Warning! Warning! Spoilers ahead!
The Parrs are a pretty incredible family – defeating bad guys, protecting citizens, fighting for justice – but beyond being super, they’re incredible for another unexpected reason. While Honey and Lucius may be fan favourites, Bob and Helen are the real #relationshipgoals. They’re not perfect, for sure, but I think they actually exhibit quite a few characteristics of a biblical marriage.
In The Incredibles (the first movie), Bob and Helen’s marriage wasn’t doing so well. In fact, it was a bit rocky. Bob and Helen didn’t communicate with each other very well – they didn’t like to discuss the deeper things, and when they finally did, things blew up and they were harsh and accusatory. Bob took a secret superhero job, but hid it from his wife, and while they seemed happier for a time, the deception pulled them even further apart. Helen eventually even came to suspect Bob of having an affair. Happily though, they were finally forced into being honest with each other, and their relationship grew stronger because of it.
Cut to Incredibles 2 (14 years later for us, but mere seconds later for them). I was honestly a bit concerned that we were going to see more marriage problems for Bob and Helen, maybe even leading to a split this time, but I was pleasantly surprised. While Bob still has some honesty issues (hiding Jack-Jack’s powers and telling Helen everything is fine at home, when everything is clearly NOT FINE AT HOME), the couple exhibits quite a lot of biblical marriage qualities.
Being a Team
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NIV
The movie opens with the Incredibles working together to defeat the Underminer. While the villain did cause a great deal of havoc in the city, he wasn’t able to undermine the strength of the family’s teamwork. They drew together and fought as a team, putting each others’ strengths to good use. Mr. Incredible called out for Elastigirl to trampoline him up to the villain, when she was already halfway through forming. As a team, they are able to utilize each others’ skills and anticipate each others’ needs.
Beyond fighting physical enemies, the Incredibles are able to join together and fight other opposition in their lives. They’re in some difficult circumstances – using their powers is illegal, their house was blown up and they’re living in a motel, and they’ve lost support from a government program. But they are able to work together to come to a solution. While they aren’t always physically together, they are committed to fulfilling their roles and working together towards their goals.
The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.”
That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. – Genesis 2:23-24 NIV
I really appreciated seeing some realistic, healthy couple interactions in this movie. So often relationships in media show only two things: sexual intimacy and fighting. While the first is important for marriage, and the second is an inevitability of human nature, relationships are so much more. A couple in a healthy relationship will work together, and be together. A biblical marriage is about being even more than a united team, it’s about being one. After an argument, Bob and Helen spend some together, just the two of them, out by the motel pool. They have an important discussion about their current situation and what they’ll do moving forward, and are easily able to come to a decision together.
Submission & Service
Out of respect for Christ, be courteously reverent to one another.
Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands.
Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They’re really doing themselves a favor—since they’re already “one” in marriage.
No one abuses his own body, does he? No, he feeds and pampers it. That’s how Christ treats us, the church, since we are part of his body. And this is why a man leaves father and mother and cherishes his wife. No longer two, they become “one flesh.” This is a huge mystery, and I don’t pretend to understand it all. What is clearest to me is the way Christ treats the church. And this provides a good picture of how each husband is to treat his wife, loving himself in loving her, and how each wife is to honor her husband. – Ephesians 5:21-33 MSG
Ah, the classic “submission” passage – one of the more triggering verses in the Bible; but only when it’s misunderstood and taken out of context. I love the way this passage is worded in the Message. It makes the relationship between husband and wife seem so much less scary, and so much more precious. I think why this is so hard to grasp is that we get hung up on the “submission” part. And of course that isn’t going to make sense on its own. But the fact is the husband and wife both have responsibilities towards each other, and the relationship has to be looked at as a whole to be understood. The submission of the wife makes sense when taken with the service of the husband.
The Incredibles do a great job of illustrating this balance. Winston Deavor, a businessman, gets in contact with Frozone, Mr. Incredible, and Elastigirl wanting to make supers legal again, and needing their help to do it. Everyone is very enthusiastic about being involved, but, for certain parties (*cough*Mr. Incredible*cough*), some disappointment sets in when they find out that the hero chosen to begin the campaign and perform super-duties in the public eye is Elastigirl.
Returning to the motel that night, Helen and Bob have a very open and honest conversation about what they’re going to do. They are both open about their feelings on the matter. Helen is a bit apprehensive about leaving her family, but really wants to do it, and Bob is a tiny bit jealous that he doesn’t get to be the face of the movement and be super-ing out in the world. And here’s where the submission and service come in.
If Bob had decided that what was best for their marriage and family was for Helen to stay home – to be safe and away from danger, to take care of their household – Helen would’ve had to trust that in Bob’s wisdom he was acting in the best interests of her and their family. But Bob knew that if he were to forbid her from being super in that capacity, he would be acting out of jealousy. He would have been using his position as a husband to be controlling and domineering. Bob served his wife by allowing her to partake in an activity she really desired and giving her permission to be away from the family. He allowed her an opportunity to be herself as an individual and to grow and flourish and be her best.
This conversation had the potential to go very poorly, and bitterness could’ve crept into their later interactions. But they discussed everything they were thinking and feeling without belittling the other, and the decision they came to was final. After that, they were always supportive and encouraging to each other.
Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl have a strong relationship, full of love and support. They are committed to working together and serving each other, providing support out in the world and within their own home. Bob laid down his own desires to support Helen because a husband is called to make sacrifices for his wife. This is a picture of the love Christ has for us, making the ultimate sacrifice by laying down his life so we might have eternal life.
Who are your favourite fictional couples? What does submission and service mean to you?