Elastigirl Deserves A Much Better Husband Than Mr Incredible

Incredibles 2 is a wondrously-crafted rehashing of many of the same narrative beats and jokes that made the first movie so great. But there's one very important part of the new film that highlights a painful truth that's been a part of the Incredibles franchise all along: Helen needs to break up with Bob.

Elastigirl speeding off to her latest solo mission and leaving Bob at home where he belongs. Image: Disney/Pixar

Incredibles 2's core plot focuses on the strain that's put on the Parr family when Helen (Elastigirl) is chosen over Bob (Mr Incredible) to become the new face of a media campaign designed to boost the public's support for repealing the law banning super-vigilantes.

After the Parr family inadvertently helps the Underminer destroy much of downtown Metroville while trying to stop the villain's bank robbery, the heroes are arrested by the police.

Rick Dicker's Superhero Relocation program is able to save the Parrs from gaol time, but their highly-publicised arrest provides just enough controversy to justify shutting the program down, leaving the Parrs back at square one and needing to restart their lives.

When Winston and Evelyn Deavon of DEVTECH approach Helen, Bob and Frozone about participating in their campaign to bring supers back, the siblings explain that Helen - as Elastigirl - is their strongest play, in large part because of her ability to handle villains and diffuse dangerous situations while causing minimal collateral damage.

More importantly, though, Incredibles 2 goes on to emphasise that even though Helen may primarily see herself as a wife and mother, the public still keenly remembers and has faith in Elastigirl as a superhero in her own right.

Bob, being the well-meaning, but still decidedly pigheaded meat-and-potatoes alpha male that he is, initially baulks at the idea that anyone would choose Helen as the de facto "leader" of what would essentially be a super team of spokespeople.

Helen's hesitant to admit at first that she does miss hero work, even though it would mean having to hand off most of her parenting duties to Bob - but she also makes a point of pushing back against Bob's assumption that she shouldn't be the one to lead DEVTECH's initiative.

The tension between Helen and Bob creates an emotional rift that drives much of Incredibles 2's story forward. Bob comes to appreciate just how much work Helen's been putting in for years as she's raised Violet, Dash and Jack-Jack, and Helen learns to trust that Bob can be an attentive, responsible father.

This all makes for a lovely family movie with the simple, but important message that marriages, like all romantic relationships, don't have to be defined by traditional gender roles.

That being said, the way Bob treats Helen throughout the first third of the film is so plainly chauvinistic, retrograde and straight-up insulting that it's kind of difficult to believe that she doesn't call him out more explicitly on his bullshit and force him to own up to his trash feelings.

It's more than understandable why Bob, who's spent most of his life acting as a quintessential leader type (a Red Ranger, if you will), one of the last great heroes of his generation, is resistant to a challenging change of identity.

He's in a situation where he can't coast on his physical strength alone. Even when he tries to forcibly "fix" some of the kids' personal issues, he's dismayed to learn that he still has to deal with the consequences of his actions when they don't play out the way he intended.

Bob doing his best to keep Jack-Jack out of trouble. Image: Disney/Pixar

But at the same time, Bob's refusal to acknowledge his wife's competence and the fact that she was a successful, independently-operating super long before she married him is never really addressed in a way that feels meaningful or satisfying.

While Bob never tells Helen that she isn't up to snuff outright, Incredibles 2 is peppered with moments where he unsubtly negs and casts doubt on her ability to handle heroic situations simply because she's a more strategic fighter than he is.

Bob and Helen aren't newlyweds; they have been together for over a decade. Even if Bob somehow hadn't come to understand just how hard Helen had already been working to hold their family together as a stay-at-home-parent, it's wild and honestly gross to see that he could so easily forget (or purposefully ignore) what Helen achieved during her full-time Elastigirl days.

When you're in a long-term, committed relationship with someone, slights and digs such as the ones that Bob throws at Helen are the sort of things that lead to major conflicts, because they cut deep and are coming from a person that, in theory, you're supposed to trust and have faith in.

The things that Bob says aren't just mean - they're profoundly hurtful and reflective of the fact that, on some level, he doesn't really see Helen as his equal. Given the kind of person that she is, it just doesn't quite make sense that she'd be fine with the fact that he never actually apologises to her.

