Doing a Dad Grades for Mr. Incredible is tricky. We usually take a dad and itemize his strengths and weaknesses; words that take on whole new meanings when that particular dad is a literal superhero. Welcome to the Dad Grades for Bob Parrish from The Incredibles.
Bob is a big, friendly, profoundly empathetic man. His insatiable need to help others was never been more apparent than on the day of his wedding, which he was nearly missed in lieu of spur-of-the-moment superhero shit. After “rescuing” a man falling from a building, he prevents a train from falling from its tracks. This, on your wedding day, is an unprecedented display of courage. No man would take such a risk after dropping $2600 on catering.
The train passengers are injured. The falling man insists he didn’t want to be saved. Lawsuits abound, all superheroes become ostracized, forcing Bob and his bride, Helen, into a monotonous and unremarkable civilian life. He takes a job as a claims adjuster, where his gentle regard for others remains on full display. He toils away at corrupt Insuricare, oftentimes breaking protocol to clue in struggling clients on secret loopholes they can take advantage of. Not all heroes wear tight red spandex with a lowercase “i” on the chest.
We see this compassion shine through in his roles as husband and father. While he and Helen (aka Elastigirl) endure the same marital woes any non-superhero couple might, the two very clearly share a profound romance rooted in trust and vulnerability. They keep each other grounded as they both struggle with the banality of a life they’ve been forced to live un-incredibly.
His relationships with his children are just what you’d expect. His daughter Violet is your typical, gloomy, emotionally-withdrawn 14-year-old who can turn invisible and generate force fields. Regrettably, Bob Parr does not possess a superpower for understanding teenage daughters.
Dashiell, appropriately nicknamed Dash, is his lightning-fast, rambunctious son. Bob and Dash seem to share a tight bond, rich in both affection and encouragement. “Dad always said our powers were nothing to be ashamed of,” Dash says at one point. “Our powers made us special.”
Finally, there’s Jack-Jack. The baby. Not much can be said about the father-infant dynamic, as Jack-Jack spends most of the first film in the custody of a terrified babysitter.
All around, we’d say Robert Parr is a textbook example of what we’ll call tender masculinity. Underneath that bulky, musclebound exterior is a gentle, devoted husband and father, always eager to help or embolden those who weren’t afforded the same hulking features and superhuman strengths as him. Now that’s a hero..
It feels wrong taking someone who can lift a car over their head and scrutinizing their weakness. Even while donning his signature black mask, Bob Parr doesn’t seem to have any weaknesses in the traditional superhero sense. Mr. Incredible is, frankly, a Superman without Kryptonite. Without the mask, his Achilles heel reveals itself: nostalgia.
Were you the star quarterback in high school?
Did you briefly front an alt-rock band in your twenties?
Whatever your ambition, chance are you put at least one big’n aside the day you settled down. You forfeit that Heisman trophy the moment your proposal knee made contact with the ground. A guitar chord escapes from your memory with each subsequent childbirth.
There’s nothing wrong with this.
Settling down to start a family can be, and is for many, the most worthwhile, fulfilling decision you can make. Now, granted, you probably weren’t forced into that life through mob rule and government mandate. So we can kind of understand why Bob’s face looks like this here.
You can see it in his eyes. His heyday as Mr. Incredible, playing on loop in his brain.
Usually, a dad’s infatuation with his prime is harmless. Quarterback Dad might regale his kids with old stories of gridiron triumph. Rock Band Dad might head to the attic, dust off his old guitar, and wistfully pluck the opening riff of “Layla.”
Other times, a dad’s infatuation with his glory days will manifest in much unhealthier fashions. Quarterback Dad forces his reluctant son to sign up for peewee football. Rock Band Dad disregards his daughter’s love of painting and instead signs her up for guitar lessons.
The “good ol’ days” for Bob Parr involved chaos. Widespread mayhem. A looming uncertainty that nothing may ever return to order. We’re not talking about four touchdowns in one game at Polk High. Property was destroyed. Lives were endangered. Some, lost. We cannot condone Mr. Parr romanticizing such things. It’s weird and disturbing to get nostalgic for a world once in disarray, even if you bore the responsibility of putting it back together.
We get that you want to help, Bob. But you gave an unspoken pledge the first time you changed a diaper: no more vigilante justice with your buddy Frozone. I don’t care if he does talk like Sam Jackson.
Every dad has dreams of reliving his glory days. We must insist that, should you choose to go through with reliving yours, please make sure you’re not putting your family in harm’s way by doing so. Superheroes genes or not.
This verdict’s tough. There’s something truly profound at the core of The Incredibles. This isn’t really a movie about a dad. Had it been, they would’ve called it Mr. Incredible. Each and every Parr has a function. A purpose. A role. This is a familial in which iron sharpens iron, pillars of strength and so forth.
Just look at their costumes. All the same, despite superpowers of varying ability and practicality. One can turn invisible, one can throw a van, yet not a single deviation between their outfits.
This is a family that treats one another as equals. No superpowers required.
FINAL FAMILY GRADE: A
Check out our previous edition where we graded Jack Butler from Mr. Mom.