Cable clutter at Insuracare in The Incredibles

While re-watching The Incredibles this past weekend, I noticed something particularly interesting about Bob’s cubicle workspace at Insuracare, where he worked as a claims adjuster. If you look at the back of his computer monitor, you will notice about 20 different cables coming out of the back. It’s amazing how such a small detail really adds to the feeling of bleakness in his job situation.

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If you’ll remember, the film was released over a year before Disney’s 2006 acquisition of Pixar, while Steve Jobs was still the Chairman and CEO, which almost leaves me wondering if the shot was some kind of subliminal attempt to sell us on the merits of the iMac and its single power cable (at least when used with a bluetooth mouse and keyboard).

Can you think of any other scenes in movies where the disorganization of an environment is purposefully used to create a particular mood or sense of anxiety?

30 Comments for “Cable clutter at Insuracare in The Incredibles”

  1. posted by Micah on

    Can’t think of any other movies that portray messiness, but Pixar is almost definitely in bed with Apple. They purposely intended EVE from WALL*E to look like an apple product, as evidenced by her sleek design, soft white glow and even her boot up sound.

  2. posted by Michael on

    Brazil.

    Disorganization, clutter, and waste are central themes in the movie.

  3. Avatar of PJ Doland

    posted by PJ Doland on

    Whenever I see Brazil I always laugh when Mr. Warenn says, “What is this mess? An empty desk is an efficient desk.”

    Not a clean desk, but an empty desk.

    It gets me every time.

  4. posted by Emma on

    I’d not noticed that in the incredibles before. He wouldn’t get workspace of the week would he ;)

  5. posted by Hiram Carden on

    The opening sequence of “Joe Versus the Volcano” is a great take on the modern workplace. I particularly liked the horrible lighting and the power of signage.

  6. posted by Miki on

    I am writing from an Imac right now, and I can tell you: things get cluttered up just the same using this nice pc than using a regular one. You only have three usb ports, so if you need more, you havo to add an external usb hub (one wire) powered by itself maybe (another wire) and then you proceed to attach a microphone, headphones, printer…

    Clutter is everywhere!

  7. posted by Peter (one of many ; ) on

    The one cable iMac is possible if…You do not have a cable modem, printer, or an USB Hub (as Miki mentions). I love my iMac but, clutter is still and issue.

  8. Avatar of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    I love how the image posted with the article is all dull in color. It really goes a long way to set the scene of a dismal workspace.

  9. posted by Peter (a different one) on

    I used to edit video on a Mac, but once you add the external storage drives, FireWire enabled video decks, monitors (speakers) and external video monitors, well, lots of cables is an understatment!

    @Hiram – great example, I forgot all about Joe versus the Volcano, but you are right, what a bleak depiction of a workspace!

  10. posted by EngineerMom on

    The engine room aboard the Firefly in the show with the same title. The whole engine looks cobbled together, and in one episode, Kayleee, the mechanic, is doing something and ends up with wires strung all over the engine room and parts everywhere. It’s definitely intended to set the mood that this is a down-and-out spacecraft filled with people who can barely afford to feed themselves, let alone keep their equipment in tip-top condition.

  11. posted by timgray on

    @miki It’s because you are buying the wrong parts.

    I have all those goodies and no cables. need a microphone? bluetooth headset. You pay a little more for wireless but the imac and current powermacs support it well.

  12. posted by Danielle on

    Yes, in Marley and Me. As they started having kids the kitchen counter was cluttered, toys on the floor in the hallway, the bed wasn’t made, etc.

  13. posted by Mac on

    Blade Runner is full of cluttered imagery adding to the dystopian feel of the movie. I’m sure the mentioned but not seen “Off-World Colony” is clutter free…or at least advertised that way.

    Also Soylent Green is set in an especially gritty and cluttered landscape and is tremendously depressing.

    It’s interesting to note that while Bob’s workspace is cluttered it, like the rest of the film, has the clean lines of 1950’s design (with the cables being the exception). This helps even the cluttered bookcase behind him seem neater.

    This is a very different type of clutter then a few of the movies mentioned in this thread, including Blade Runner and Soylent Green, where garbage as a sign of social decay is the primary clutter.

    Clutter is also often used in movies to represent immaturity as with the stereotypical messy kids room or a focus towards mental pursuits, disregarding the physical space such as a mad scientist’s lab (Back to the Future).

    The opening scenes of Pump Up the Volume provides even another use of clutter to set mood as the angst-ridden pirate radio DJ played by Christian Slater has clutter about his room but I think this is more intended to represent a rebellion against the seemingly well ordered lives of the adults in the movie.

  14. posted by Mac on

    There’s also a brilliant take on clutter in the movie Labyrinth where the protagonist played by Jennifer Connelly is made to see that all of the things she’s been collecting through her childhood into her teens don’t have the sentimental value they once had when confronted by an old woman (puppet) that carries all of her horded belongings on her back to the point where it has hunched her over.