Bob is a simple man - a nice man, even - but in his deepest heart of hearts, he's also a small man who's in a league far behind Helen's. Couples counselling could perhaps help the two of them get into a space where Helen could more directly confront Bob about his behaviour, but you really have to wonder whether it would be worth the effort.

After Incredibles 2, it's clear that Helen isn't about to leave the superhero game behind. She's at her very best when she isn't being held back by the expectations of others who can't appreciate just how powerful and dynamic of a person she is - and while Bob definitely cares for her, there's a part of him that can't quite accept this about her.

The Parrs have had a good run and they're raising three great kids, but Helen deserves to be with a partner who unfailingly supports her. The issues that Bob needs to work through are larger than just his relationship with Helen. She shouldn't have to bear the burden of helping him learn that he isn't the centre of the universe.

Put simply, Helen's done more than enough to help Bob become a better man than the person he was when she first met him. But at this point, it's high time that she moved on to bigger and much more incredible things.


Comments

    This is an outrage. Bob may be stupid and culturally-bankrupt, with outdated ideas and motivations, but damnit, he gets behind Helen... when he realises he stands to benefit from it. And if that's not love, then what the hell am I doing with the rich-but-homely heiress I'm marrying?

    That's an incredibly big call to make for any family, even an imaginary one. They have 3 kids. It's a big deal splitting up. No relationship is perfect. No-one can judge outside of a situation like this. It's very arrogant and rude to try. Yes, even for the imaginary families. Everyone has their own reasons for remaining in relationships and it's for no-one else to judge.

    Ah the classic "Relationship is going through a tough spot, better just run away" mantra that perpetuates relationship advice these days.

    Rather than you know, communicate and work out the differences or problem (like I assume they do) instead of throwing away what is probably 14-16 years of marriage.

      remembering part of the problem was that Mr Incredible was THE hero. Elastigirl was popular and all but Mr Incredible was basically Superman for the public perception (at least that's how the first film built him up). It's easy to worry about people not being good enough when you're the best.

      Does he have issues to work with? obviously but, it isn't just some coming from nowhere. he has a reason for these things.

    I think you ignored the part where the movies take place during an era when this sort of thinking was commonplace. Do you sit there watching Mad Men getting angry at how much of a man's world it is?

    That's quite an in depth view. However I always saw Bob as just wanting to get back into being a hero, clean and simple. He never assumed Elisti-girl couldn't be the one chosen, he just has been dying to be a hero again, he is taken back that not only is he not chosen, but it's not just of choice, but of who he is (an insurance nightmare). He spent years as the No.1 Hero (its assumed I believe) and then it was all taken away and he slaved behind desks to support his family. Helen did more work at home taking care of the kids, but he was not slacking off (even if the first film seems to imply they move a lot because of him). Its why the first film exists, Bob doesn't think straight when given that chance to be Mr Incredible again, he just accepts it (and does become the bad guy by lying behind Helens back).

    However in Incredibles 2, it's not that he doesn't like that Helen got the job, its just he also did not get it. Im sure he thinks she is an amazing hero and at the start of the film he works with her to take down (poorly) the Underminer. His resentment is not of her ability, but of his lack of being chosen. Yes he does slightly seem to push her down when he says why not him, but he had a point, Mr Incredible was the No.1 hero and if you were marketing heros again, always go for someone popular. But he (begrudgingly) agrees with her being chosen once he learns why.

    Even when she is on TV or talking to him, he never questions that should could do it, he just longs to be out there to.

    At least that's what I got from the film. He went from Hero to Zero and when there is a chance he could be back, he is a bit upset his wife got it. But purely because he longs for it, not because he ever doubts her ability.

    I would need to re-watch the film to be sure, maybe watching it with this mindset I could pick it up. But I always saw Bob as someone who just wanted to be a hero, he doesn't care how or why (as the first film showed), he just wants get out and do it. And his resentment is because he wasn't picked not because he doesn't think Helen can pull it off.

    For the family stuff, he was never the stay at home dad, its new to him, he made mistakes.

