52

It didn't "hit" me before Incredibles 2, but why is everyone (or at least the Parr family and Edna Mode) surprised that Jack-Jack has powers?

While this answer doesn't really explain where Supers get their powers from, it concludes that two Supers should produce a Super, which is true for Violet and Dash (and then for Jack-Jack obviously).

Like I said, if I only ask the question now, it's because in Incredibles 2, Edna once said something like "It often happens that baby Supers have multi powers, but not that much", which accentuates the fact that baby Super have powers!

So, why is everyone so surprised that Jack-Jack has powers?

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    good question, especially since in the first film, Edna "didn't know the baby's powers, so [she] covered the basics" when she created the new suits for the family. She assumed at the time that Jack Jack did / would have powers. Maybe powers are expected to present even earlier than they have for Jack? – NKCampbell Jul 18 '18 at 13:28
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    Late bloomer? Maybe most Super children show powers even earlier. – PlutoThePlanet Jul 18 '18 at 13:29
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    I think "excited to see him use powers" might be more accurate than "surprised that he has powers." (Although I'll admit some of the dialogue certainly suggested the latter.) As a new father to a currently 18 month old baby, I fully expected that she would learn to walk in time, but that didn't reduce my enthusiasm upon seeing her do it for the first time. – Steve-O Jul 18 '18 at 14:00
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    @VBartilucci Violet vanishes but is still solid - paint your baby blue and never loose her again Child Protection Services knocking at my door – Jenayah Jul 18 '18 at 16:38
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    Doesn't the phrase, "...but not that much," indicate that it's not just the fact that he has powers that's surprising, it's the amount of power that he has? – Octopus Jul 18 '18 at 17:27
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Supers are usually born with their powers.

The only explanation for why the family is so surprised is that if he were to have them at all, they should have manifested long before then. Since they hadn't, the family just assumes he's powerless:

VIOLET

Normal? What do you know about normal? What does anyone in this family know about normal?

HELEN

Now, wait a minute, young lady.

VIOLET

We act normal, mom. I wanna be normal! The only normal one is Jack-Jack, and he's not even toilet trained.

[Jack-Jack laughing]

The Incredibles Script

Edna assumed he did have powers which tells us (along with the fact that Dash and Violet were powered) that it was common for children of supers to be supers themselves:

HELEN

What on earth do you think the baby will be doing?!

E

Well, I'm sure I don't know, darling. Luck favors the prepared. I didn't know the baby's powers, so I covered the basics.

HELEN

Jack-Jack doesn't have any powers.

E

No? Well, he'll look fabulous anyway.

The Incredibles Script

No one - including Edna - seems all that fazed, though, that he doesn't have powers which to me implies that it wasn't horribly uncommon to be born powerless, just that it was far more unlikely that powers manifest so late.

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    @LordFarquaad - I never said all supers. The big, bold heading says usually, in fact. – TheIronCheek Jul 18 '18 at 19:43
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    From the sounds of it, Edna was acting like she believed Helen, when she knew that Jack Jack was bound to develop powers at some point – Sydney Sleeper Jul 19 '18 at 0:17
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    I get how Violet's powers could have manifested from birth (maybe she was even born invisible, or in a force bubble, due to the trauma of childbirth) but how does super-fast running show up in an infant? – 1006a Jul 19 '18 at 4:16
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    @1006a you ever watch an infant play? Before they can even hold things? They flail their arms and legs. That flailing would be an early indicator of his speed powers. – Nelson Jul 19 '18 at 6:18
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    I seem to recall that in an earlier version of The Incredibles, seen on the special features of the DVD, Syndrome shows up at the Parr house to steal an infant Violet, who turns invisible – Giuseppe Jul 19 '18 at 16:26
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This is a little speculation on my part but:

At the end of the first movie, we saw Jack-Jack transform but I guess that everyone on the ground apparently didn't. As the audience, we typically get more information than the characters do.

And Helen repeatedly said, "What's happening?? Something's happening!" And by the time Bob threw Helen to Jack-Jack he transformed back before anyone saw what really happened.

Although what makes this really hard to believe is the baby sitter; she repeatedly said that Jack-Jack is fine but weird things are happening and your baby has "special needs"

So between the baby sitter's reactions and Jack-Jack managing to escape from Syndrome, that should have been enough for Helen and Bob to realize Jack-Jack has powers but they failed to notice. Why? Because apparently they never actually saw him manifest and perhaps they are too stressed out as parents and super heroes to notice; i.e. the fog of war so to speak...

