In the new action-packed animated Pixar family extravaganza Incredibles 2, the only time the superheroics slow down is to meditate on Mr. Incredible’s moods. In a flip from the previous film, this movie is all about Helen Parr (AKA Elastigirl) taking the spotlight while Mr. Incredible stays home and watches the kids. At this point, the not-so-subtle subtext of the movie is all about Mr. Incredible dealing with both his fear of being a bad parent, his insistence on not asking for help, an inability to admit any weakness, and a desire to be out on the streets punching criminals rather than helping his kids do their homework.
So, what’s the deal? Is Mr. Incredible a lost cause? A sexist dinosaur who is incapable of being a parent unless his role conforms with gender norms that ceased to be normal before the turn of the century? Actually, Mr. Incredible is probably in a lot of pain, and as such, could really use someone to talk too about all his stuff.
Dr. John Moore is the founder of GuyCounseling.com and specializes in helping dudes like Mr. Incredible navigate the challenges of their lives. He spoke to Fatherly about what Mr. Incredible is going through and ways he could help himself, for once.
Mr. Incredible is super nostalgic for his glory days back when he was at the top of his abilities and famous. Is there a danger for men sinking into that nostalgia for the past?
Part of it is romanticising the past in a way that kind of sanitizes the reality of that time because often the good old days weren’t as good as you think they were. It’s not harmful to think of the past as the golden days but when it starts to act as a barrier to reality it becomes harmful because it sets a person up for failure.
In a way, Mr. incredible is like that dude who feels like he peaked as the star quarterback in high school.
I see this all the time. These guys who were athletic in high school and they get older and want to try and hit the weights again. They think they can lift the same weight they did 15 years ago and suddenly find out they’re not capable. They become upset and depressed. Demotivated.
It’s like Mr. incredible trying to suck in his beer gut, right?
Right. There are guys who at one time might have been sexually attractive and now they find out, hey, I’m not anymore. That’s painful. That drives guys into counseling actually.
Is there a way for guys fix that, and be in the now? How should Mr. Incredible start loving his life for what it is?
It all starts with a mindful question that focuses on the moment. I ask men to ask themselves if they are the best versions of themselves in the here and now. And if they’re not, it gives them a realistic goal to work towards and create positive change. Because, if you’re 40 years old, you’re not the same person you were at 25. Your golden years are right now.
I think a lot of fathers, including Mr. Incredible, have trouble internalizing that idea.
When they spend so much time romanticizing the past, they miss out on watching their child grow up or spending meaningful quality time with a spouse or even family events. And in order to compensate some guys, who aren’t supermen like Mr. incredible, develop a superman complex where they create an unrealistic construct of who they should be.
Does that play into the envy Mr. Incredible has when his wife goes back to work without him? Or the fact he’s reluctant to find someone to help him at home with his super baby?
Yeah. It’s part of an unhealthy blueprint of what it means to be a man — that men to be the breadwinner and be the person in charge in the home. But I ask guys, is that really true? It’s not. If you’re going to shame yourself, shame yourself because you’re not living your life with an authentic purpose.
But being in a role of service, like being a stay-at-home dad can drive guys to become isolated. They might feel insecure and not want to reach out to someone like Frozone for help.
What I tell my clients is one of the strongest things you can ever do is reach out for help. You are showing your strength. The hard truth is that most of us can’t solve these issues on our own. We’re not equipped. It has nothing to do with the victim card. It has to do with the reality that depression and anxiety impact men, and it makes them uncomfortable because it makes them feel weak. But seeking help is strength.
Incredibles 2 is out in movie theaters everywhere right now.