Since their beginning with Toy Story (1995), Pixar Animation Studios have opened an entire universe of magical films for both adults and children to enjoy. Jon Negroni has argued convincingly that all 15 Pixar films, from Toy Story in 1995 to the latest Inside Out in 2015, are all connected in the same world, based on interactions on Earth between humans, animals and machines. The idea changed my perception of the Pixar universe, and I would love to believe Negroni is right. Now, I have a Pixar theory of my own to share on The Incredibles (2004): what if Syndrome, the film’s eventual antagonist, is actually Bob Parr (Mr. Incredible)’s illegitimate son from a relationship that preceded his marriage to Helen Parr (Elastigirl)?
I have considered this possibility over ten years and multiple viewings of the film, and, regardless of whether it matches Brad Bird’s intentions, this reading makes sense and the whole film more interesting. Obviously, Buddy is older than Mr. Incredible’s other children, as the prologue is set 15 years prior to their birth and just before Mr. Incredible’s marrying Elastigirl. When Mr. Incredible and Buddy (Syndrome’s name as a child) first meet inside the former’s superhero car, there seems to be a striking resemblance. Buddy naming his unofficial alterego “IncrediBoy” already suggests a role-model connection between the two, but the fact that they look like each other may argue there is a hidden father-son relationship that the narrative has kept as subtext.
As a child, Buddy seems to look up to Mr. Incredible with more intensity than he would if merely a fan. Wearing similar attire is just fandom, but Buddy’s angry and devastated reaction to being rejected by Mr. Incredible implies he has higher expectations of the man, and the pair could be father and son. Brad Bird already wrote and directed a Pixar film in which a young man finds out his true paternity –the Linguini and Gusteau relationship in Ratatouille (2007)—but in The Incredibles, this could be a hidden narrative implication.
After trying to help him, Mr. Incredible rejects Buddy completely and tells the police officers, “Take this one home and make sure his mom knows what he’s been doing.” It may just be vague language assuming that kids are monitored primarily by their mothers, but the fact he just says “mom” instead of “parents” or simply “mom and dad” could imply that Mr. Incredible either knows Buddy is from a single-parent family or knows his mother. This awareness could raise the idea that he once had a relationship with Buddy’s mother and perhaps even left her and Buddy behind to be with Elastigirl (which could also be Syndrome’s motive to want to kill her too).
After the prologue in which Mr. Incredible rejects Buddy, the latter remains off-screen for a while. Mr. Incredible becomes Bob and starts a family life with Elastigirl, aka Helen, and their three children, whereas Buddy becomes Syndrome and extracts a plot, through Mirage, to gain revenge on Bob. Upon meeting again, Syndrome explains his traumatic childhood (after the rejection) through a brief flashback and attempts to kill him. When the attempt fails, the only adequate way to make Bob suffer, in Syndrome’s mind, is to kill his new family. This could be because Syndrome never got the childhood attention from Bob, as a father and hero, which Dash, Violent and Jack-Jack were getting.
In the climax scene at the Parr home, Syndrome doesn’t really attack or attempt to kill the family. Instead, his intention is to kidnap Jack-Jack, the youngest child. Syndrome’s motive is to rid Bob of his infant child and recreate the paternal loss that he himself experienced from childhood, even at one year old. At the end, he says, “I’ll get your son eventually! I’ll get your son” before being killed, inadvertently, by the jet of his own plane. Bob shows no remorse or sadness when Syndrome dies. This could indicate Syndrome in fact wasn’t his son, but the narrative doesn’t address Bob’s response to Syndrome’s death in depth in a particular shot or any dialogue.
This whole theory may sound crazy, but it potentially adds more depth to Syndrome/Buddy’s character, his relationship with Bob/Mr. Incredible, and his motive for revenge. This idea could be up for debate, much like other Pixar theories that Andy’s Mom is Jessie’s former owner, Emily, in the Toy Story series and that Nemo died at the beginning of Finding Nemo (2003). Whether Brad Bird’s intention or not, the possible father-son link in The Incredibles arguably makes film more sophisticated and complex.