Authored by: Justin Amevor, Imogen Cleaver-Stigum, Ann Jicha, Vrandol Perez
The Incredibles 2 explores how technology can manipulate perspectives, for better or for worse.
The director Brad Bard uses overarching themes based on technology and social dependency as well as through his depiction of the antagonist ScreenSlaver to comment on society. Mr. Bard lays several themes that intertwine with each other ranging from moral values to technological pressures. He originally wanted to center the plot around artificial intelligence, but he did not feel it connected emotionally enough with the family. In an interview by Bob Odinkirk and Catherine Keener who play Winston and Evelyn Deavor, they discuss the personal attacks they have felt technology has invaded their lives . In relation to computing, The Incredibles 2 hopes to bring attention to society's dependence on screens(technology) and its innate influence over you, ScreenSlaver rants (55:00) about how people become powerless in front of their screens and more dependent on others to do things for them. The Incredibles 2 was released in 2018, being a recent film, the director hoped to shed light on the issues of dependence on others and technology and others in modern society.
The Incredibles 2 is the sequel to the blockbuster first film that was an animation mile stone back in 2004. Animated films take a lot of time and talent to produce. Pixar is one of the world’s leaders in animation, however the gaps in technology have a significant influence in the production process . The animation process has three main phases; storyboarding, filming, and editing. All entities involved in the film play a role in the development process. It is difficult for any one entity involved in the process to have the influence they envisioned at the beginning of the process. For example, Mr. Bard’s original story was not the one that was published because of limitations in editing and guidance of the animation studio. Notably the Screensaver villain was hastily put together because of project deadlines at Pixar . It is important to understand the production process and timetable in understanding the film's intent and purpose. In this case it had a significant impact on the final product and what the director wanted to convey.
Incredibles 2 claims that the reason that society was vulnerable to Screenslaver’s attack is that people are hugely dependent on technology in virtually every aspect of life - as she puts it, “screens are everywhere” (44:58). This means that much of what they saw, they saw from a perspective removed from the situation rather than experiencing it firsthand - “the brainless desire to replace true experience with simulation” (57:30). This made them easier to manipulate since what they were seeing was controlled by those who controlled the technology, rather than seeing things first-hand or in person and coming to their own conclusions. The technology was all controlled by people with agendas, making those who lived much of their lives according to that technology susceptible to manipulation.
For example, when the masses were getting their information from the news on TV, they were led to believe that superheroes were destructive. This is because large masses of people see the same thing through technology, so they all saw it from the same, biased perspective. By being dependent on this technology to get their information, they made themselves vulnerable to manipulation by those in control of the technology (in this case, the media).
This example from the movie parallels a real life example: use of media for political propaganda . Like the media was used to persuade people that super heroes were bad in Incredibles 2, online news and media has been used to influence American elections . This is possible because 62% of adults in the survey (N=1200) are dependent on technology for information about candidates, so those who control the technology also control the opinions of large numbers of people . 14% of adults in the survey also viewed social media as the most important source of information . At least 14% of the respondents had seen "fake news" headlines, which shows that large portions of the population are being influenced by this. This is similar to the above example from the movie because both show that a society completely dependent on technology for information is vulnerable to large-scale persuasion that affects politics, whether that includes policies about superheroes or presidential elections.
At first glance, Incredibles 2 appears to focus on cautioning viewers about the dangers of reliance on technology. Despite the negative technology messaging associated with the villain Screenslaver, the film also touts the benefits of technology and how information can be presented through it. Much of the technology used for this purpose is realistic, present technology.
The primary technology displayed in a positive light is cameras, and the ability to use cameras to share information. Body cameras on Elastigirl allow the public to see the world from her perspective, learn about the true value of superheroes, and come to accept them back into society. The actual capture of this information is not shown in a problematic light, but how this film can be used once captured is criticized in the movie. Footage makes information more available for others to learn from, but it can also be manipulated to make the footage display only the incomplete truth. Nevertheless, there are instances where film itself benefits the characters. This kind of elective surveillance allows the world to see Elastigirl as a driven, inspiring hero both to the public and fellow superheroes. We can see parallels in our world with groups leveraging body cameras to change their perception in the eyes of the public, most notably the police. According to a study conducted by Cambridge researchers on the effect of body cameras on perceived traffic police legitimacy, officers who use body cameras do appear more legitimate, and make the driver feel safer .
