Film Theory: Can You SUE a Superhero? (Disney Pixar’s The Incredibles)

Film Theory: Can You SUE a Superhero? (Disney Pixar’s The Incredibles)


Hello Internet! Welcome to Film Theory. The anti-hero of your childhood. Shooting down your favorite movie franchises and being a bigger try-hard than Syndrome himself. Today, much like Pixar, we’re going back to the Incredibles. And, in case you missed our last episode on them, make sure you check it our by using the ‘i’ icon in the upper right hand corner of the screen. I got to say it has one of my favorite titles on the channel. Which of the Incredibles is THE MOST Incredible? (Disney Pixars’s The Incredibles) Man, way to ride those search terms, MatPat. Anyway, it’s an episode where we actually prove, based on physics which Incredible is the most powerful. It’s REALLY fun. I’ll link to it during the endscreen so you can watch it after this one. But today, we’re not calculating laser strength or Violet’s power of teen angst. No, today, we’re laying down the law and testing out the Incredibles’ superpowers where they REALLY count: The American legal system. Now, wait, wait wait wait wait! I see your eyes darting to the suggested video feed right now because you’re totally like, ugh American legalese? I need to G to the FO and watch more dank Star Wars memes. But you’re gonna want to stick around for this one. Because this theory literally changes the entire Incredibles movie, based on what would actually happen if heroes like the Incredibles existed in the real world. And, as a bonus, you’ll be that know-it-all in the room with your friends when you’re watching the sequel. So, if you thought a real-world analysis of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory completely changed your perspective of that childhood movie, well, get ready, because we’re about to learn what the government is actually doing to kill off our real-world superheroes. Firstly, we need a quick recap based on where the Incredibles started when it was released in the Paris Hilton-plastered fever dream that was 2004. The movie starts by showing us a flashback to the Golden Years when supers roamed the streets stopping crime with reckless abandon. But all of that comes to a screeching halt when one man jumps off a building. Mr. Incredible, being the hero that he is, stops the suicide attempt, but the man suffers a neck injury in the process. This leads to a lawsuit, and a wave of legal action against Supers, holding them accountable for all the property damage and injuries that happened as a result of their battles against villains. The ripple effect from this lawsuit makes the government realize that Supers are a huge liability. Anti-Super sentiment reaches an all-time high, and the government actively decides that they’re better off with Supers working in cubicles, rather than fighting crime. But is this actually the way that this would play out? Legally, could you just kill off superheroes by just suing them out of existence? If you think about it, almost every superhero franchise from the past ten years has tackled this in some way or another. From the mutant phobias of X-Men, to the collateral damage that kicks off Batman’s quest against Superman, or even the Sokovia Accords from Marvel’s Avengers. So, honestly, it’s time to put this issue to bed. To see just how Supers against their greatest nemesis of all, the American justice system. The first, big red flag in this situation is the Good Samaritan Law; a law in the U.S. specifically designed to protect people who are trying to save another person who is injured or whose life is in danger. Basically, if you’re trying to help, you can’t be sued later on. If you’ve ever taken a CPR class, one of the scenarios that they always give you is that you just come across someone who’s unconscious. And you have to save them without knowing anything about them, or even whether they need saving. With Good Samaritan Laws, you know that as long as you’re honestly trying to help someone in danger, you don’t have to worry about injuries you might cause them, like bruising their ribs when giving them CPR, or mistaking someone who’s unconscious because they’re injured for someone who’s just sleeping off last night’s bachelor party face down in the street. Good Samaritan Laws are based off the idea that when someone potentially only has seconds to live, the last thing you want is for a bystander to hesitate or not help because it might get them in trouble. And there are plenty of examples where not having these laws in place is really tragic. In one of the most famous examples from China, back in 2006, a man named Peng Yu encountered a woman who had fallen and broken a bone in her leg. He helped her to a hospital, but then she blamed him for her injury and then sued him! The court even ruled in her favor, leading to the infamous Peng Yu verdict, where an innocent man ended up punished for his own good deed. The outcome of this case sent a very clear message to other citizens in China: Don’t help people who are in trouble. One of the scariest ways that this played out was in 2011, when a toddler was the victim of a hit-and-run. A tape of the incident showed that 18 people walked past, and none stopped to help. The girl died in a hospital 8 days later. A survey of Chinese people at the time found