Everyone who has watched The Incredibles (and pay attention to its dialogues) know one thing about the film: it denounces the elitism of superheroism.
Well, the villain does that. In the film, every single superhero character was born with their power. It us undeniable that elitism based on something biologically innate is unfair. Those superheroes obtain an unjustly earned special status. They are almost treated as Gods. The villain has a point.
Of course, you may argue the superheroes have actual contributions to the societies they live in. Without them, who is going to protect the citizens from the bad guys? Who is going to bring the collective sense of security?
Well, The Incredibles 2 answers the question: the ‘ordinary’ citizens should be the ones who have help themselves!
The villain equates superheroes-worshipping with consumerism. Superheroes are extremely handy products the ordinary citizens become too dependent on and the dependency discourages them from doing anything to improve the societies they live in.
Improve the effectiveness of law enforcement agencies, make use of the armed forces for domestic purposes (instead of constantly sending them overseas), enquire into why the crimes exist in the first place. The ordinary citizens should have done those. But, as those require self-introspection and acknowledgement of unflattering truths, they prefer to do the easy thing: sticking to the status quo. Once again, the villain has a point… and one of the good guys is naive.
As heroes-worshipping is liken to consumerism, heroism in the sequel does not parallel to heroism in real life. For me, it is more of a commentary about our misguided approach regarding making the world a better place; it reminds me how some people still think social media can bridge the gaps between different human beings, still unaware the problem lies on humans’ sectarian tendencies, not on technological limitation.
In the first film, on the other hand, heroism is liken to undeserved elitism. That has a direct parallel in real life… which can be extremely contentious to point out, even in very liberal societies. I am thinking about soldiers.
I am proud to say I was never guilty of the ‘all-soldiers-are-heroes’ mentality. Not only it feels like worshipping conceitedly unprogressive institutions, it also does not make sense. Somehow, simply joining a formal and rigidly-structured collective instantaneously make you worthy of any honourable titles associated with it. Your labels determine your worth.
Many soldiers in some parts of the world are conscripts; in countries without alternative services, the citizens only have two options: enlistment or jail. Soldiers have the right to benefits which are reserved exclusively for them; poverty is enough to motivate people to enlist. It is also no secret that soldiers have committed countless human rights violations; it is either they become desensitised by violence or they were already suffering from bloodlust in the first place. Not to mention that even in relatively small countries, soldiers are huge collectives of distinct individuals. Believing heroism exists in every single one of them betrays facts and reason.
Of course, as it is the case with unreasonable creatures, those military worshippers also suffer from cognitive dissonances. My mom is a big admirer of the military; she was a military brat who was born merely a few years after Indonesia’s independence, who was a teen when the Indonesian-Malaysia Konfrontasi occurred, who thinks Indonesia was absolutely way better under the authoritarian rule of General Soeharto, who thinks soldiers only care about doing service for their countries.
She also wants me to enlist for the financial benefits, manliness and social status. No explanation needed for the first two. With the third, it is both baffling and frustrating. Baffling because she somehow thinks that I, her disappointingly rebellious and underachieving son, will easily climb up the ranks. Frustrating because it is a reflection of her irrationality and classist tendency. Not once she expresses a desire for me to be a patriot; she only cares about the so-called perks of military life. In the US, however, there is a cognitive dissonance worse than this one.
Being loud and obnoxious about their so-called love of soldiers also means ridiculing PTSD-suffering and/or homeless veterans, supporting budget cut for VA, dodging conscription during the Vietnam War era and worshipping those dodgers. When they say ‘support the troops’, they refer to the dead ones… and any pro-military ‘patriots’ who never enlisted and will never have the desire to.
The older I get, the more I realise how ‘goodness’ and any can related concepts damaging; in many cases, ‘goodness’ is meaningless. I believe it is rooted in our debilitating upbringing. At least, that’s the case if we use my anecdote.
Since I was young, I have been bombarded with guilt-tripping rhetorics about the greatness of virtue and the sin of not falling for those guilt-tripping rhetorics. That’s one of the many ideals I was indoctrinated to. For many years, I fell for it. The indoctrination climaxed when I became an internet addict. Not long after I reached adulthood, I started to realise how questionable this mindset is.
Instead of encouraging genuine altruism and social consciousness, it champions self-righteousness, reward-seeking open-handedness, the unfounded belief that artistic preferences and our level of ‘wokeness’ are inherently correlated and the mindlessness that makes us exploitable enough to fall for meaningless articulation. It also puts off cynical humans from seeing the beauty of benevolence and earthly cognisance; eventually, their cynicism intensifies, not subsides.
To exacerbate the nauseous feeling even more, those loud and self-praising zombies have the gut to direct the heroic light on themselves! Unfortunately unsurprisingly, they see themselves as the enlightenment the unkind world needs and does not deserve. They are literally one of those humans who unknowingly make living parodies out of themselves! Instead of invigorating the world they supposedly love, they only give it more burdens to bear!
This is why I love entertainment where morality is depicted a grey entity. This is why I have a strong inclination to admire aloof, crass, cynical and/or sarcastic public figures.
It is lovely when popular entertainment subtly encourages the audience to rethink their stances regarding good and evil, when it cunningly reminds us of our own ill-defined reality. The two The Incredibles films are great examples.
Those unpleasant individuals may not be unpleasant as we think they are; even though it is not always the case, we may be able to identify courtesy, down-to-earth intellect or even heartfelt virtue once they uncover their true colours… or once we actually pay attention. Felix Kjellberg, the most subscribed Youtuber and the media’s favourite Youtube punchbag, is probably one of the best examples.
So, to sum everything up: characters, NOT labels, should be the basis of our judgement of fellow human beings! Of course, like everything in life, it is easier said than done. But, I have some inadequate, anecdotal and scientifically unproven tips that may or may not improve your perceptiveness.
When a film you just watched seems to have extremely kind protagonists and a perfectly happy ending, be suspicious. Re-watch it, pay attention to the characters, dialogues, settings and plot.
Once you notice the small details, you will realise how our beloved main characters are shrouded in unexpressed sinfulness, the ending only serve them and the villains may not as bad as they seem. This can be a result of deep OR shallow thinking on the filmmakers’ behalf. The subtext betrays the film’s true nature.
Yes, a scripted film involves fictional characters. But, that can prepare you to be more observant and critical when assessing the facade of your surroundings. Obviously, using real humans as our ‘subjects’ is a lot better.
When a public figure attracts your attention, try not to let his/her public image clouds your judgement. Instead, try to enquire about him/her yourself.
If he/she is known for his/her obnoxious and unsavoury personality, watch and listen to his/her interviews; if he/she acts surprisingly nice and polite, it is possible you just encounter his/her real personality.
If he/she is known for being open-handed and moral, investigate him/her; research about the charity he/she has supposedly accomplished, find out if any of his/her claims have factual and scientific validity, break down the soundness of his/her philosophies and find out if he/she practices what he/she preaches. More of than not, such public figure habours unmistakable yet ignored ungodly qualities.
While both individuals intentionally manufacture their public images, they are driven by different objectives. One believes in the ‘bad-publicity-is-good-publicity’ mantra while the other wants to build a strong, highly-devoted following and a pristine, almost saint-like persona, disfiguring the wholesomeness of ‘goodness’.
Guess which individual is more menacing.
I am such a hopeful person, am I not?
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