B-ROLL: THE INCREDIBLES We see the opening shots of the movie, featuring the special versions of the Disney and Pixar title bumpers from the movie. We hear the opening notes to The Incredibles score. SEAN Back in 2004, I was in my third year of music school, working part time at a movie theater. (Perhaps) we see a shot of Metroville high school. SEAN The year before, I'd changed my major from percussion performance to music composition, FADE TO: BLACK SEAN but I still wasn't really sure what I wanted to do after school. FADE IN: B-ROLL: THE INCREDIBLES We see The Incredibles logo. SEAN Then... I saw The Incredibles. Giacchino's ballsy "Incredits" cue kicks off as the movie opens on a car chase. SEAN Michael Giacchino's brassy, modern version of a John Barry score blew my mind. We cut to some of the beautiful credits sequence. SEAN I loved it so much that I used to volunteer to go clean the theaters after every screening | just so I could listen to the credits music over and over. CUT TO: B-ROLL: MICHAEL GIACCHINO CONDUCTING We see the composer conducting the orchestra for The Incredibles score. SEAN That score also made me realize that the best way to merge my growing interest in film-making, storytelling, and my love of writing jazz and music for unique ensembles was to compose music for movies. So... CUT TO: PHOTOS: SEAN'S PERSONAL PHOTOS Photos from college, grad school, etc. doing music. SEAN That's what I did. Photos from film festivals. SEAN How I ended up producing documentaries, short films, and videos like this is a story for another time, Photo showing Mr. Incredible sitting on my workstation. SEAN but The Incredibles was a pivotal film for me personally. DIP TO BLACK B-ROLL: THE INCREDIBLES We see Mr. Incredible's office with his posters, awards, and old suits. SEAN And with that in mind... Welcome to Out of Frame. CUT TO: B-ROLL: CLIPS FROM OTHER MOVIES We see reference scenes from each film listed. SEAN The Incredibles is a brilliant animated film written and directed by Brad Bird, | who also directed The Iron Giant, Ratatouille, Tomorrowland, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol | and most recently, The Incredibles 2. CUT TO: B-ROLL: THE INCREDIBLES SEAN The Incredibles predates the modern wave of superhero movies by several years, and yet it remains one of the very best of the entire genre. What makes it so special is that at its heart, it's really just the story of a family trying to get by when their very existence is against the law and everything that is truly incredible about them has to remain hidden. CLIP: THE INCREDIBLES BOB PARR "What are you waiting for kid?" KID "I dunno, something amazing, I guess" B-ROLL: The Incredibles. SEAN It's got a really simple premise. Superheroes living in a fabulously Art Deco 1960s world used to be employed by the government, but as society grew more litigious, politicians disbanded the program and made any overt use of superpowers illegal instead. This forced newlywed supercouple Bob and Helen Parr to abandon their calling fighting crime and go into hiding. Flash forward 15 years, and Mr. Incredible is now working in a cubicle at Insuricare trying to maintain his sanity, and Elastigirl is a stay-at-mom, taking care of their three kids; Violet, Dash, and Jack-Jack, who have all grown up in a world where being themselves and using their talents to their fullest potential is unacceptable. It's heartwarming and funny, and extremely inventive. There are a few themes in the film worth discussing, but the one I really want to talk about today is laid out in an early scene where Helen is talking to her speedster son, Dash about their situation, after he gets into some trouble at school: CLIP: THE INCREDIBLES DASH You always say 'Do your best', but you don't really mean it. Why can't I do the best that I can do? HELEN Right now, honey, the world just wants us to fit in, and to fit in, we gotta be like everyone else. DASH But Dad always said our powers were nothing to be ashamed of, our powers made us special. HELEN Everyone's special, Dash. DASH (muttering) Which is another way of saying no one is. B-ROLL: The Incredibles SEAN This theme comes full circle later in the film when Syndrome, the main bad guy, announces his goal. CLIP: THE INCREDIBLES SYNDROME ...when I'm old and I've had my fun, I'll sell my inventions so that everyone can be superheroes. Everyone can be super! And when everyone's super... No one will be. B-ROLL: Continue the scene for a moment. SEAN I think this is a theme that probably resonates with a lot of people. We live in a strange world. CUT TO: B-ROLL: RELEVANT CLIPS Note: I'm not entirely sure what should go here, but I'm thinking we can track down some good stuff on participation trophies for this first line. SEAN Excellence is often ridiculed and punished, | yet we heap praise on people for mundane accomplishments or for just sort of... | existing. That's weird. Clip of no-platforming or other instances of college students shouting at people with other viewpoints. SEAN We preach the value of diversity and tell people that everyone should express themselves and follow their own "truth", | while harshly reinforcing conformity to increasingly polarized tribes. That's weird, too. Clips of people criticizing Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk, etc. SEAN And then the few people who do create things that make our lives better and make a positive impact on the world | are vilified as evil the moment they become successful, | while we applaud and elect those who create nothing but envy and resentment. All this stuff seems really bizarre to me. Mr. Incredible agrees. CUT TO: CLIP: THE INCREDIBLES BOB PARR "They keep finding new ways to celebrate mediocrity!" B-ROLL: THE INCREDIBLES SEAN The Incredibles offers a rare message to its audience. It says, "Take pride in the things that make you special." "Take pride in your work, your