Well, here we are in another period of summer blockbuster superhero films to wade through. And as much as I enjoy them, I often find myself thinking about The Incredibles, Pixar’s animated superhero family. Since the movie was released, it has gone to my list of favorite movies and stayed there. I watch it frequently when I’m alone in the house and have a few hours to spare, securing myself in the basement with the lights low and the drinks and snacks ready and soaking it in like a guilty pleasure.
But is it just because I like superhero movies? Is it because of my fondness for animation? No, it’s much more than that. In fact, more than the live-action superhero movies, more than most adventure movies, The Incredibles deals with adult themes that I find I identify with… most notably in the character of Robert Parr, aka Mr. Incredible.
Robert, the central character of the story, undergoes an appropriately Herculean ordeal. At the beginning of the story, he is at the top of his game as the powerful superhero Mr. Incredible, successful, famous, and enjoying his life of helping grateful people everywhere. He’s even found love, and marries another superhero, someone with whom he can share the best aspects of his life. He’s happy and optimistic towards the future.
And then, in a New York minute, it’s all taken away from him by the vagaries of fate (not to mention a lawsuit-happy society and a chicken$#!t government decision). Suddenly, he can no longer perform the one service he was best at; even worse, he must hide the fact that he ever was a superhero for fear of public reprisal. Years later, he finds himself stuck (almost literally) in a menial job, personally stifling him and, through its greed-based atmosphere, ironically preventing him from actually helping people. It impacts his marriage and rots his spirit, leaving him feeling helpless and cast off.
It’s no wonder that, when he is offered a suspiciously-convenient chance to return to his superhero profession, he jumps at it, even though he has to lie to his family to hide the fact. Fortunately, the return to using his past profession also improves his home life, his health and his optimism. But it was all a setup, ultimately designed to literally kill him, at the hands of a man he’d once slighted years ago. Suddenly the game is serious, and this time his family is drawn into his danger; his dalliances have caused harm to his wife and kids, horrifying and humbling him immeasurably.
It is his family that ultimately frees him, and Robert finds that his family (and friends, in the guise of best friend Lucius, aka Frozone, and Edna Mode’s mad costuming skills) with their special strengths are indispensable in supporting him and helping him finish the job he started. And fortunately for Robert, the crisis they averted was serious enough to prompt the government to change their years-long prohibition against superheroing, allowing Robert, now with his family, to return to the profession he loves so much.
I find parts of Robert’s life echoing with mine: I am also familiar with abandoning past professions just as I thought I was to reach the top of my game, and wishing there was a way to return to that profession when I was stuck in a more menial position. I have also allowed my frustration to affect my family life in the past. Fortunately for me, I was able to overcome those feelings through learning to accept myself and my life, however imperfect, and move on; today, those particular demons don’t haunt me.
As a writer, I’ve recently had to accept the fact that my writing has not produced the sales and success I’d hoped for, forcing me to reconsider my situation and my desires. In a way, I’d felt stifled by my own decision to postpone further writing until I could figure out how to sell the books I already had (which, since I’m not a great salesman, could mean quite a hiatus). And to an extent, I blamed others for my situation, specifically, readers who weren’t buying the books (or who were downloading them without paying) and who weren’t helping me spread my name with widespread reviews and recommendations, plus an existing publishing industry that was doing all it could to discourage the growing crop of independent authors like myself that threatened to overturn their apple cart.
But like Robert, I had a family willing to help me over the obstacles of my own mind and actions, providing support and centering for whatever I needed to do. Through their support, I’ve managed to avoid getting lost fretting about the time spent not writing—and I know that they have my back, whether I continue to write, or pack it all in tomorrow and start selling hamburgers. My family is my rock, and with their help, I can do anything, or be happy with what little I can do.
In The Incredibles, Robert overcomes personal obstacles and past mistakes and, through the help of his family and friends, is ultimately redeemed. I’ve overcome similar personal obstacles and past mistakes, and through my family, have redeemed myself. And like Robert at the end of the movie, it appears my best years are now ahead of me again.