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Why Syndrome Isn’t as Bad as You Think

Nicholas Berthod | Contributing Writer

If one has an ostensibly positive belief, but the execution of that belief manifests in a negative manner, does that make their beliefs any less justified? The answer is no. It’s the classic MLK vs Malcolm X scenario. Both men believed that the treatment of black people as second class citizens was heinous and untenable in America. Ostensibly, though, one man preached a nonviolent manner of solving the issue and one orated on meeting violence with violence. History may paint MLK as the “good” version of civil rights leaders and Malcolm X as the “bad” version of civil rights leaders, but regardless of one’s opinions on either of these men, the fact remains at their very core they shared a common moralistic ground on civil rights. What they differed in is their means to which they felt the goal of equality should be (or could not be) achieved. It is in this dynamic that we find ourselves somehow at Pixar’s The Incredibles.

The ends may not always justify the means, but that does not mean that the reason one took action in the first place can be disregarded. The Incredibles takes a rather Randian examination of society. Certain individuals (supers) are born with incredible gifts. They are simply different and superior to non-supers. So too does Rand’s “Great Man Theory” explain natural talents and abilities throughout history and why it is a handful of individuals that end up in history books. In the world of the Incredibles, though, these supers are villainized. Like the blade of grass that stands above the rest, they are cut down and led to a life of conformity, of secrecy, and of normalcy. They have the ability to be super, in fact, they are super. They just cannot be super. Enter disgruntled 10-year-old Buddy Pines who would go on to be Syndrome.

Syndrome is the villain of the movie. A genius by all means, he designs and builds machines that give non-supers like himself powers equivalent to that of supers. The means through which he does this is by having robots battle super heroes to the death with the purpose being to learn supers’ behavioral patterns and extract the best versions of themselves so that he may replicate these powers with his machines. Syndrome’s means of killing supers makes him the villain of the movie, as it should. However, his desire to bring the gifts of the supers is unjustified only within this Randian frame. In fact, the movie never explains why having nonsupers be super is a bad thing, it instead relies on its superb storytelling from the supers’ point of view to have the viewer presuppose this idea to be true. This is the heart of why Syndrome is not as bad as you think.

Syndrome wants everyone to be super. Syndrome wants every person to be able to enjoy the privileges of natural ability that normal supers have. For everyone to be super it does not take away anything from the supers that exist. If anything, it elevates them to a position that is more positive than the one they find: the life of relegation to expectedness with usage of powers illegal. If everyone is super, supers are free. The idea behind Syndrome’s efforts is justifiable from the perspective of both normals and supers, in that case. Had Syndrome used different means to actualize his beliefs, he would likely have been the hero of the story. The real lesson of the movie is the power that point of view can have when it comes to the influence of the audience. But that’s another article for another time


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