In my opinion, The Incredibles is one of the best family movies of the decade in part because of an unusual theme that runs almost directly against the grain of current cultural trends. In two prominent quotes, both of which, I believe, bring their scenes to a close, one of the movie's protagonists and its main antagonist express this theme:
[Helen Parr, while sighing] Everyone's special, Dash.
[Dash, under his breath] Which is another way of saying nobody is.
[Syndrome] I'll give them heroics. I'll give them the most spectacular heroics they've ever seen! And when I'm old and I've had my fun, I'll sell my inventions so everyone can be superheroes! Everyone can be super! And when everyone's super, [laughs maniacally] no one will be.
Besides Dash's and Syndrome's lines, however, the theme of being special/super precisely because a character puts effort into his or her areas of natural ability is a major sub-plot for both Dash and Syndrome, who both struggle to know how to be true to themselves and come to very different results, and even to daughter Violet, whose struggles are much more internal, personal, and emotional. In our culture, however, I was amazed (and, frankly, grateful) to see a major studio production recognize and announce to audiences everywhere that the sentimental declaration, "Everyone's special" actually de-specializes everyone.
In Abraham Lincoln in the Post-Heroic Era, American sociologist Barry Schwartz makes a similar observation regarding the diminishing of traditional (male, European) heroes and the elevation of figures from other national, ethnic, and gender groups regardless of their contributions to history and/or society.
The U.S. Mint's latest project, therefore, is to produce a series of one-dollar coins that will feature the likeness of every president, regardless of his accomplishment. "This could be a renaissance for some our lesser-known presidents," explained the mint's director, Edmund C. Moy, to a New York Times reporter. The reporter's failing to ask Mr. Moy why the mint would ever want to replace George Washington with a lesser president is symptomatic of the great drive toward equality. Neither questioner nor respondent seemed to know that to admire all ethnic, racial, and national heroes equally is to esteem none. (Schwartz 2008: 210; my emphasis)
I'm reminded of the seriousness with which then-candidate Barack Obama suggested that his experience spear-heading a campaign to install him as the forty-fourth POTUS counted as "executive experience" and qualified him, therefore, to serve as POTUS. Perhaps Obama, in the next 3.5 or 7.5 years, will accomplish many great things (other than his obviously significant status as the first non-European POTUS). But only in a cultural milieu in which "everyone's special" could such a thing ever be uttered seriously, let alone taken seriously.