My Own “Bao” and the new Incredibles Movie (spoilers!)

Honestly, going into the new Incredibles movie I wasn’t really expecting much. Pixar doesn’t exactly have the best history with sequels, and the trailers had made the movie feel a lot like another tired review of family life. I rushed into the theater 10 minutes late, thanks to the hellhole known as LA parking, and barely clambered into my seat just as the short began. And boy, am I glad I wasn’t any more late, because this story hit very close to home.

I remember watching the very opening scenes, of the mother waking up early in the morning to make bao, and thinking, “Wow, this reminds me of Grandma.” Her expression, as she breathed out the window after her labors, was one I had seen many times before, of tired not-quite-contentment and almost aimlessness. I remember watching her cook in the kitchen, kneading dough and ground meat as the smell of steaming dumplings gently wafted around the house.

As the bao grew up and slowly splintered away from his mother, I laughed hard. Yep, I had definitely done that before. But I slowly grew more and more unnerved. When the bao brought home his non-Asian girlfriend, I froze. This wasn’t a story about my grandmother. This was a story about my mother.

As a first generation Asian American, I had never really thought about what my parents felt about raising kids here. Coming to a new country would definitely be stressful. But watching your kids become people in some ways fundamentally different from you must be even harder.

I remember recently, I was watching Friends (and having a great time), and my mom walked in and said, “I can’t believe you watch that show, don’t turn out like them, ok?” I remember bringing home my non-Asian ex-girlfriend for the first time, and my mother being very confused on what to do. I remember feeling not so happy about these incidents, but I can’t begin to imagine what my parents felt.

I’ve always felt a bit self-conscious about how little I talk to my parents, compared to others I know. Many of my friends call their parents every day, while I don’t even get to an eighth of that. Maybe this is part of why.

The short just felt so real to me. At least in many Asian families I know, we are not the most affectionate people — we are never particularly physical in showing how we feel towards other people, and I really think Bao showed that well. The family bonds are always implicit. It was perfect, that Incredibles 2 followed this short in that regards; we got to see an almost stereotypical American family deal with their own problems.

There’s a part of the story missing though, for me and my mom. At the end of the short, the boy goes home and brings his mother some pastries, to show that he still is the same person she once raised. Maybe I’ll do that, too.