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Why The Villain Of The Incredibles Wasn't Actually Syndrome

Back in 2004, Walt Disney Pictures released its Pixar Animation Studios-produced feature The Incredibles, marking a major win both financially and critically. Fans all over the world loved the film and played an active role in willing its sequel into existence 14 years later. The list of reasons why The Incredibles became such a smash hit is a long one, with its well-timed comedy, interesting world-building, and instantly iconic characters winning over moviegoers almost immediately. That said, though, The Incredibles would be nothing without its entertaining story, which is far more nuanced than most give it credit for.

On the surface, The Incredibles stands as a classic good-versus-evil narrative designed to draw in all members of the family. The movie quite obviously depicts the super-powered Parr family as the heroes, while the maniacal Syndrome (voiced by Jason Lee) takes up the bad guy position. His plan to stage an attack on a city to boost his ego and spite his former meta-human idols makes that label rather fitting. Still, for as despicable as Syndrome appears, there's more to consider when telling this wannabe hero's story.

The truth is that Syndrome isn't actually the villain in the first Incredibles movie, and the answer to who the real one is might be a hard pill to swallow for lifelong fans of the franchise.

Mr. Incredible is the real bad guy

When it comes down to it, Mr. Incredible (voiced by Craig T. Nelson) is the real villain of The Incredibles. Before you get out your torches and pitchforks at the thought of such blasphemy, his personal history speaks for itself.

However, in his younger years, Bob Parr made a legacy for himself as the famed crime-fighter Mr. Incredible. He was a celebrity in the years before the outlaw of superheroes, becoming something of a cultural icon among those young and old. One such fan of his was Buddy Pine, whose fascination with his favorite hero became an obsession — attempting on one occasion to take the mantle "IncrediBoy" and team up with Mr. Incredible. 

Ultimately, Mr. Incredible elected to decline Buddy's offer, verbally berating him for getting in the way and allowing the supervillain Bomb Voyage to escape custody. Embarrassed and disappointed in his icon, Buddy took a dark turn and renounced his fandom, starting down the path that led to him becoming Syndrome. 

To some extent, Buddy's downward spiral was an overreaction, but the fact remains that Mr. Incredible's choice to humiliate him that night was the catalyst for Buddy's transformation. Mr. Incredible created a super-villain, one who would eventually put his entire family in harm's way. 

When Mirage's (Elizabeth Peña) first offer for Bob to resume hero work arrived, he had the chance to be up-front with his wife Helen (Holly Hunter) and the kids about his new job. Instead, he chose the alternative, which was to lie and hide his activities from all of them. Therefore, when Syndrome revealed himself as the mastermind behind Bob's assignments and subsequently imprisoned him, the Parr family didn't know they were walking into a trap when they tried to rescue him. If Bob had told the truth to his family from the beginning, they would've been in the know and came better prepared to defeat Syndrome.

All in all, the so-called hero Mr. Incredible did some pretty evil stuff in his time, even if he didn't realize it in the moment.