There are also other forms of technology that aid the central characters. Technology advances the abilities of the parents in order to help them better raise their children. Tracking and other modifications on Jack-Jack’s suit allow his family to respond to his random bursts of powers. This technology keeps Jack-Jack safer. The suit Jack-Jack wears is definitely futuristic, but parental tracking exists now. According to a study conducted by Pew research in 2016, 16% of parents tracked the location of their child’s cell phone, and 61% checked what websites their teen visited . This kind of technology can be divisive, especially if you are being monitored, but Incredibles 2 makes the point that this kind of tracking is, at least in the context of very young children, a practical option.
Sometimes uses of this technology are morally grey, like when Elastagirl listens in to a police scanner to find somewhere she can help. It is surveillance - but it is also for a good cause.
Technology like phones and walkie-talkies facilitate communication throughout the film, allowing the characters to stay informed and maintain connections. Communication technology is also the means through which Mrs. Incredible can stay in contact with her family while she is away for work. It allows her to stay collected and informed while she is on the mission. She is able to talk to her DEVTECH advisor team. For Mr. Incredible, the phone is a lifeline to his wife, and also to his friend Lucius. The same is true for the children.
In real life, this power of communication is powerful. There has been discussion in recent years about the impact of mobile technology on work-life balance, and superheroes are apparently no exception. Elastagirl is constantly available for work, and for her home life, through her phone. The impacts of trying to maintain this balance are stressful , but Elastagirl clearly feels supported by her family. The traditional gender dynamics of women being seen as limited to homemaking are subverted. Communication devices, including call-in interviews on TV are part of what allows the heroes to convince the world of their good intentions. This includes Elastagirl’s phone interview, and Winston Dever’s proud presentation of the superhero accord, which I am distinguishing from the body camera footage because it is less about surveillance and more about direct communication. Television is an informative medium for the public, and for the Incredibles family. It also allows Jack-Jack to learn about robbers for the first time (though this is him believing a fictional representation, and acting on it in real life, the true threat of screens). Mr. Incredible and Dash learn that Mr. Incredible’s car is still intact through live TV footage. Though Mr. Incredible, removed from the situation by the screen, reacts impulsively, it still allows him to learn the truth about his car. TV journalism is, as shown in the Incredibles, a powerful medium for stories, for the truth, and for where those two things intertwine.
There are also other forms of technology that aid the central characters. Technology advances the abilities of the parents in order to help them better raise their children. Tracking and other modifications on Jack-Jack’s suit allow his family to respond to his random bursts of powers. This technology keeps Jack-Jack safer.
The film also provides negative effects to modern technology. As early as two minutes into the movie the viewers see the destructive potential of the Underminer’s drill making its way across the city. The Screenslavers mind control which isn’t revealed until a bit later in the film is also used for chaotic and destructive purposes, although, mind control technology might seem unrealistic now who knows when it could pose a problem one day. Technology was also used against people’s will countless times during the movie. Clearly, the mind control is one example that was used against the heroes, but they also used tech to wipe the memory of Tony who accidently saw Violet without a mask during the Underminer scene. Not only this, but helen also kept tabs on Elastigirl by tracking her every move. Lastly, there was a lot of misinformation that lead the public to believe the ones in the wrong were really the superheroes. For example, the supers were heavily scrutinized by the media after the Underminer attack since politicians have no one else to blame but the supers right in front of them. This is directly told to the viewers by Winston when he states that “when you fight bad guys like today people don’t see the fight or what led up to it. They see what politicians tell them to see. They see destruction and they see you.” (00:19:30)
In addition, we have already listed multiple reasons as to why surveillance has its positive uses, but the film also highlights the dangers it could bring. To illustrate, the invasion of privacy that is constantly being overlooked by the viewers is Screenslavers access to all the screens. This gives her access to view what is happening practically everywhere she may need to, which violates people’s right to privacy. Screensaver knows that she has the upper hand by having this advantage since she states that the viewers are no longer in control, she is. Most people nowadays fear that some digital technologies, such as cameras, transformed our everyday lives, and produced minute accurate records of those lives. According to a Harvard Law Review article, our Government is keen to obtain and use this data for unknown purposes. We know that governments buy and lease private-sector databases, and we have recently heard that the National Security Agency (NSA) is building a huge data and supercomputing center in Utah, possibly with the intention of transmitting and maintaining most of the world's Internet communications for decryption and examination. And even though they are, our oversight legislation just offers limited safeguards. This may cause fear in surveillance for people everywhere if they want to express their freedom and this is portrayed in the movie since supers are frightened to be seen outside of close doors.
