Thursday, January 17, 2013

"Mum and Dad's lives could be in jeopardy ... or worse, their marriage!"

In the 2004 movie The Incredibles the elder children of Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl - Violet and Dash - are alone while their parents are off to confront Syndrome, the arch-villain of the piece.
When Dash seems to be letting his boyish side run dangerously free, Violet tries to remind him of what is at stake, when she says these words: "Mum and dad's lives could be in jeopardy ... or worse, their marriage!"
Watching this movie again after several years, having got married and had children since the first time, I understood far better the family life aspect of it and found moving the sharp precision with which the makers many times depicted the values that assert themselves with poignant spontaneity in the the different characters.
The film is about family values and a superhero story in about equal emphasis, but it is not agitprop for the "pro-family movement"*: it is more powerful than deliberate advocacy could ever be. It portrays the emotions, loyalties, and inner resources that arise spontaneously regarding other members of our family. I would go as far as saying that it does so with such unity and elegance as to be a work of genius.
For those who understand the good of the natural family from lived experience, as children or as spouses, it is frustrating and tantalizing to witness the accelerating attacks on marriage from ideologues and other pressure groups who "just don't get it" yet who mystifyingly seem to be carrying the day and may soon succeed even in browbeating an admittedly weak Prime Minister into changing the law of the nation to abolish natural marriage.
This move would trump the majority who know in their very roots why natural marriage is right but quite understandably are unable to articulate it, and so cannot even begin to assert it. Petitions and other initiatives by groups with more foresight and resources have helped to give them a voice, but may not be enough in view of the fact that postmodern "consensus politics" is increasingly replacing traditional play-it-by-the-rules democracy and ready to play dirty while mastering the arts of advertising, PR and spin to dupe and confuse the majority.
Given that the anti-naturals cannot or will not listen to reason and more frighteningly, will not even heed the instinctual and natural sentiments of their own hearts, what other means do we have in what seems already a hopeless battle?
Art cuts through more directly to the heart, but even this is not immune to tendentious interpretations or criticisms.
The unity of Shakespeare can still be undermined in this way by directors with a particular bent. In the recent BBC series of historical dramas The Hollow Crown, Richard II is depicted as a cardboard cutout camp gay (postmodern collage approach is a neat cop-out from historical unity and plausibility - "just bung it in, darling. Whatever!").
Perhaps cinema, anime and graphic novel have a unity and directness that cannot be as easily evaded as even drama can, by cutting out an intermediate reinterpretation. The power of graphic novel is a central theme in the new ironically named dystopic series Utopia; it will be interesting to see how the remaining episodes develop this theme.
What better way to cut short this ramble than by paraphrasing (too tendentiously for comfort!) the words of Violet to Dash: our society could be in jeopardy ... or worse, marriage!  .I did not promise you an answer: I am just trying to unpack some ideas inspired by The Incredibles that seem very relevant to the ethical situation confronting many nations, and - given the nature of the organizations undermining marriage - from which no nation will eventually be able to shelter.

*Who would have ever dreamed not so long ago that such a movement would be necessary? Seen in a sane light, it is about as necessary as a "pro-food movement"; the only time you need to assert the good of food is when there is some serious illness that interferes with the natural instincts, such as anorexia. Convincing somebody who hates natural marriage is as difficult as persuading an anorexic to eat, just as it is is technically and practically impossible to argue for a self-evident truth: it's not just lack of practice, but the impossibility of reducing the issue to more elemental terms.