Mr. Incredible in his cubicle, it did make me think of Roark. But I was really surprised to go on the Internet and hear people calling it Randian. It just goes to show how superficial most people's grasp of Objectivism really is.

As to the movie, I was bored to death. It saddens me deeply that this wretched shell of a thing is so well regarded. I'm going to go and mope...

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  • 2 months later...

I, very much, saw Syndrome as a James Taggart.

Syndrome - creates technology to make everyone Super, thus taking away from the Incredibles (and other heroes), natural abilities.

James Taggart - Helps create a government agenda to take away Rearden metal (and other productive workers work) away from him (them). Thus, everyone profits by being as good as the creators themselves.

The real point is, that it would be awfully hard to propogate all the Objectivist ethics and points into a Disney movie meant for kids. Considering how much there actually was, I was quite impressed with The Incredibles.

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