ideas, and your talents." "Take pride in success." And it makes it clear, to kids especially, that accomplishments must actually be earned by an individual's actions. To be truly successful and to be truly "special", you must actually take the things about yourself that are uniquely yours | and turn those skills and talents towards contributing to the creation of something meaningful. Simply existing isn't enough. CUT TO: B-ROLL: RELEVANT NEWS ARTICLES/ACADEMIC PIECES Perhaps some news articles or other imagery around the focus on self-esteem from the 1990s. SEAN The Incredibles stands in stark contrast to a lot of the "self-esteem movement" that started to change parenting and education culture in the 1980s. While self-esteem is important, it has to be earned. CUT TO: B-ROLL: THE GOLDBERGS Clips from the show "The Goldbergs" with Adam's mom, Beverly" being overbearing and hugging/kissing him. SEAN But any more it seems like we're just telling kids them how smart, brave, and good they are, | hoping that if we just repeat the mantra enough times they'll start to believe it. Adam sighs/is embarrassed. Basically any episode from the first several seasons will include a moment like this so it should be fairly easy to find. CUT TO: CLIP: THE INCREDIBLES STUART SMALLEY I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like me. B-ROLL: The Incredibles SEAN Here's the problem, though... You can't really fake self-esteem. Everybody knows when they're just getting participation trophies and pats on the back for nothing, | and without genuine accomplishment to back up the reward, | all the praise in the world remains hollow and meaningless. And in The Incredibles, we see what happens to Bob when he loses the part of his life that has meaning. His identity... | his purpose... | was to be a superhero and defend his city against criminals. When his existence becomes illegal, | Bob gets depressed, despondent, and disconnected. CLIP: THE INCREDIBLES HELEN "...this; our family, is what's happening now, Bob! And you're missing this!" B-ROLL: The Incredibles SEAN It goes to show just how important finding meaning in your life really is. And look, I know what you might be thinking: | "Well, those are superheroes! What can I do?" I hear ya. But, you know what? | None of us are superheroes. We all start with the passions and skills we actually have and have to find ways to develop our talents and build our own careers and lives from the ground up. Sure, you might not be able to turn invisible, run a hundred miles an hour, or pick up a car... | But maybe you can write a great story, excel at sports, or fix a car. Perhaps you'll find meaning working with your hands, programming computers, or just talking to people. And... If you're anything like me, the things that seem meaningful to you today will grow and change as you become more skilled and encounter new opportunities. IMAGES: Me playing music and stuff. SEAN As I said at the beginning, at first all I wanted to do was play music. Then I wanted to write it. Then I wanted to write for films. And eventually, I realized I wanted to actually make my own films and tell stories that actually mattered to me. My whole journey has always been about seeking out opportunities that were more and more meaningful. CUT TO: IMAGES: VIKTOR FRANKL SEAN The Austrian psychiatrist, neurologist, and Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl spent his life studying the importance of meaning for people's lives. In his 1962 book, "The Will to Meaning", Frankl wrote: Leave me an image of the Holocaust that I can blur out and use as a background for this quote animation. SEAN "There is nothing in the world, I venture to say, that would so effectively help one to survive even the worst conditions as the knowledge that there is a meaning in one's life." B-ROLL: Difficult times. Frankl understood that it is the sense of meaning, | not happiness or wealth, | that sustains people through difficult times and gives people a sense of purpose that makes them feel irreplaceable and worthwhile. He also observed that the thing that gives someone's life meaning today might change over time, | and that's ok. B-ROLL: The Incredibles SEAN In The Incredibles, Bob had to learn to find the same level of meaning in being a father and husband that he had when he was off saving the world by himself, | and in the end, it's the support of his family that makes him a more powerful superhero when they finally come out of hiding. CLIP: THE INCREDIBLES BOB PARR "I'm not strong enough..." HELEN "You don't have to be." B-ROLL SEAN The Incredibles helped me find meaning in my life in a really direct way, | but it's also one of the only movies that encourages people to pursue their talents and passions to their highest ability without shame or fear. So... Go find your own purpose and meaning in life. | Be yourself. | And whatever it is that you decide to do, | try to be incredible. Hey everybody. Thanks for watching this episode of Out of Frame. What brings meaning to your life? Let me know in a comment. OUT OF FRAME END CARD SEAN Then check out FEE.org/shows for all the other content we're producing at the Foundation for Economic Education, and don't forget to like and subscribe to all our social networks on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. See you next time!

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About this show

Video essays that explore the intersection of art, culture, and big ideas written & produced by FEE's Director of Media, Sean W. Malone.

October 4, 2018

What sustains people through difficult times is a sense of meaning, not happiness or wealth. In The Incredibles, Bob had to learn to find the same level of meaning in being a husband and father as he did in being a superhero. How do you find meaning in your life?


Written, Produced, and Edited by Sean W. Malone
Edited by Arash Ayrom