Meinel, Dietmar: "“And when everyone is super […] no one will be”. The limits of American Exceptionalism in The Incredibles." In: European Journal of American Culture 33.3 (2014), S. 181–194.
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|Resource type: Journal Article
BibTeX citation key: Meinel2014
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Keywords: "The Incredibles", Animation, Critique of ideology, Ethnicity, Gender, Randformen des Comics, Superhero, USA
Collection: European Journal of American Culture
The Incredibles (Bird, 2004) envisions a society in which superheroes are prohibited from using their superhuman abilities. The struggle for recognition of this ‘marginalized’ group has been deemed a simplistic representation of ‘an Ayn Randian or scientologist notion of the special people who must resist social pressures to suppress their superpowers in order to fit in with the drab masses’ (Halberstam 2011: 47).
This fleeting assessment of the Pixar film captures the exceptionalist logic underlying its narrative: A ‘tyranny of the majority’ denies individuals their due recognition, and these individuals find strength and courage by forming a ‘voluntary association’. The Incredibles, thus, mirrors the logic of American Exceptionalism as portrayed by Alexis de Tocqueville in his Democracy in America (1835). My article will explore these core themes of exceptionalism and critically assess their intersection with discourses of whiteness and gender in The Incredibles. My article will, furthermore, unearth the establishment of a neo-liberal social order as a fundamental element of the film narrative to examine the links between neo-liberalism, exceptionalism and identity politics. As I will demonstrate, the prevalence of the neo-liberal ideology in The Incredibles eventually dismantles the hegemonic logic of American Exceptionalism.
My article, therefore, explores the lasting significance of American Exceptionalism within contemporary film and demonstrates its conflicting, unstable relations to neo-liberalism. In this sense, The Incredibles offers a rarely acknowledged example of the contradictory nature of the dominant ideologies of American Exceptionalism and neo-liberalism to suggest novel insights into their critique.
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