Chapter 3: Networked Communications discusses the social implications of computing technology used for communication. There are many types of communications technologies in this film. Technology like phones and walkie-talkies facilitate communication throughout the film, allowing the characters to stay informed and maintain connections. Communication technology is also the means through which Mrs. Incredible can stay in contact with her family while she is away for work. It allows her to stay collected and informed while she is on the mission. She is able to talk to her DEVTECH advisor team. For Mr. Incredible, the phone is a lifeline to his wife, and also to his friend Lucius. The same is true for the children. In real life, this power of communication is powerful. There has been discussion in recent years about the impact of mobile technology on work-life balance, and superheroes are apparently no exception. Elastagirl is constantly available for work, and for her home life, through her phone. The impacts of trying to maintain this balance are stressful , but Elastagirl clearly feels supported by her family. The traditional gender dynamics of women being seen as limited to homemaking are subverted. Communication devices, including call-in interviews on TV are part of what allows the heroes to convince the world of their good intentions. This includes Elastagirl’s phone interview, and Winston Dever’s proud presentation of the superhero accord, which I am distinguishing from the body camera footage because it is less about surveillance and more about direct communication. Television is an informative medium for the public, and for the Incredibles family. It also allows Jack-Jack to learn about robbers for the first time (though this is him believing a fictional representation, and acting on it in real life, the true threat of screens). Mr. Incredible and Dash learn that Mr. Incredible’s car is still intact through live TV footage. Though Mr. Incredible, removed from the situation by the screen, reacts impulsively, it still allows him to learn the truth about his car. TV journalism is, as shown in the Incredibles, a powerful medium for stories, for the truth, and for where those two things intertwine.
Chapter 4: Intellectual Property focuses on exploring the implications and logistics of who owns information. One instance of intellectual property in this movie is Edna's supersuit design brand. She gets to be the Incredibles' exclusive suit designer because it is beneficial to her brand to be associated with them. Brand names like Edna's are an example of a trademark, and they make her products recognizable to the public. Edna is clearly passionate about her brand, and is angry when two of her favorite clients, Elastagirl and Mr. Incredible, use a different suit designer. Edna's process of approaching the intellectual property aspect of her brand would likely mimic the approach of real-life fashion houses dealing with legal protections, which includes a combination of copyright, trademark (for any specific portion of the Mode brand, like slogan no capes), and design patents in order to prevent imitations . Edna Mode is protective of her intellectual property and passionate about her brand.
Chapter 5 begins by outlining problems a nuclear family can experience dealing with the issues relating to information privacy. The Parr family exhibits examples of the strains of the effects of "privacy" especially pertaining to the children’s relation with the parents. Immediately after the Farr family fought the Underminer, a scene of the family at dinner showed an argument that began because of the use of the children's powers under the current laws prohibiting people with superpowers from using them publicly. Also, During the Screenslaver's monologue, (55:00) he mentions “the system” keeping people in their control and under suppression while they are being controlled from their screens by greater powers. There are also several instances in the film where the character's privacy was invaded or eavesdropped. Elastagirl listens in on a police frequency to find nearby crimes when superhero work was still illegal, the news broadcasts the Parr families activities without their consent, the Screenslaver manipulation techniques are are a hijacking of one's person, Elastagirl effectively surrenders her privacy completely by using a body camera in order to convey the truth about superheroes. The Farr family's privacy is violated, in the presentation of their public persona which helps set up the plot for the film. The Parr family's sacrifice of virtually all of their family's privacy for the greater good (by allowing their family to serve as an example super-family, and assuming the risk of being a prime target for villains like Screenslaver) is paralleled by families of politicians in real life. They are open to constant public scrutiny, the children may feel they are overshadowed by their famous parents, and their medical history may be exposed (this may parallel the Parr children's powers being exposed before they reveal them) among other effects . We as a society rely on people willing to work for the greater good also willing to sacrifice and risk losing much of their personal privacy.