I will also add that people believe exactly what they want to believe and everyone was adamant that Jack-Jack didn't have any powers. That's called confirmation bias and it can be difficult to overcome.

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    Solid points. Also, it's easy for us to not notice "different" behavior when we, ourselves, are use to a abnormalities for society that are common to us as individuals. Keep in mind the whole family was otherwise a bunch of supers. Getting a call from the babysitter while in the middle of a high-stress situation might have allowed Helen to write it off quicker than, well, any normal human would have-- super/strange things have probably been happening to her and around her her whole life, so the phone call was probably easy to forget in her long term memory. It was just "life happening". – RLH Jul 18 '18 at 15:09
  • I feel like you might be putting too much meaning behind the baby sitter's confusing phone calls and someone who's trying to fly that drops a baby. I've held several babies many times, and a baby doesn't need super powers to try to escape out of an adult's arms, particularly a distracted adult. They're aspiring escape artists. – Ellesedil Jul 18 '18 at 19:01
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    The baby sitter's confusing phones calls are just that: confusing. This is where your confirmation bias comes in, but a confusing phone call isn't really enough evidence to change "known" facts. But, why didn't the Parrs follow up with the sitter afterwards? That's the real mystery here and should have been one of the first things they did once the Syndrome stuff settled down as opposed to going to an elementary school track meet. – Ellesedil Jul 18 '18 at 19:03
  • @Ellesedil In the first movie we see Jack jack's powers. He changes, and if I remember right catches on fire? – coteyr Jul 18 '18 at 20:44
3

In the DC and Marvel universes, there are tests for the metagene and mutant gene, respectively. It's possible that while the powers may not manifest at birth (or god help them, in utero), they can test for whether or not they have the genetic markers that they will have powers. Jack-jack's powers are so weird and random that they may not have shown up in the tests, so they assumed he had none.

It's possible, as others have said, that the powers may manifest later, but the test would at least let them know they should be expected.

The idea of a baby with powers being the norm opens up an amazing assortment of story ideas. Kari, the quick-thinking baby-sitter from the first film should have been an absolute find for the Parrs, not to mention for any family of Supers.

  • 1
    Two comments on this: 1/ Supers being forbidden, I don't see the government/doctors/etc handing supergene detectors. I also don't see Elastigirl agreeing to put her baby (babies) to whatever test there could be. On the other hand, I totally see Mr Incredible putting the baby through 15x more tests once the first failed :p 2/ I'm not sure what you mean with your last sentence, but Kari had her memory wiped. See the (brilliant) Jack-Jack attacks short film. – Jenayah Jul 18 '18 at 15:39
  • There is still a government agency in charge of tracking and hiding Super activity, of which Rick Dicker is an agent. So I'll bet any such tests are available through them. I'd bet such a test is no more difficult than a blood test, or any of the other standard tests performed on a newborn. And as I tried to explain, Kari SHOULD have been recruited by Rick as a valuable asset, and not wiped. – VBartilucci Jul 18 '18 at 15:50
  • I'd argue that developing such a test implies guinea pigs, scientists, and a bunch of other people, lots of persons in the loop for (I think) not so many potential super-babies. But I'm putting too much thinking into a children's movie :p (not trying to be condescending towards the franchise, I love it and rushed to the theaters for second one :p ). Thanks for the explanation for your last sentence! – Jenayah Jul 18 '18 at 16:36
  • And such research would likely have been done back when Supers were legal. Indeed, you could argue that being able to check if someone has/will have powers becomes MORE important when they're illegal, so the tests would be all the more necessary. As for putting too much thinking into a children's movie...welcome to the Internet. – VBartilucci Jul 18 '18 at 17:30
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    I'd drop both of those for a Frozone comic. Even better, a "Frozone meets Honey" comic. Where you never actually see Honey. – Jenayah Jul 19 '18 at 22:34
2

I'm a parent, and my wife is a parent. Of the same children. We were delighted when each of our kids got a tooth, spoke a word, walked a step. Honestly, you'd think they'd invented teeth. It's just how parents are.

And there are characteristics that set us apart from the general run of mankind. When a kid -- completely unsurprisingly -- exhibits one of these characteristics, we're over the moon. It's really just in the nature of having a baby.

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    Delight is rather different to surprise, though. You wouldn’t be shocked to see your children get their first tooth, you wouldn’t be surprised when the spoke their first word and walked a step (at least not the same kind of surprise, of course you’d be shocked they’d finally done it, but you would’ve expected it at some point). The question is effectively asking why no one expected Jack Jack to get powers – Edlothiad Jul 20 '18 at 15:10

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