      I'm not even sure the author of this even watched the movie. Sure Bob had his issues with the whole ordeal and a lot of that was just him dealing with his being not being selected to be the face of the campaign. He was nothing but supportive to Helen. He could have at multiple times had Helen come home when she even offered to if he "couldn't handle" the situation at home, which says more about Helen thinking a man couldn't handle things at home.

      All the mumbling he did about this was mostly not even towards Helen and not mentions Helen didn't even hear. The one time it did it came out more as a joke between spouses just as much as Helen jested with Bob.

      If anything, maybe more sure be made why the villian singles Helen out. Maybe she thought she was just a "girl" and easier to defeat than a man? But that's just thinking too much into things just as this article is, but it's at least not grasping at straws.

    Talk about projecting your world view.

    Just because your parents don't talk anymore...

    That you would waste the time to even write this is pretty sad in itself, let alone the worldview that you seem to live under.

      whats mind blowing to me is we have these insane articles on this site projecting worldviews on things (like the soulcalber one) then posts like the one on the first page now about anime dating games where the writer says is an "excuse to stare at anime boobs" like wtf

        I noticed that yesterday with the same article. I guess on the upside of it you can't say the site is biased as they do publish all different views.

        It's almost as though Kotaku is a blog with multiple writers that each have different opinions...

    I'm weirded out by the fact that everyone's talking about "Yeah, break up with that slob!" or "No wait, they can work it out!", and not the more obvious conclusion, which is "Maaaaybe they should have written that character better?" Like, there is that option, folks. We don't have to subscribe to the whole 'bumbling dad that means well' stereotype that is frankly sexist in and of itself.

      I don't see any reason why they would re-write the character, thought it was done pretty well myself.

      Me and my Fiance talked at length about how I would feel in a similar situation, that being if she somehow was given a job above me in a completely different industry that I work in or if she somehow managed to get my job and demote me.

      Any person is going to be a bit jealous and jaded about the situation especially if you've been up the tippy top of hero work, Mr. Incredibles persona is that he is THE hero of all heroes, constantly looked up to not only by the public but by other heroes as well. looked up to by his family as well I would be unequivocally understanding if that happened to myself or my partner and they felt a little peeved about it.

      on another level, why is there an issue with Elastigirl enjoying being a mother ? a lot of people men included thrive off being a good role model, helping their children achieve things, why is this a "lesser" role in the family!

    This is why the divorce rate is 50%. Put a bit of effort into it. I'm 20 years in and we work at it every day.

      That's not a headline I would click on though. I want something controversial or in favour of my worldview.

        In today on the Utopia Daily :
        "Husband and wife has been together for 50 years. Three kids, five grandchildren. All very happy. SHOCKING. OUTRAGEOUS. AND THEY SAY IT IS ALL BECAUSE OF THIS ONE SIMPLE THING."

    Good points from the author.
    Sure, Elastigirl perhaps deserves a much better husband than Mr. Incredibles.
    BUT.....

    Calling out over a minor/moderate issue is OTT.

    Who can guarantee the next guy won't be a jerk after 10 years?
    How long will it take to find the "much better husband"?
    By the time you find that other "much better husband", would your husband perhaps become an even better husband by then?

    The truth is, no one knows. But we know it takes years of practice to be a good husband, longer still to be a great husband. It's the same with any other occupations.

    And most people don't start with all knowledge in hand, we have to earn it bit by bit.

    Conflicts and tensions will always arise due to circumstances. As long as it does not escalate, there is no reason to bring the nukes out. The collateral damage otherwise is unacceptably high.

    If Mr.Incredible starts being unreasonable, sure, perhaps the relationship has run its course.
    But if he is begrudgingly doing the right thing, and continues to do the right thing, he's fine.

    Relationships don't come easy. Nor that it should.
    I say good on The Incredibles 2 to bring the tensions out to everyone's view.
    The movie is so much relevant to parents as it is to kids.
    This is not just a kids movie, people!

    Everyone, especially the young ones, ought to learn and understand that life is not all happily ever after once you put the ring on it. The work is just beginning. Going in with false expectations is only going to set yourself up for a whole lot of unnecessary stress.

    Do the work. Get the much better husband (hopefully the same person).

    You're stupid and you should feel stupid for writing this trash.

    I dont think ive EVER agreed with a Charles PM article.
    This article continues that trend.

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