Chapter 6: Privacy and the Government discusses ways in which the government deals with the privacy of its citizens. This section showed relevancy to the film in the situation revolving around Tony having his memory erased. The film starts with Tony being interrogated by an NSA (National Supers Agency) Agent Rick Dicker because he saw Violet in her superhero suit. who then goes on to erase his memories of her before the film continues after the opening scene. There is a scene later in the film where Mr. Parr calls Dicker to ask about Tony’s memories of Violet. Dicker pulls out a file that has extensive information on Tony including his personal and employment information. Dicker works for the government in a position related to protecting superheroes, and it is clear he has tremendous access to data and freedom to remove that data from people (in other words, to wipe memories). Dicker’s role in the film is similar to NSA (National Security Agency) agents and their role in collecting mass surveillance of millions of Americans.
The central issue in the film of supers being allowed to use their powers is a direct result of the governments influence in the film. After the Parr family is chastised by the police after the opening scene, they are told they have “infrastructure in place” so supers do not need to get involved in criminal situations. The current laws in the film prohibit supers from using their powers in public, which is a major regulation on how people can act freely. The laws at the beginning of the film significantly invade into a person's free will and privacy. Personal control over one’s body and the government has been a long-standing debate starting with Planned Parenthood. How much control the government has over your person is heavily debated and an issue for individual states to decide. If the characters are caught using their powers, they can even be subject to arrest. The government is imposing very left ideals in this practice which generally imply less privacy from the government.
Chapter 7: Computer and Network Security discussed how computers and networks
can be compromised by malware and other malicious attacks.
This is particularly relevant because Screenslaver's ability to control
people through their screens could be interpreted as a kind of
malware. The power is in the use of the technology, by utilizing
the light patterns in the hypno-goggles, Screensaver is able to
manipulate and control her victims. She is able to apply this kind of
malware attack to public infrastructure (like the hovertrain), personal technology
(like telephones), and glasses which she uses to target victims for
extended periods of time. Elastagirl is able to discover
Screensavers real identity because she knows the limitations of
malware. She discovers Screeonslaver's true identity after she found her through the tracking
device 55:00; expressing
concern that the Screenslaver had footaged from a secure
closed-circuit camera 1:10.
Screenslaver's malware was not just malware - it was also intended to manipulate people and persuade them to do things they otherwise would not do. This relates to real life because malware is often combined with advertisements, which are also intended to persuade people and get them to think a certain way . This combination of malware and advertisement is called "malvertisement" and is "becoming one of the main sources of spreading web malware" . This parallel shows that Screenslaver's idea of controlling people through malware is applicable to real life and is relatively common.
Chapter 8 discussed the issues of computer reliability and the failure of
greater systems. This topic was touched upon when Elestagirl
saved a runaway train that was digitally hijacked by the Screenslaver.
Although the actual train’s digital systems were not compromised,
the operator was under the influence of the screenslavers ability.
This situation points out an issue in human operation relating to
computer reliability. It also shows that unreliable computing can lead to catastrophic consequences, like
the deaths of everyone on the train. Because they had put their lives in the hands of the train's computing system,
they were vulnerable to danger if that system proved unreliable.
In this example, the reliability of the train can be compromised because it is dependent on the reliability of the computing. This example is also relevant to real life because when computing systems control transportation systems, computing can be used to test the transportation system and verify safety . For example, one study conducted an analysis of railway transportation systems using software debugging techniques . This shows that computer reliability is applicable in multiple ways to transportation reliability.
Chapter 9 discussed the topic of professional ethics in computing disciplines and whistleblowing. This topic had relevance in relation to Evelyn’s actions at her role at DevTech. Evelyn worked as the technical lead and CEO in part with her brother. By acting in secret as the Screenslaver she justified her moral decisions of hypnotizing innocent people a nd terrorizing the public because of her vilification beliefs of supers. She used the technologies she designed in violation of the ACM Code of Ethics as a computing professional . First, she used her hypnosis technology to manipulate people, causing mental and physical harm. This violates section 1.1 and 1.2 of the Code . She also was dishonest professionally, because she used the technologies she designed, which were associated with her company, for the benefit os her secret identity as Screenslaver. This violates section 1.3 . Finally, her intention was to use her technology to force superheroes into hiding, which is harmful to society. This violates section 3.1 of the Code because it goes against the public good . Therefore, the ACM Code of Ethics discussed in Chapter 9 shows the Evelyn acted in an unprofessional and unethical manner as Screenslaver .
