The Incredibles is a fun and frantic family adventure which focuses on the quest for self-worth of Mr. Incredible (see my post on it here), but it also has a subtle message about young boys, as shown in the character of Dash.
There are two children (of speaking age) in The Incredibles, Dash and Violet, each with their own sub-plot. Violet’s is about her own self-esteem and her courage to be more open and forward.
Dash’s, on the other hand, is more buried in the main plot but is also more complex. He is endowed with the power of super-speed, and with it apparently came super-competitiveness. However, his parents (or at least his mother, depending on Bob’s mood) will not let him go out for school sports because of his lack of control.
What this represents, or at least can represent, more than overly controlling parents is the trend in American education to suppress the natural behaviors of boys in favor of a more conformist and often feminine system of behavior.
American schools are full of examples of boys being forced into learning environments which are not suited to them, and this includes often blatant disdain for the naturally physical nature of male competitiveness. Sports are the last place of release for boys, but even this is obstructed in some cases, and the Incredibles shows an example of how a boy can be left with no outlet.
In the end, Dash is given the chance to go out for the track team and he does well and stays in control.
The resolution is subtle, I didn’t even notice it until recently, but it clearly states the idea that boys need to be allowed to compete and that they shouldn’t be held back. It recognizes the societal blocks placed against boys and shows that these blocks can and should be knocked down, allowing the young man to express himself as a young man, even when that means being different.
Really, the stories of Dash and Violet show an interesting reflection of our world. Violet is held back by herself, while Dash is held back by society.
Simple subplots, or truth in fiction?
I have often had mixed feelings about Disney as a whole. They have made many good movies, but many of those have added fuel to the growing princess-complex so common among American girls. As for television, they have made some good cartoons, but I never watched their channels is any dedicated fashion.
Then came Disney XD.
When I first read that Toon Disney was being removed, I was saddened. I like the toons. Then I read what 😄 is about, and I was shocked. It was to be about boys. I was skeptical, but I gave it a try. Then I saw this little promo and all my doubts were put to rest:
Now, that video isn’t very good, but you get the idea. Allow me to clarify it.
The actual promo doesn’t start until 0:09. It is a school scene, apparently in science class. We see a trendy young girl working her magic on a model volcano, all to great praise of her (female) teacher. Then we see a young boy behind her, also mixing up an eruption. As his mountain bubbles, he tries to get the teacher’s attention. Only after some prodding can he get her to look, but she is amazed to see how much more impressive his volcano is. Great spewing of foam ensues as the teacher shows her obvious favor for the obviously superior volcano.
The video does not show it, but the spot continues to show the boy getting a blue ribbon as he stands proudly before the 😄 logo.
When I first saw this promo I was watching TV with my teenage brother and we were both speechless. In the world of a media which makes it an unbreakable habit to ‘encourage’ girls by showing them that they can beat boys, this is truly remarkable. The commercial is not crude, nor obtrusive or in any way anti-female. It just happens to show a boy succeeding over a girl.
The fact that such a thing comes as a pleasant surprise is a sign of the times.
Positive reinforcement has been at the forefront of feminist media since the ’80s, but such efforts for boys have been sorely lacking. This spot proves that Disney is intent on winning back the male audience from their Xboxs and they intend to do it right, by show boys as actually equal to girls, not as the inferior punching bags we see elsewhere.
This kind of content is made even more important by the continuing ‘boy crisis’ in American schools.
If we want real gender equality, we will need to see more media like this, of course in a good balance. The message should be ‘girls can beat boys’ not ‘girls can’t not beat boys’.(The above video is fairly low quality. If a better video is found, it will be posted for viewing.)