    This is a very heavy-handed message, but effective.

    Clearly I could go on on this topic all day, but I’ll stop now. ;)

  15. posted by KateNonymous on

    It’s been said before, but I’ve got to put in yet another vote for Joe Versus the Volcano. I once worked in a cubicle so gloomy (grey walls, taupe writing surface, facing a grey bookcase, backed by a 10-foot-tall bookcase blocking the overhead light) that my spirits literally drooped every time I walked in. Sometimes I would find my boss standing in my cubicle muttering, “I had no idea it would turn out like this.” Until I switched cubicles, the only thing that made it bearable was–yes–the desk lamps I added. But unlike Joe, I needed three. I was told that the result looked like the lighting department at Sears.

  16. posted by Dustin on

    Definitely: Harvey Pekar’s apartment in the movie American Splendor… especially so right when his new girlfriend Joyce comes to live with him…

  17. posted by Kelly on

    The opposite can evoke a certain mood, too. I’m thinking of “Sleeping with the Enemy” where he’s hyper-organized, on the OCD side, which is directly tied to the tension and suspense of the movie.

  18. posted by Another Deb on

    I guess the Miss Havisham character in Great Expectations ( I only saw the movie) is a pretty good example of hanging on to clutter you are never going to need. Plus it can be a fire hazard!

    My favorite line from the Incredibles is when the wife gleefully calls her husband to announce that she has finally unpacked the last box from their move (and it’s been about 20 years since they moved).

  19. posted by Battra92 on

    I’d much prefer to work in his cube than in my purple colored zone of death.

    As far as Macs and their cable clutter (or lack thereof) it really comes at a price. I can’t use my favorite IBM Model M keyboard without a cord (and an adapter) nor can I upgrade my monitor if I want to. Macs are also a heck of a lot more expensive.

    I love my macbook, don’t get me wrong but when I want all in one, I’ll just use a laptop. For everything else I ‘ll just have to wrangle my cables. I have considered cutting and re soldering them into custom lengths but that’d just be silly. ;)

    Another Deb: I think it was 2 years actually since they had to keep moving due to their super powers being discovered.

  20. posted by Katherine on

    Office Space. I love when he cuts down his ‘wall’… that is one way to get rid of clutter.

    Everyone should have a red stapler :)

  21. posted by Lori Paximadis on

    How funny — I just introduced my 9-year-old niece to The Incredibles on our sleepover last night. I think the final scene in the extra Jack-Jack Attack sums this up well. :-)

  22. posted by Jen H. on

    No spoilers, but in Pixar’s most recent film, Up, decluttering saves the day.

  23. posted by sue on

    9 to 5 with the ultra strict rules about sterile desks and the upsurge in productivity with the relaxation of the rules.

  24. posted by Albert on

    Another one from the opposite end of the spectrum: In Hard Candy, Jeff entire home is clean and decorated in a homey yet minimalist style. This helps his image at the beginning of the film, laying seeds of doubt in the audience’s minds as to whether his intentions are as malicious as they’d thought they’d be. His appearance, car, seemingly legitimate career, and past relationship with Janelle (his age, for those who haven’t seen the movie) do the same.

  25. posted by Timbuk on

    The Royal Tennenbaums is a good example of clutter and hoarding being indicative of emotional problems.

  26. posted by Vicki K. on

    I’m with Jen, the new movie UP has a rather poignant decluttering message (among others).

  27. posted by Sahara Desert on

    Office Space! More the moral than the tidyness (or not) of the office though. And the TPS reports.

  28. posted by Sahara Desert on

    @Mac Excellent point re. Labyrinth. At 30 years old I’ve overcome a similar issue by having a single box on a shelf devoted to my small items and paper (such as letters and important birthday cake decorations) to help me trapse down memory lane. Larger items have been subjected to strict critique and those that survived are presented on my two bookshelves.

  29. posted by Deborah Marchant on

    Mommy Dearest – “Nooo Wiirreee Haannggerrss!”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....re=related

    The Miracle Worker
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHwoRFe70jk

    Parenthood
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RgrbuRNc-AQ

    Close Encounters of the Third Kind
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTS3M0FrgdA

    Stepford Wives
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....8;index=47

    Wizard of Oz
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKrJoih_uCQ

    Planet of the Apes – The Ending
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31QUOUxqz2M

  30. posted by Discordianist on

    For me first thing that came to mind was Brazil, clutter everywhere and the dystopia can be felt right to the beat. Also the otherwise quit lame take on a classic piece of literature, 1984 from 1984 has clutter as a way of setting the dystopian tone.

    On the other side of spectrum the American Psycho has a cleanest possible apartment and dirtiest possible mind combined. Perfect vision of late ’80s.

    Those came first in mind but there are plenty of others as people have pointed out. Maybe this could be a start of sub-genre of this blog, how is clutter portrait in movies and what kind of effect does clutter have on theme and feel of the surroundings. Then making comparisons to real life situations where appropriate.

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