Friday, June 21, 2013

Reel Connections: The Origins of Edna Mode in "The Incredibles" (2004): Edith Head?

I'm back to discussing character inspiration because I enjoyed it so much. This time, I'm going to talk about one of my personal favorite animated movies, Pixar's 2004 comedic masterpiece, The Incredibles. In specific, I'm going to cover the much-discussed origins of one of the favorite characters: Edna Mode. 
Everyone has seen The Incredibles by now, so I'm not going to insult anyone with a film summary, but I will indulge in a little character summary. A very brief summary. In the Incredibles universe, Edna Mode is a successful avant-garde fashion designer. Her specialty, however, is designer the "super-suits" of the superheroes that exist within town. It's her "shadow-work," if you will, and also apparently her greatest pleasure. In the film, after she's been retired from "hero-work" for years, she returns to redesign suits for the whole Parr family, the titular Incredibles. 
Edna is perhaps my favorite Pixar characters. She's such a burst of energy and brings so much humor to every scene she's in. First off, her appearance is ridiculously hysterical. She's a tiny little ball of energy, with a ridiculous bob, giant circular glasses, and her little utilitarian outfit. 
But perhaps, it's not so ridiculous. Because, there is one real-life woman who certainly acted as the inspiration for Edna Mode, and I wouldn't dare call her ridiculous. Actually, I lied. There are two possible candidates, but, in my mind, there is only one. Decide for yourself. 

1. Anna Wintour: Editor-in-Chief of Vogue


Not to insult, Ms. Wintour, but I personally feel that she had minimal influence on Edna's appearance. Granted, she is in the fashion field, a lioness in the fashion field, if you will. And certainly, she does have that iconic little bob. 
But, to her credit, Ms. Wintour is too chic to be the direct inspiration of the Edna character. And to be clear,  she already inspired another of my favorite film characters: the infamous Miranda Priestly, in The Devil Wears Prada. I think one character inspiration is enough for any noteworthy figure, don't you?

2. Edith Head: Legendary Hollywood Costume Designer



I'll be honest, the moment I started this post, I didn't plan on giving a completely unbiased presentation of the evidence. That's because, in my mind, when you compare the real-life genius, Edith Head to the animated-genius Edna Mode, the likeness is uncanny. 

I mean, the likeness is... incredible, don't you think. The black bob, the circular glasses, the dowdiness, not to mention the incredible quality of her work. I'm talking of Edith Head, mind you. While, Edna is certainly funny to poke fun at, Edith Head is certainly no laughing matter. 
Recognize it?

I can't pretend to have a knowledge of fashion, but at the same time, I can't help but admire Ms. Head's work. It reeks of sophistication and class. It's living art. 

Edith Head is by no means an unknown figure. During her career she won scores of Oscars for her work. She also designed for some of the great directors, notably Alfred Hitchcock, and some of the most beautiful leading ladies of the day, including Grace Kelly, Bette Davis, and Lucille Ball: just to mention a few. You could say, she designed for the real-life superheroes of her day: the legendary stars of Hollywood's golden years. 

So to sum it up, while Anna Wintour made of made a slight impression on the animators, I think it's clear that to design a super-designer, the animators turned to a real-life superhero in the world of Hollywood fashion design: Edith Head. 

I really enjoyed discussing character inspiration, though I must admit the logic behind my arguments are certainly not original. I do feel that they are put together best here, but I just must make it clear that I am not the originator of these arguments.

1 comment:

  1. Love this animated film and love it even more because it pays homage to films of the past in so many respects, not the smallest of which is remembering Edith Head in spirit and in resemblance. Edna Mode, though her role is a supporting one, is a stand out character in a film full of stand outs.

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