Wednesday, February 24, 2010

OK, so now we're "The Incredibles"

Remember how I was saying that the film What's Up, Doc? reminded me of my romance with my husband? Well, now that we're married and settled down, I've found a film that describes us even better!!

The scene where the parents were trying to drive/navigate/park in the city especially reminded me of our recent stay in the US.

Everyone OK back there?

The Incredibles is my new favorite Pixar movie, beating my former favorite, Wall-E. I just wrote a new post about The Incredibles for The Hathor Legacy explaining why.

Interestingly -- even though my post was more about the feminist content of the film -- the comments focused more on the moral of the tale. I'd thought (in terms of moral) The Incredibles was like Cars (on the surface the film appears to be making a point, but in reality, it isn’t).

I thought that the "moral" of The Incredibles was "It's OK to excel, and it's OK to fight back against those *cough* non-existant *cough* social forces that are forcing you to be mediocre." But, who knows? Maybe it's more complicated than that.

And my kids liked the villain "Bomb Voyage" for his super-ability to speak French:

How come the French cartoon character always has to dress up as Marcel Marceau?


Nathaniel said...

I agree about the greatness of the movie, but would somewhat disagree with your editorial about its "moral." There is societal pressure in many areas of the country not to seem to smart, or more talented then others, at least in an intellectual fashion. This pressure is double for girls. Smart, talented guys are seen as losers or jerks. Smart, talented girls are seen as undesirable by boys and a community wide threat by girls in many schools.

The Sinister Porpoise said...

The moral is true for minorities where being seen as successful as seen as being white.

On the other hand, I thought the motivations of the villain were confused. He spent most of his life jealous of his idol and intended to introduce devices to make everyone a super hero. It never seemed to dawn on him that his superior intelligence could also be used to make him stand out.

mathmom said...

The nicest thing I ever heard about the Incredibles was from the mom of 3 rambunctious boys. She said that after watching other movies (I forget what they were watching, maybe Madagascar?) the boys would fight each other and be rude to each other and her, but after watching the Incredibles they would play together and protect each other.

I like the movie a lot. The comparison of Edna Mode and Syndrome over at your other post was really interesting, I'd never thought of that.

I can relate to what Brad Bird was talking about with his wife being dismissed at parties. For a while I wanted to make a sign that said, "I have a PhD in math!" so people wouldn't assume I was an idiot when I told them I stay at home with my kids. Of course, having a PhD in math is almost as good a conversation killer as staying home...

mathmom said...

Hi Chanson---not that it matters at this point =) but I've been thinking about Helen Parr's development in the movie. She goes from concentrating on unpacking, vacuuming, cooking dinner, and driving her kids around (and leaving discipline to Bob) to having a job in the family hero business. I'd really like to see a movie with her and Violet, saving the world.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Mathmom!!!

Yeah, that would be cool -- I'd totally love to watch such a movie.

Re: the thing about being the SAHM at parties -- I honestly catch myself doing the same thing.

When I was at the Institute for Advanced Study -- as my husband's (technically unemployed) partner -- I would go way out of my way to tell everyone about my new Java book that I was writing. Yet, I feel like that was a response to my insecurity -- I don't want them to assume that I'm an idiot just tagging along in the wake of a brilliant husband. However, I didn't have any evidence that they were making that assumption. And, indeed, I wasn't making that assumption about any of the other people I met who were there as "partners" of members of the IAS. The partners were all interesting, intelligent, and worth talking to -- regardless of whether they were currently employed or whether they were currently taking care of their kids full-time.

Similarly with my kids' friends' moms who are SAHMs -- I like to hang out with them, and (even though I'm employed) I feel like I have a lot in common with them. I'm sure as hell not thinking "Oh, what an idiot she must be to be a SAHM."

This is why Brad Bird's discussion pissed me off. There was more to it (following the part that I transcribed) where he was describing how cool it was for a super-hero to be standing up for motherhood [by trashing a stereotypical bitchy career woman]. Balancing career and parental responsibility is an incredibly complex psychological situation that he simplistically dismisses. His solution to the problem of "women getting crap for the choices they have to make" was to simply do some more blaming women for dealing with these choices and sacrifices that men are not expected to make. That's why I found his discussion utterly clueless, and the axed scene, frankly, offensive.

mathmom said...