Chapter 10 examines the issues revolving globalization and the impact of digital systems become more common in the workplace. These ideas were not the main focus of the film because it was centered on American, middle- and upper-class people. However, the idea of the differences in access to technology comes up when the technology is much more prevalent in the mansion that the Incredibles are staying at, which belongs to Winson, who is very wealthy. The whole family, especially Dash, is excited about the technology in this mansion, because it is more high-tech than what they could afford as they lived in motels. This relates to the models of technological diffusion in Chapter 10, which show that the upper class gets access to new technologies before middle and lower classes. Because the technologies Winston's house was equipped with were new and middle class families would not have had access to them yet, they were very exciting to the family.
|Computing Technology||Realistic?||Why is it realistic or not|
|TV||Yes||The TVs shown are exactly like real TVs currently. The way the characters interact with the TVs is also realistic, such as children watching TV, people getting much of their news from TV, and Jack-Jack learning from the TV.|
|Phones||Yes||The phones shown in the film include both modern and old types of phones. For example, Evelyn and Winston's father had "direct lines" installed in his home to some superheroes, which are an older concept. This was realistic becuase they had been installed years before the plot of the film took place. The phones shown in the contemporary parts of the film are also accurate to the current phones we use today.|
|Baby Tracker||No||Edna's baby-tracker is not entirely realistic because there is not technology that can track a particular person through walls and across long distances or predict their next move like this tracker did. However, some aspects are realistic, such as the ability to see heat on the screen, or the device's ability to detect the physical environment visually.|
|Body Camera||Yes||These small cameras are accurate because cameras of such a size exist today. Although this exact product may not exist since it was Evelyn's invention, the technology to create it does already exist.|
|Mr. Incredible Car||No||This car is not realistic because it is an exaggerated version of a car that has many other functions such as rocket launchers and the ability to turn into a boat or submarine. However, some of the computing technology this car uses is relatively realistic, such as the capability to take instructions from voices.|
|Edna's security tech||Yes||Edna Mode's house is protected by extensive security technology, including a laser fence, extensive biometrics and a radio system. All of these technologies are available today, and, excluding the laser fence, are as pictured.|
|Jack-Jack's Suit||No||Jack-Jack's suit is made to predict his powers and react to them. There is no such thing as a suit which can detect uses of superpowers, or a suit that could do things like track the wearer as they travel into another dimension. There are some parts of the suit that could hypothetically be possible, like a heat sensor that causes flame retardant to be released if it detects a high temperature, but this system would likely not work as pictured. The suit is flexible, indestructable, and any hardware inside of it is undetectable. With today's technology, this is unrealistic.|
|Plane Autopilot||Yes||Planes already use autopilot, and many planes rely on autopilot more than they do human pilots.|
|Elasticycle||No||The elasticycle bike is a jet powered super-motor bike. It is extremely advanced shown by its ability to bisect and become two unicycles. Although super-motor bikes are already being produced, the quality of Elastigirl’s is unrealistic for our current computing capabilities. It is also mechanically unrealistic because it is made to move with Elastigirl.|
|Hypno Goggles||No||Although they are not in wide use, glasses which serve as screens do exist. Google Glass and other such wearables would not necessarily be able to be taken over in order to hypnotize the user, however.|
|Controller for the baby suit||No||The suit Edna makes for Jack-Jack is unrealistic (as discussed above) is unrealistic, and so the controller to this device is also unrealistic. We do not yet have the technology to see and track things in alternate dimensions, nor do we have the ability to predict supernatural powers like shapeshifting. The most realistic part of the controller is the ability to release cooling foam from a distance, which can potentially be accomplished today through a simple remote device and a fire extinguisher.|
|Police Communication||Yes||The movie portrays standard police communication through existing technology like radio. Radio, phones, and other devices are standard both in this ficticious world and in real life.|
|Computers at Winston's House||Yes||The home is able to have moving water features, hidden doors, and other computing technology embedded into its structure. Smart homes devices like these are broadly in use today. Automatic doors, remote controlled fountains, and other such features are realistic.|
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