Quite a long time ago (as articles on the internet go), “The F-Word” published an article on Pixar and their movies, claiming they were a) buddy movies (which is right, to a certain extent) and b) cementing classical role models. The best example for the last argument were “The Incredibles”.
Sure, Mr. Incredible and his son get the ‘classical’ superhero powers: strength and speed. But a few days ago, I watched the movie again on TV (there was nothing interesting on otherwise, so I thought I’d give it a try) and realized that the two women in the family are much more intelligent. Yes, at first Mrs. Incredible (once Elastigirl, a long time ago) is housewife and mother, trying to keep the family out of trouble and getting everything done. But once she has to leave the ‘normality’ behind to find her husband, we see she’s been doing undercover work before. She has government contacts (above the Superhero Protection Program they’re all in), she can steer a jet (and I mean really steer it, even with missiles on the tail), she knows how to infiltrate a base. That’s far more than just using a super-elastic body, there’s a lot of intelligence going into that. Her daughter can create energy fields and turn herself invisible (which could, one day, make her a great secret agent, too). And she knows how to best follow a rocket: just use the same coordinates for the second rocket.
So, what about the classical role models? Yes, Mrs. Incredible cares for her family – even more so than her midlife-crisis-ridden husband at the beginning of the story. But is that necessarily wrong? She has three children to take care of, after all. Two of them already have superpowers. (The youngest develops them at the end of the movie.) She wants to play safe, keep them all out of trouble and hide the truth (that they’re not just normal human beings) from everyone around. Therefore she tries to make sure her children don’t use their powers (and her husband as well…).
Her daughter is very shy at the beginning of the story. But then, she’s a teenager and they always find something about themselves they don’t like. She wants to be normal, to fit in and just be like everyone else (while her younger brother wants to show off his powers). Once she learns about the responsibility that comes with such powers, though, once she needs them to keep herself and her brother alive, she grows tremendously. Such growth is only possible when there’s a lot of space for growth. Her brother doesn’t have it, but she does.
The women in “The Incredibles” might fade into background a bit at first (literally so in the case of daughter Violetta), but they have strengths of their own. And only together with them, the rest of the family can be ‘super’.