People often view THE INCREDIBLES as the best FANTASTIC FOUR movie never made, and for good reason. As much as it relies on action and thrills, at the core of that film is the story about a family coming together. That family drama, more specifically Mr. Incredible’s mid-life crisis, allows them to eventually embrace their powers rather than shun them. Thematically, this requires Mr. Incredible to reject old-fashioned masculine heroics in favor of a system where family comes before ego.

Mr. Incredible Works Alone

After all, the film’s prologue defines Mr. Incredible’s bachelor life solely on the basis of his heroics. Those heroics, in turn, were the result of his core superpower: strength. Mr. Incredible is super strong to the point that, because of his strength and bravery, he can do everything alone. His self-independent nature, commonly affiliated with the positive qualities of a “self-made man,” drives his actions as a superhero. And, yet, this central identity of a masculine hero makes all other aspects of his lives, companionship included, feel like an afterthought.

Mr. Incredible
Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl, Courtesy of Disney’s Pixar

One can see this mindset in Mr. Incredible’s dynamic with Elastigirl and Buddy, the former of which he is marrying. He might have contemplated embracing the “simple life” in an interview but, as a hero, Mr. Incredible “works alone.” The reward, in his eyes, starts and stops at being a protecting his city, with all other objectives having a lesser value. This doesn’t make Mr. Incredible a bad guy, but he still prioritizes heroism overcommitment at this point in his life.

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The “Simple Life”

Of course, before anyone can say “What could happen?” Mr. Incredible’s former life is stripped away. Rejected by the people and forced into retirement, the hero of old becomes an emasculated everyman named Bob Parr. He is married, raising three kids and working as an insurance salesman- the “simple life” Mr. Incredible once envisioned.

And yet, for Bob, it’s not enough. The realization that raising his family is just as important as saving the city has yet to sink in. He desires more but believes his depressing job and overbearing boss hinders his true potential. Never mind the fact that Bob’s family has been forced to relocate countless times due to their powers being exposed. He still believes that having powers make his family special, as Bob’s son Dash later reiterates.

Mr. Incredible
Bob Parr, Courtesy of Disney’s Pixar

This desire to rekindle the glory days is evident by Bob’s evening activities with Lucius (Frozone), hidden under the guise of banality. Where his workplace is dull and visually desaturated, Bob’s vigilante acts are bombastic and exciting, evoking his old-school heroics. But, as Frozone points out, neither of them is really “living.” They’re just sneaking out to perform anonymous feats that temporarily make them feel better about themselves. In other words, despite his responsibilities as a parent and husband, Bob is still making this about his powers and ego.

Reliving the Glory Days

Thus, when Mirage offers Bob a mysterious job offer, it is conveniently at a point where he is at his lowest and most emasculated. While his boss berates him for not following Insuracare protocol, Bob notices a man being mugged outside their office. His desire to help, however, is threatened with the possibility of unemployment. Just as Bob’s job consists of preferencing stockholders over customers, he must let injustice happen to maintain a civilian identity.

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Unfortunately, this pushes Bob too far, resulting in him using his powers to throw his boss through a wall. Was it satisfying? Doesn’t matter- now that Bob has responsibilities beyond himself, his powers now have consequences. Without any way to support his family or be a hero, what can someone like Bob Parr do?

Thanks to Mirage, something. Her job offer allows Bob to kill two birds with one stone: perform heroics and hide his unemployment. Once again, Mr. Incredible’s masculine image exceeds the responsibilities Bob Parr made when he took his wedding vows. He still loves Helen, Violet, Dash, and Jack-Jack, but can’t he do that and fight a giant killer robot?

Mr. Incredible
Mr. Incredible vs. Omnidroid 8000, Courtesy of Disney’s Pixar

This might as well be the rationale of Mr. Parr’s dual life: being a good patriarch and using his powers incognito. He gives his family better things, spends more time with them, and even gets back into shape. Visually, the film’s transition from grey and white to a more vibrant palate emphasizes this resurgence in Bob’s self-worth. Yet he has yet to identify this worth with his family and instead affiliates it with being a hero again.

Sins of the Past

As Mr. Incredible later finds out, these “heroic” missions were a ruse by Syndrome, his former fan Buddy turned evil. He wasn’t really helping anyone- just allowing the bad guy to improve upon the Omnidroid used to murder countless supers. In other words, Syndrome used Mr. Incredible’s nostalgia for a former masculine identity as bait to lure him in.

Mr. Incredible
Mr. Incredible and Syndrome, Courtesy of Disney’s Pixar

Thus, when Syndrome kidnaps our hero, he’s put in a state of vulnerability that hadn’t previously existed. Helen is his only chance of rescue, yet even that rebukes the old Mr. Incredible who preferred to “work alone.” Syndrome himself mocks Mr. Incredible for relying on others, as that line made him disillusioned with the concept of “supers.”

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This dynamic between hero and villain effectively makes Syndrome a negative foil for Mr. Incredible’s own identity crisis. Whereas Mr. Incredible embodied toxic masculinity, Syndrome mirrors current toxic fandom that desperately seeks to control their product’s identity. His plan is one of public manipulation, tricking people into seeing him as a hero, then making everyone “super” to render the term obsolete. If he can’t covet the old-school image of Mr. Incredible, then no one can.

Strength Through Family

Ultimately, what saves Mr. Incredible from his bondages and, on a thematic level himself, are the other Parrs. After believing them dead, reuniting with his family makes Bob realize that Helen and the kids do mean something to him. They give him a purpose beyond heroism: something to protect and enjoy life with after the threat is defeated. And, as a family, they make for a very effective superhero team.

If there’s a single moment that encapsulates Bob’s character evolution, it’s when he confesses his fears to Helen before facing the Omnidroid again. Originally intending to confront the robot alone, Bob acknowledges that he’s doing this to avoid seeing his family hurt. Despite realizing that he undervalued those around him, it’s here that Mr. Incredible comes to see family as a source of strength. Alone, he’s “not strong enough” to defeat the Omnidroid but, alongside his wife, kids, and best friend, it’s possible.

A Changed Man

Mr. Incredible
The Incredibles and Frozone, Courtesy of Disney’s Pixar

The man who comes out of this story is a Mr. Incredible who, despite having super strength, no longer defines himself by it. He doesn’t see being an “alpha” masculine hero as the top priority in life; that honor goes to raising his family. His investment in them overshadows any interest in pursuing the glory days that once granted him momentary satisfaction. Most importantly, however, when evildoers do pop up to commit crimes and monologue, Mr. Incredible doesn’t have to save the day alone. He has a team now.

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