that 71% of people thought that the people who were passing by were doing so because they were afraid of getting into trouble if anyone stopped to help. So it seems that the opening premise of the Incredibles woulld just fall apart, since Mr. Incredible would be protected by Good Samaritan Laws in saving people. But there are a couple wrinkles here that might complicate things a bit. First, what about saving someone from themselves? I mean, if you saw me choking in the middle of a restaurant, you can guess that I probably want to finish that bowl of crispy wontons I’m chowing down on and would be pretty grateful if you would swooped in and saved my life with a Heimlich maneuver, but in the movie the person who jumps off the building specifically intended to die. So, what happens now? Well, legally you’re still in the right to save them. According to a decision by the Supreme Court of Minnesota, Quote: End quote. And this totally makes sense, especially the more we as a society understand that suicide attempts often stem from mental illness that are out of people’s control. Meaning that with appropriate help, this person may not have wanted to make such a final decision. Because suicide is something you can never take back, it always makes sense to err on the side of saving someone’s life. This means that if you restrain someone in a room when they announce that they’re gonna jump off a building, you aren’t guilty of kidnapping. And if you tackle them in the air to stop them from jumping off a bridge, you’re not guilty of assault. In short, there is no way that anyone trying to prevent a suicide attempt could get sued into hiding, including superheroes. So those of you who secretly have gills and can breathe underwater, or have some sort of super-sonic farting ability, don’t let this movie scare you away from saving us all. If anything, let your crippling embarrassment from your awkward superpower keep you in hiding, Fartboy. But… wait. We’re still missing huge piece here. Play that clip again In the movie, there’s another crucial distinction: The apartment jumper sues the government, not the Super as an individual. This last twist is where things get really interesting. In the movie, we’re told that the Supers received amnesty for their past actions as part of their agreement to go into hiding. “The government quietly initiated the Superhero Relocation Program. “The Supers would be granted amnesty from responsibility for past actions “in exchange for the promise to never again “resume hero work.” But in reality, Supers aren’t liable in the first place. See, the Supers Program is a government program and falls under a doctrine in the United States known as Qualified Immunity. which protects states and private officials from getting sued except in specific cases like discrimination, or when they use unnecessary force. It’s clear from the moments we see the Supers working with the police that they are a kind of special branch of law enforcement, kind of like the FBI. And they’re acting under similar principals as the police, prioritizing civilian safety, taking every available action to prevent casualties, and so on. So when the jumper sues the Supers, he’s basically suing a government agency, or a branch of law enforcement. Which then begs the question, can you even do that? In our modern society, we’ve pretty much taken for granted that you can sue anyone. But for most of U.S. history, you couldn’t sue the government at all. Seems… fishy, right? Especially given that the government gets involved in some kinda questionable situations from time to time, everything from the bizzaro conspiracies of MK Ultra to the very up-to-the-moment protests around police discrimination. The law that protects governments from suits is called Sovereign immunity, and quite frankly, sounds like something you’d hear coming from King George during the musical, ‘Hamilton’. It basically says that a sovereign state cannot commit a legal wrong and has immunity both for civil lawsuits and criminal prosecution. If that seems like the government’s a little OP for you, well, most of the U.S. agreed, and decided back in 1946 to pass the Federal Tort Claims Act, which made it possible to sue the government for damages, negligence, and other governmental wrongdoings. That doesn’t mean that actually pulling off a lawsuit against the government isn’t INCREDIBLY difficult– (no pun intended–maybe pun kind of intended)– even in situations we see every day, like a car that gets damaged by police in a high-speed chase, or a window that gets broken in a police shoot-out, taking the government to task– or, more specifically, taking the government to court because of the collateral damage– is still super difficult and costly as a regular citizen or small business. In reality, suing a super for trying to save someone’s life, even if they destroyed private property along the way, it would be almost impossible. So, there you go. Based on the laws that exist, it seems like this is a pretty open-and-shut case. You can’t be sued for trying to help save someone, even in the case of suicide. Government officials all have qualified immunity, and it would be pretty impossible to show that supers are violating the few laws that they can be sued over. In short, you can’t sue supers into hiding– if the case is brought to court today. But remember, this didn’t happen today. It happened during a flashback at the beginning of the movie. A flashback that takes place in 1947. You see, here’s the thing, friends: Laws evolve over time. It turns out, a lot of the things I’ve mentioned in this video are actually recent developments. Good Samaritan laws vary by state, with some of the current Good Samaritan laws being enacted as recently as 1996. The Minnesota Supreme Court case that made it okay to save someone trying to commit suicide? That was passed in 1975. And Qualified Immunity Doctrine? 