It’s always going to be a little interesting to me that one of my favorite kids’ films (The Iron Giant) and one of my least favorite (The Incredibles) were created by the same person, Brad Bird. Part of this is just odds, of course; for good or for ill, the Hollywood blockbuster movie industry is dominated by the writing and direction of a scarce handful of individuals in a way most media isn’t, and this is especially true of animation, where only a few studios achieve wide distribution.
Still, it’s interesting. I’d point to this as a good example of the Barthesian death of the author: Bird always claims that criticism of The Incredibles as right-wing is silly, because he didn’t intend anything of the sort, and that’s like saying The Iron Giant is left-wing, and he’s a centrist, after all.
The thing is… The Iron Giant is left-wing. Whether Brad Bird intended it to be or not. The Incredibles is also right-wing, whether Brad Bird intended it to be or not. Creators fail to learn time and time again that their intentions have very little substance when it comes to the meaning of the things they create; they are two standalone movies and most audiences have no idea they were the brainchild of the same person, and can’t be expected to. They’re not even done in the same medium of animation. In terms of impact, one has absolutely nothing to do with the other.
Though — also, they’re not contradictory films? I love one, I hate the other, I endorse one, I vehemently disagree with the other, but they don’t really contradict each other directly. Rightwingness and leftwingness are not unilateral blocs of opinion; they represent a rough conglomerate of philosophies that are often associated. The Iron Giant is an anti-war anti-violence film. The Incredibles is a pro-aristocracy film. They’re not necessarily mutually exclusive. Actually, a lot of pro-aristocratic narratives have endorsed pacifism or mercy or other various values that could be considered liberal; it’s just that hierarchy is so deeply embedded into cultural consciousness that the idea of ubermenschen pervades lots of things, and The Incredibles just really blatantly in love with supermen.
Barthes’ death of the author is important. I’m very anti-cult-of-celebrity-personality when it comes to media, period. I don’t like being a fan of a creator, except in fun; I’m a fan of creations. A lot of my favorite works were made by people who also made stuff I despise. I love Watchmen; I don’t like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen at all. There are some eps of Steven Moffat’s I still think are well-written and clever, and overall he’s kind of an atrocious writer. And ultimately, predictably for anyone who knows me, my biggest problem with The Incredibles isn’t that it’s right-wing (and loved by liberals anyway), it’s that it’s stupid and facile and predictable.
It’s not satirical—satire is not a badge you just get to whap on anything intended to poke fun at something else. Satire isn’t a catch-all that excuses everything, though Bird’s certainly tried to invoke it as such. What’s it a satire of? Cape length? It’s a parody, at best. I like a lot of narratives that endorse things I hate: The Lord of the Rings is totally monarchist, for instance. I still like the early Harry Potter books, but they were always very creepy and Calvinist. Narrative is complicated. I just loathe “but Brad Bird also did The Iron Giant, haha!” as a gotcha; so?