Opinion Blog


Rick Hess Straight Up

Education policy maven Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute think tank offers straight talk on matters of policy, politics, research, and reform. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

4 Things I Wish ‘Incredibles 2' Had Asked About Gifted Kids

By Rick Hess — June 25, 2018 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

So, I saw Incredibles 2 the other day. It was fine—sweet, watchable, and amusing. I mean, what else would you expect? But, given how terrific the original was, I’d kind of hoped that—with 14 years to noodle on it—the talented Brad Bird would come up with something phenomenal. And he didn’t. This was especially obvious because the first film was so spot-on when it came to exploring adolescent angst, giftedness, and how parents wrestle with simultaneously protecting their kids and pushing them out into the world.

This time, it seemed like Bird was positioned to go to a similar place in regards to baby Jack-Jack (the youngest Incredible). I’m not giving away any spoilers if I note that Jack-Jack reveals the same suite of powers he showed off at the end of the first movie. Given Bird’s chops and the immense humanity of his characters, there were some dynamics that I think it would’ve been really fun and engaging to see the movie play with—and which would’ve fit readily within the hefty chunks of time devoted to the Incredibles’ domestic travails.

What kinds of dynamics do I have in mind?

1. The impulse to funnel kids into narrow pursuits, based on adult calculations and expectations. There’s a terrific moment when fashionista Edna Mode, a friend and mentor to the Incredibles, observes Jack-Jack’s array of powers and tells Mr. Incredible that many “supers” have their powers winnow over time. I couldn’t help but think of kids getting pushed to specialize in football or basketball at ridiculously young ages. I would’ve loved to see Jack-Jack in a setting where adults are trying to force him to focus on developing just one power.

2. The inevitable temptation for parents to live through our kids, and put our demons on them. This is especially true when we’re feeling like our own dreams haven’t come together the way we hoped. Seeing an exhausted, out-of-work Mr. Incredible’s chest-thumping enthusiasm for Jack-Jack’s gifts brought to mind a raft of ways parents prematurely pressure their kids—like pushing a diapered baby to refine his skills or insisting he’s ready to take on the larger world. It would have been fun to see Bird evoke the ways in which healthy pride can bleed into selfishness.

3. The difference between a parent cultivating and exploiting a child’s talent. Parents push tiny kids into beauty pageants and try to get them cast in commercials. You can rationalize any of this, if you try, but it’s also pretty obvious that a lot of it is about what parents want and the material rewards they can reap. It would’ve been intriguing to see the motel-dwelling Incredibles trying to cash in on Jack-Jack, out of necessity—or convenience. If anything, when two older Incredible siblings are ultimately pressed to use their powers to bail out their parents, mom and dad are a whole lot less conflicted or cognizant about it than they were the first time around.

4. The conflicts that can arise in families when children have different gifts. This is particularly true when it feels like parents are more taken with one child than another. What happens when older siblings suddenly feel overshadowed by the baby of the family? However Dash and Violet would have reacted, I think it would have been fascinating to see.

Few artists are all that good at capturing or offering insight into these tensions. So I can’t help but think that tackling all this would’ve added a lot of resonance and texture here, in a way that might have made Incredibles 2 a worthy sequel to its remarkable predecessor. Yet, all the same, I trust you’ll enjoy the movie for what it is.

The opinions expressed in Rick Hess Straight Up are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Events

Jobs October 2021 Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Data Webinar
Using Integrated Analytics To Uncover Student Needs
Overwhelmed by data? Learn how an integrated approach to data analytics can help.

Content provided by Instructure
Classroom Technology Webinar How Pandemic Tech Is (and Is Not) Transforming K-12 Schools
The COVID-19 pandemic—and the resulting rise in virtual learning and big investments in digital learning tools— helped educators propel their technology skills to the next level. Teachers have become more adept at using learning management

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Senators Put YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat on the Defensive on Kids' Online Safety
Senators questioned executives from YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat about what they’re doing to ensure young users’ safety on their platforms.
5 min read
The Youtube, left, and Snapchat apps on a mobile device in New York, on Aug. 9, 2017. The leaders of a Senate panel have called executives from YouTube, TikTok and Snapchat to face questions on what the companies are doing to ensure young users’ safety. The hearing Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021, comes as the panel bears down on hugely popular social media platforms and their impact on children.
The Youtube, left, and Snapchat apps on a mobile device in New York, on Aug. 9, 2017. The leaders of a Senate panel have called executives from YouTube, TikTok and Snapchat to face questions on what the companies are doing to ensure young users’ safety. The hearing Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021, comes as the panel bears down on hugely popular social media platforms and their impact on children.
Richard Drew/AP
Education Briefly Stated: October 27, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Vulnerable Students Left Behind as Schooling Disruptions Continue
The effects of unpredictable stretches at home can mirror those of chronic absenteeism and lead to long-term harm to learning.
4 min read
Students board a school bus on New York's Upper West Side on Sept. 13, 2021. Even as most students return to learning in the classroom this school year, disruptions to in-person learning, from missing one day because of a late school bus to an entire two weeks at home due to quarantine, remain inevitable as families and educators navigate the ongoing pandemic.
Students board a school bus on New York's Upper West Side on Sept. 13, 2021. Even as most students return to learning in the classroom this school year, disruptions to in-person learning, from missing one day because of a late school bus to an entire two weeks at home due to quarantine, remain inevitable as families and educators navigate the ongoing pandemic.
Richard Drew/AP
Education 'Widespread' Racial Harassment Found at Utah School District
The federal probe found hundreds of documented uses of the N-word and other racial epithets, and harsher discipline for students of color.
1 min read
A CNG, compressed natural gas, school bus is shown at the Utah State Capitol, Monday, March 4, 2013, in Salt Lake City. After a winter with back-to back episodes of severe pollution in northern Utah, lawmakers and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert will discuss clean air legislation and call for government and businesses to convert to clean fuel vehicles.
Federal civil rights investigators found widespread racial harassment of Black and Asian American students in the Davis school district north of Salt Lake City, Utah.
Rick Bowmer/AP Photo