I really love The Incredibles. I was extremely excited when I learned there would be a sequel. As the June 15 release date approaches, I’ve been consuming as much teaser content as possible. The first teaser trailer, featuring little Jack Jack was adorable. So naturally, when the longer, extended version was released, I pressed play, ready to be engrossed in the world of the Parr family and their super powers.
And I was all in. Helen, the wife and mother of the crew, has traded in her housewife duties to go out into the world to save it. Women as heroes? Women in the workplace, while the man stays home and takes care of the kids? Here for it. I was thoroughly enjoying the trailer until the very end, when Samuel L. Jackson’s character Frozone tells Bob Parr, Mr. Incredible, that he’ll be somewhere ASAP. Honey Best, Frozone’s wife, voiced by Kimberly Adair Clark, responds. Honey, who has never been seen in the films, calls out from elsewhere in the house, “Where you going ASAP?! You better be back ASAP?” Frozone rolls his eyes and that’s the end of it, the entire trailer.
I won’t lie it left a bad taste in my mouth, one because wives are so often depicted as “nagging” and annoying but also because this Black woman was giving stereotypical Black woman attitude. And it’s all so played out. Then, there’s the fact that because we never see her, we don’t know any other aspects of her personality outside from her complaining about her husband’s work. She had a similar line in the trailer for the first film. In fact, throughout the first movie, Frozone and Honey argue about whether or not his work is taking him away from her. She’s preparing for a dinner when he has to run out and save the world. He tells her he’s working for the “greater good.” And she responds, “I am your wife! I’m the greatest good you’re ever going to get.”
The line is good, I can’t lie. It would just be nice to know more about this character.
During promotion of the film, DaVette See, for Black Girl Nerds, asked the film’s writer and director Brad Bird, about his decision to never show Honey.
He said, “She’s funnier as a voice.We actually went through all the trouble of designing a character and the design appears in the movie but not as Frozone’s wife. We have used her design and she is a hero but there’s not a lot of screen time though.”
Monique Jones, of Shadow and Act, explained why this type of thinking is so disappointing.
“Saying Honey’s funnier as a voice might seem like a simple directorial decision to help the story, but black women are underrepresented in animation as it is; does it have to be compounded by a conscious decision to include the voice of a black woman but not her face? How could seeing Honey make the moments between her and Frozone any less hilarious? We get to see Elastigirl and Mr. Incredible interact; why not have similar dynamics between Frozone and his wife?”
I think that last point about the interaction between one couple and the lack thereof for another is important. We get to see Mr. and Mrs. Incredible have a full relationship. They argue, they disappoint and correct one another and then they ultimately come back to love. From what we’ve heard from Honey, the Black couple either don’t have that type of healthy and normal relationship. Or if they do, it’s not what we see. Instead, it’s more of the same, when it comes to Black women: nagging, loud,—Honey is always screaming because the two are never in the same room together—and attitudinal. I get that every character can’t feature prominently in a film. But if she’s going to have a minor, unseen role, it would be nice if writers didn’t rely on cliches.
Jones also brings up the cringeworthiness from Bird’s comments, “Bird saying he and his team “actually went through all of the trouble” of designing a black character and not prominently featuring her is troublesome.”
I went to a Pixar exhibit, it takes an exceptioonal amount of work to design, animate and light a character. But describing the work to design a Black woman as “trouble” was at best, a poor choice of words and, at worst, an indication of how White men in Hollywood feel when it comes to developing diverse characters for their projects.
I get that Honey provides a great source of comic relief. Black women are funny. No one has a problem with us being used to solicit a laugh. I just wish that we weren’t always relegated to being sassy to get it.