Hi Chanson! Thanks for writing back, I love that blog discussion doesn't only go one way. I think I understand more your objections to both the scene and the comments that Brad Bird made about the scene. But in thinking about that, I started thinking more about the value of sacrifice within a family. Everyone, from the baby to the kids to the parents is constantly making room for other family member's choices and needs.

I'm not quite sure why you say men aren't asked to make sacrifices of career for family---most of the men I know have made significant sacrifices. Is it because the answer of "career" is always assumed, so they aren't asked, whether or not they make the sacrifice? Or is it because anything they choose is assumed to be right (whereas whatever a woman chooses is the wrong thing)? Or that their sacrifices are too small to count? Or (probably) something I don't understand yet?

Anyhow, it's interesting to think about, I feel like I'm learning a lot.

Thanks for writing pieces to think about!

P.S. I am sure that most of the slights I felt from other people about my staying home were due to my own insecurity. Some days I'd still like the sign, though =)

C. L. Hanson said...

I don't mean that men don't have to sacrifice anything at all for the sake of their families. It's certainly true that marriage has changed dramatically, especially in terms of people's expectations of what each partner's responsibility should be -- both w.r.t. earning and housework/child rearing, there's a strong sentiment that it's both partners' job. I applaud this change.

However, social expectations placed on each parent are still not totally equal. The situation Brad Bird describes -- we had kids, and wanted full-time parental care for them, so she should quit her job (without seriously considering the alternate possibility) -- is still the default in our society. A woman who achieves career success by devoting herself 110% to her work (and puts her kids in day-care) is going to have blame and shame heaped on her for any problems the kids may have -- whereas a man won't be blamed and shamed in the same way.

As a result, women are expected to divide their energy and passion between career and child-rearing. However you parse yourself, you end up with some regrets. That makes people defensive (eg. SAHM's and career women lashing out at each other so that each can bolster her own sense that her own choices were the "right" choices when instead we might be joining hands and recognizing that we moms all have a difficult juggling act, and it's OK for different choices to be right for different women).

OTOH, even in our modern society, a man can reasonably expect to find a woman who will stand behind him (so to speak) and work for his success. The man who's willing to go on the "mommy track" so his wife can get ahead in her career is far more rare. Thus, it's not so hard for a man to have both a brilliant career and a perfect family. Just look at Brad Bird or at, say, your own husband.

Again, I'm not saying that men are evil, I'm just saying that it's often difficult for people to empathize with difficult dilemmas that are different than what they themselves have had to face.

mathmom said...

Hey Chanson! I've been thinking about this discussion a lot, but we've had guests... I think I understand more of your viewpoint, and I mostly agree (with reservations, of course =). Even when men make sacrifices (sometimes significant) maybe they don't feel pulled in two directions the way women are? But is that ambivalence something put on women by society, or something women pick up themselves, or the natural reaction to having to choose between two things you really want to do, or something else?

Anyhow,the part of what you're writing that gets me most heated up is that I I'm not sure how you know that Brad Bird or my own husband have never made sacrifices of the sort you are talking about, or that we have "the perfect family" (I hope you were joking about that =). As you wrote about Helen chewing out Career Woman, the reasons someone works are extremely complex, both for the woman involved and for the family.

Here's another controversy---I thought of you when I read it, because I thought you might like to discuss it.
Next we can talk about homeschooling =)

C. L. Hanson said...

Look, my point is this:

You are an intelligent person. You have a Ph.D. in Math. You could easily have a career that showcases your intelligence. You've stated that your choice to quit your job makes you feel self-conscious about how people might perceive you: For a while I wanted to make a sign that said, "I have a PhD in math!" so people wouldn't assume I was an idiot when I told them I stay at home with my kids.

You've made that choice for the sake of your kids -- so that they get the attention they need to grow up happy and well-adjusted. I'm totally down with that. I think that that is a very respectable and responsible choice. But the thing is that your husband has the exact same happy, well-adjusted kids and he also has a sparkling career with people constantly telling him how brilliant he is.

I'm not saying that any of this is wrong or even necessarily unfair. I'm not saying that he hasn't made sacrifices. I'm sure he's mad huge sacrifices for his family! But they're not the same sacrifices you made. And the fact that you (and Brad Bird's wife) are women is not a coincidence.

That is all I'm saying.