Incredibles 2 is our first real feminist superhero blockbuster (and yes, I’ve seen Wonder Woman)
Don’t worry, no spoilers!
Let me start off by saying that Wonder Woman portrays an important show of feminism for a blockbuster film. However, I thought the empowering nature of the film was distorted by its predictable storyline and overused tropes. I still think Wonder Woman is important but seriously, she is the only women in the film, besides her demi-god community that stays silent for most of the film and the forgettable comic relief. But now, let’s look at the reasons behind the outlandish statement that Incredibles 2 is our first feminist superhero movie.
Like most millennials excited to relive some of their favourite childhood delights, I wandered into the cinema with much hope for my childhood dreams being realised. I was not disappointed, and more than that, I was elevated to a new statue of pride for the beloved childhood stable. The kids cartoon was funny, heart-warming and all the other clichés you can think of, yet there is a part that dared to look into the eyes of originality.
Walking out of the cinema, I had the same surge of empowering elixir that overcame me as I watched Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The Incredibles 2 joins the symphony that began with the latest Star Wars. The movies have not only included badass, 3-dimensional women but redefined the roles of women in blockbuster film. The Incredibles 2 stands apart from Wonder Woman, by taking the traditional, overused superhero dynamic by the balls and turns our attention to something we haven’t quite seen before.
A female superhero doing her duty by saving the world, without being oversexualised, without the need of a male sidekick and just being damn relatable (and kickass). That is Elastigirl, a.k.a Helen Parr. She is a deep, kickass feminist amalgam that is the hero of the story, with the help of her loving family, Violet, Dash, Robert and Jack-Jack. Now, you may be thinking that sounds exactly like Wonder Woman, but here’s where I think Incredibles 2 surpasses the film and in a big way.
A REINVENTED SUPERHERO FOR FOURTH WAVE FEMINISM
Firstly, Incredibles 2 isn’t a mere role reversal, where the woman becomes the hero who saves the man. The problem with using this gendered trope and flipping it on its head is that it still just feels stale and regressive. It seems like we’re cheating. Just taking the story a man would cast us in and changing the genders. I think we can do more. And that’s what Incredibles 2 does. The movie not only features Elastigirl as a powerful, intelligent working mum, who struggles with leaving her family, it also shows how the job of the stay-at-home parent is just as difficult and heroic as “working”.
The film’s plot is a reinvention of how we celebrate the different roles of parenthood. Motherhood is something that is expected of women, whereas providing for your family is both expected and celebrated. The male provider is the protector (hero) of the family unit. Now, the mother is celebrated as an empowering hero and the dad is loved and appreciated (and also gets to save the day). This “role reversal” does more than empower women to be active in the workplace, it also glorifies the job of stay-at-home parents that are traditionally a woman’s job.
And perhaps the most influential component of the film is its target audience. It’s for kids! Your son, brother, male cousin can now grow up normalising this approach to the family unit. They see their Mum as a hero on the big screen in both capacities. If their Mum stays at home with them, they can see her role celebrated and at times absolutely hilarious, however, they also see that it’s normal for Mum to pursue her dreams in her career.
It’s an awe-inspiring moment for working Mum’s, stay-at-home Mum’s and mother’s to be. However, like most things in life, there is a point where the crusade for a feminist story escapes them. And it’s the lack of ethnic female representation. Unfortunately, Frozone’s wife “Honey” is still a mere voice in the background. It’s a damn shame. In this fight for female representation in blockbuster-bound films, it’s vital we don’t white-wash feminism in these discussions.
All in all, the job of the loveable cartoon is to wrap up influential societal messaging with a coating of tasty milk chocolate. And that is exactly what Incredibles 2 does.
All images belong to Disney Pixar.
Get to know the editor
Sean Bradley is the editor behind the scenes at Fatally Narrow. He is a true literature enthusiast and feminist comrade, who never fails to pick up on my misplaced commas.