1971. None of the laws that I talked about today were on the books back in 1947, which is when the lawsuit against Mr. Incredible takes place. “But wait!” I hear an incredibly observant commenter writing right now. “Earlier, you mentioned that Tort laws, the ones that let people sue the government, passed in 1946!” And, yeah, this is totally true. In what I think is an incredibly smart move on Pixar’s part, the Incredibles is set just one year after the Tort Laws that allow everyone to sue the government, but before all the laws that went in to protect the supers. I mean, I love this movie already, but the way that this situation works out is so much smarter than any of us could have ever realized. The original lawsuit against Mr. Incredible happens in 1947, as soon as us lawsuit-happy private citizens can start suing the federal government, and his suit serves as the first high-profile case of private citizens suing the government for damages. At this point, the government is totally unprepared for a suit like this which may be happening in an area without enforceable Good Samaritan Laws to an agency that isn’t protected by Qualified Immunity. The suit starts the ripple effect that the movie directly points to and the government without any insurance against lawsuits like this sees how much the Supers Program could end up costing them. Their knee-jerk reaction is to shut down the program, which never re-opens, even after the protecting laws go in place decades later. Clearly, this timeline isn’t an accident on the part of Pixar, which completely blows my mind based on how thoughtful and detailed it is. It also goes to show how we take laws as being so iron-clad in life. But they change so much that what we define as a crime now may not be a crime at all in fifty, or even twenty years. I am definitely not saying that you should go out and rob your nearest Seven-Eleven in the hopes that by the time your case hits the court room, theft is no longer a crime, but it is a pretty cool reminder to look at the rules around you and think a bit more critically about whether they should actually be firm rules. And, hey, the best news of all, now that we have some decent laws in place, we could revive the Supers Program! I think I qualify. MatPat: Superpower: Mind-blowing theories and the ability to land himself on every conceivable watchlist because he just taught everyone that they could sue the government….that’s not a good superpower. In the meantime! Remember! That’s just a theory. A Film Theory! Aaaaaand… you know, it must be nice to be an Incredible. With your own set of special abilities you can show off and impress your friends and family. Wait a minute! Maybe you don’t have to be a superhero to impress your mom at all! Maybe all you need is the power of Skillshare, our partner for today’s episode. An online learning community with thousands of classes, ranging from design, business, game design, technology, and more. Let’s take a look. Being an Incredible gives you special abilities! Well, so does Skillshare! It has literally thousands of classes online that will teach you about anything from how to animate your own superhero movie to how to start your own business! Being an Incredible means you get to wear a cool outfit, but Skillshare actually teaches you how to make your own cool outfits! Eat your heart out, Edna Mode. And lastly, being an Incredible makes you super famous! …well, ok, Skillshare doesn’t make you super famous, but but the first step in whatever great things you’re gonna do in your future start with the knowledge to get there. So check out Skillshare and start honing your Incredible skills right now. The first thousand people who sign up using the link in the description get the first two months of Skillshare Premium for free! Premium membership gives you unlimited access to high quality classes on must-know topics, so you can prove your skills, unlock those new opportunities, and start doing the work that you love. But you have to act now; if you’ve ever done any of these limited quantity giveaways here on the channel, you’ll know that within hours of this video going live those free passes are gone. So take advantage of this opportunity, click the link down below, or just type it into your URL bar: But hey, if you miss out on those thousand free passes, look on the bright side, Skillshare is more affordable than most other learning platforms out there. An annual subscription is less than ten dollars a month. And for that low, low price, you get yourself unlimited amounts of learning for an entire year! That’s awesome! (and it’s sure a heck of a lot more affordable and practical than college) As for me, well, up, up, and away! Ow! I hit my head on the ceiling…

