Ayn Rand and stretchy red super-suits
Posted by John Hood at 07:55 AM
The Hood boys saw The Incredibles last night. Incredibly great entertainment, as Jeff and Paul previously observed. Later last night, I was catching up on my Christian Science Monitors and ran across a piece about the political interpretation of new animated films that helped to explain my reaction:
Is there a subtle sociological statement embedded in "The Incredibles"?
"I can't help thinking of [philosopher Friedrich] Nietzsche and his idea that some people are better and more deserving than others," says Mikita Brottman, professor of language and literature at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore.
"The movie salutes Superman," Dr. Brottman adds. "Not the 'superman' in comic books but the one [despots] believe in. Its idea seems to be that even in a democracy some people are 'more equal' than others, and the rest of us shouldn't be so presumptuous as to get in their way."
Reviewers have been raising these concerns, too. "The Incredibles" suggests "a thorough, feverish immersion in both American comic books and the philosophy of Ayn Rand," writes A.O. Scott in The New York Times, referring to the founder of "objectivism," a philosophy anchored in capitalism and atheism.
When the "Incredibles" hero "balances a globe-shaped robot on his shoulders, should we be thinking of 'Atlas Shrugged'?" writes Newsday critic John Anderson, citing Rand's most famous novel, about a "strike" by gifted leaders that brings an ungrateful society to its knees. The movie's chief subplot, about a superhero imitator, "suggests not only class warfare, but also something approaching a Divine Right of Superheroes," he adds.
"The Incredibles" is great fun, these reviews agree, but they all sense a subtext that's serious. The film is "a fun-filled foray into animated action, fantasy, and adventure," as Mr. Anderson puts it. "And objectivism. And tort reform," he adds, noting that the villains include citizens who sue superheroes over injuries they've incurred during rescues.
Dr. Brottman is obviously a bit confused about the relevant philosophical and theological principles (as was Ayn Rand, if the truth be told), but still: comic books and objectivism? Smuggle in some Trek, medieval military history, and my statement of culinary belief — “Garlic is God and Onion is his Prophet” — and you got the whole package.
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