Brad Bird’s The Incredibles has long had many political meanings read into it. Perhaps most controversial is how well the film lines up with Ayn Rand’s objectivist movement. It’s also quite popular with politically conservative types as well — the National Review named it number two on their list of the top 25 conservative movies. Tom Elrod, over at The House Next Door, points out that The Incredibles isn’t the only Pixar film that could be read conservatively in a recent post. He argues that while Pixar’s movies may not be politically conservative, you could apply a more relaxed notion of conservatism to many of their films due to their focus on preserving the family unit.
Elrod explains it best in his article:
There is something conservative about much of Pixar’s output, but when I say conservative, I mean a small “c” conservative that sees the world along the same lines as Edmund Burke: “A disposition to preserve.” I’m going to call this “social conservatism,” by which I don’t mean the religious or moral conservatism of modern political discourse, but a conservatism that is interested in preserving traditional social features – in particular, the idea of “family” – but which sees such preservation as ultimately futile. The family will dissolve, eventually, and so we must do what we can to keep it going as long as possible. It is a worldview based not on progression but on loss.
Viewed in that light, you could easily see how many of Pixar’s films could be seen as socially conservative. He brings up the almost parental relationship between the toys and their owner Andy in Toy Story, and how Toy Story 2 delves even further into the idea of the dissolution of the family. Similarly, messages of appreciating and protecting the idea of family can be seen in Monster’s Inc., Finding Nemo, Up, and even Cars.
Elrod also points to Brad Bird’s other Pixar film, Ratatouille, as another spin on their social conservatism formula. Wall-E is the lone standout, as it’s the most overtly liberal of all the Pixar films. It may be because that film had a much larger scope than any other Pixar production, which left it without a core group of characters to bond with. Then again, you could make the case that Wall-E found some semblance of family with the other rejected robots and Eve.
Personally, I don’t think the word “conservative” comes time mind when the Pixar folks are working on their projects. They’re not struggling to keep the idea of the “traditional family” alive, they’re showing us that family can still exist with characters that can actually relate and care about each other. Character has always been Pixar’s strong suit, and the notion of building and protecting the family is a sure-fire method for bringing those characters to life.
Discuss: Would you describe Pixar’s films as “socially conservative”? What do you make of Brad Bird’s films being so divergent from the typical Pixar fair?