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  1. Peng yu: here I saved you! No need to thank m-
    Woman: I’m gonna sue you
    Peng yu: b*TCh wHAt?
    Court: we blame you
    Peng yu: NANI ?

  2. So you're telling me that if I, hypothetically, had superhero abilities AND a skin tight super suit, I'd be legally covered if I hypothetically played superhero? Asking for a friend.

  3. But does the Samaritan act protect people trying to stop bank robberies? Also this woulnd't apply to the Sokovia Accords right? Because that was made by the UN and not by the American government. You can sue supers just not in America.

  4. Good Samaritan law: Exist
    Incredible's government: Im gonna pretend i didnt see that
    Good Samaritan law: am I a joke to you?

  5. Imagine every time MatPat jumped on the Pixar’s “I,” the editor(s) added a scream from MatPat in previous videos.
    One Jump: AHH
    Two Jumps: UUGH
    Three Jumps: AHHHHHHHHH

  6. Matt pat: superhero’s are protected and this movie is wrong

    Me: oh ok

    Matt pat: actually nvm those laws were before the movie took place and Pixar was right all along

    Me:ok then why did you say that?

    Matt pat: murmurs I needed the vid to be 10:00 min

    Me: oh I guess we all have to get our money somehow … so understandable

  7. WAIT JUST ONE MINUTE!
    After re-watching this video I felt something at the back of my mind, and so I looked it up out of interest and found out that suicide acts were ILLEGAL BEFORE THE SUICIDE ACT IN 1961!(Had to rewrite it because I thought I was wrong about the date) But anyways, it would've been okay for mr.incredible to save the man who tried commiting suicide BECAUSE IT WAS THE LAW

  8. breaking news: japan no 1 hero, symbol of peace, which happen to have american nasionality. Unleash atack compareable to small nuclear bomb in the middle of city while fighting villain

  9. But wait MatPat! (I feel the need to say something and to "add" to the youtube community) You said that it would still be hard to sue the government after 1946 and according to https://www.businessinsider.com richer people commit suicide less. So the man who attempted suicide probably wouldn't be able to scrape up enough money to sue the government.

  10. Suicide was also made illegal a year before or the same year(need to brush up on my suicide law) as the incredible was set

  11. I found this to be really interesting as do I all his videos and it I didn't get what the actual "film theory" was in this video

  12. 1947? Anyone else wonder if Mr. Incredible was given powers to fight in WW2… Meaning "the glory days" would only be 2 years…. And that Mr. Incredible is a parallel universe Captain America?

  13. I've seen this video before, but when he was going over the good samaritan law, it was so hard to keep myself from crying (at the historical examples, not the law itself…) 😭😭

  14. Fbi.: Alright every body we have two guys on our watch list one says he is gonna eat his family and the other made a video on how to sue the government.
    Every one else in the room: the guy who made the video because we are lazy.
    Matpat: CCCCRRRRAAAAPPPP!!!!!!!!

  15. Heyy……quick question, but has anyone pointed out yet that the background at 4:26 isn't a street in China but in Malaysia? Or is that something not worth pointing out? Just curious. (I also realise this is over a year late but hey, in case anyone sees it……)

  16. I never got why he was so mad and sued him like what’s the problem so what if his necks broken just coz he got saved doesn’t mean he’s not alowed to try to kill him self again and just end the pain

  17. King gourge be like : I will kill you friends and family

    Matpat : sounds like smt king gourge from Hamilton would say

    Me : king gourge be siping his tea while starting wars and overly obsessed with not following his own rules

  18. I sued Walmart for having a puddle with no wet floor sign. I ran across it, slipped on purpose, screamed my head off, and got paid.

  19. Another example of the smart writing is the fact that matpat didn't point out
    If you've seen the other video mat mentioned briefly that the train mr.incredible stops was being used from 1947_1985 so at the time of the flash back this train would've been new yes but a very possible module

  20. There's actually a simple law that states if you're attempting to save someone's life, no matter what, you aren't allowed to be sued or anything for that action. This applies to saving someone's life who was attempting to kill themselves. This doesn't mean you can rob a store to pay for someone's medication, or hijack am ambulance, or anything like that. This is required information to graduate high school in many states, as part of the CPR training program
    Nevermind, he mentions it right before the 3 minute mark.

  21. The problem is that the supreme court decision of 1975 did not make it legal, it just made a ruling on what already existed. and if you notice, the quote you used said that they found no reason to believe that act illegal… which means the only thing that changes in this universe is that the supreme court case on that gets moved up significantly.

  22. Facts
    1. It’s legal to stop a crime
    2. Destruction of government property is a crime
    3. Killing yourself is destruction of government property

  23. latest example, sweden, 2019, a man saved an elderly woman who was being attacked by a junkie, he smashed hes head when the junkie didnt respond to physical contakt (he tryed to pull him away from the woman) with a small metal pipe causing a small fracture, the man who tryed to save the woman (and did just that) got 2 years in prisson for assult! IN FUCKING SWEDEN!! :@ jezz we need that law!

  24. "Preventing Suicide can never be a Crime" Yeah, WRONG THOUGH… Of course, as a law it makes sense, but not if you phrase it like that, then it becomes Wrong. Just an extreme example to show what i mean: If you know that no one will rescue you from the Person that wants to Rape you for Years again and again and then Torture and Kill You, and send your Remains to your Family in a Cute Gift Box, and you Want to Commit Suicide to not experience this, he will surely Stop this so he can have more Fun. Preventing Suicide can possible be Wrong, is what I'm saying – not that it's most of the time so, no, but it IS Possible to be Wrong. -Just an example, don't pin me down on just that.

  25. ya wanna know something better? the government might enact those laws later, but the movie takes place in 1962.

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