If everyone is Super, no one will be

In the Pixar film THE INCREDIBLES, one of the themes, very lightly touched upon — it does not intrude into the plot — is that Mr. Incredible wants to use his incredible powers for good, wants his son to compete in sports, and wants to excel. The surrounding society does not want the Supers around, and pesters them out of work through lawsuits. Meanwhile Syndrome, the villain, wants to demonstrate that he with his inventions is more than equal to the Supers; and he laughingly says that he plans to release his technology to the world, “so that EVERYONE will be Super! And when everyone is Super (chuckle) no one is.”

This raises an interesting question. What is wrong with Syndrome’s plan? If being a Super is just a matter of having the right technology, if anyone who dons Iron Man’s armor can be Iron Man, if anyone who picks up a rifle can be a soldier, nay, a war hero, why not make everyone a war hero?

Well, the question answers itself. The film makes it perfectly clear that Syndrome’s tech cannot make him in to a hero. He is not even able to defeat the robot he built for the express purpose of defeating. The attempt to make everyone equal, equal in outcome, merely drives the able down to the level of the mediocre.

Giving away Syndrome’s technology will not “makes everyone Supers” the only thing it will do is make it so no one is super — which is exactly his plan and exactly the villain’s point.

Now, if you are reading the movie to be some sort of anti-technology rant, it is not. If you are reading it to be anti-egalitarian, it is.

My five-year-old son just got a trophy for soccer. I was as pleased as any father could be, and I pulled him on my lap, and praised him. Then I figured out everyone got a trophy. All my praise turned to lies in my mouth. I could not unsay what I had just said to a five-year-old. I could not tell him that this trophy was meaningless.

I could not tell him to try his best, either, because the reward was the same for his best as for his worst.

My other son quit the team before the season ended, and the coach wanted to give him a trophy in any case. I was revolted by the idea, deeply offended.

They are trying to make my sons into little, weak, selfish, puling nonentities: boys who will cry if they do not get the same reward for hard work as for goofing off. Boys who will grow up to think life is unfair unless they are handed everything they never earned on a silver platter. I cannot regard this attempt with anything but a deep mistrust, bordering on hatred. Who are these people, and what do they have against my boys? Why are they trying to spoil them?

As you might imagine, the theme in THE INCREDIBLES seems very poignant and pertinent to me. This movie is the same theme as “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut.

Equality means everyone gets to run the race. It does not mean everyone comes in first.