I find it to be somewhat ironic that The Incredibles 2 came out right on the tails of a couple pieces about preparing for the new economy. In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m a great believer in popular culture giving us models for how to exist in the world and I think that the popular culture we expose our children to is particularly powerful.
In this series of movies, Robert (Bob) Parr (a.k.a. Mr. Incredible) defines himself by his superhero work and we see how he struggles once he is not able to be a visible hero anymore. We could do a whole analysis on the challenges associated with a toxic workplace, but that’s not what we’re here for today. At the end of The Incredibles Bob doesn’t have a job, having lost his day job following throwing his boss through several walls. The Incredibles 2 opens with Helen (a.k.a Elastigirl) taking a job as a superhero to support the family (after having been out of the workforce for 15 years). I found Bob’s struggles with his own self-worth to be particularly poignant, coming to a head when he expresses to Violet that before being a full-time parent he always knew what the answers were. He was confident in his ability to do the right thing and he is now crippled with self-doubt as the “go to” parent.
As we look ahead to what it looks like to support ourselves and our families, figuring out how else we determine our worth is important. Are we worth only the dollars we make? Or is our worth measured in our ability to make a positive difference in the lives of those around us? I appreciate having these examples in our popular culture, particularly examples of men who have had generations of pressure to “bring home the bacon”, showing how people come to measure their own worth and the worth of those around them in a different way.
Photo by Khaled Reese from Pexels