Monday, November 29, 2004

Red Flag on Incredibles Politics?

Gene Seymour at Newsday has a good but not great commentary on interpretations and The Incredibles in particular (NY Newsday, 21 Nov 2004). While it’s not quite on target, he raises a good point and asks a good question. The question: “The Incredibles reflects such ambivalence to the point that you could project whatever politics you have onto its thematic template. Only why would you bother? Why isn’t it enough for an animated feature to be well-written, engrossing and imaginative? Is it because grown-ups feel so guilty about enjoying feature-length animation for its own sake that they have to grasp at socio-cultural straws?

He has no answer, but amusingly, he offers his own interpretation of the film as he tells others to stop doing so. This ironically illustrates his observation, which is that director Brad Bird is a Boomer and subject to several self-contradictory tendencies. Consider it a subliminal hat tip to David Brooks because the implication is that Bird is a Bobo, a member of the elite that pretends it’s not the elite.

The real answer to his “why bother” question is that, while enjoyment is certainly an important, even essential, component in our response to art, interpretation is simply human nature—not to mention fun. Art that has no connection to life is boring, as A. O. Scott’s conclusion about the vapid Polar Express reminds us: “afterward there was not much to talk about, and the urge to talk about the movie is something . . . that grownups and children tend to share.” But Scott and his family are talking about The Incredibles (New York Times, 26 Nov 2004). Think of it like the difference between Star Wars and Superstar.

Metaphor (and story) is a primary way we try to make sense of the world. Don’t knock it. Particularly as you’re trying it. Seymour’s flag is a bad call.

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