Last night, my family and I saw Disney/Pixar’s Incredibles 2, a movie we had all been looking forward to seeing for months. We were excited to see the characters again and wondered how the sequel would compare to the original film, which was shown shortly before in a double feature. After last night, I can say that the movie is unlike anything I have ever seen before, in that the villain’s weapon of choice can hurt not only characters on-screen, but can also hurt the people in the audience as well. The weapon? Continuous sequences of rapidly flashing/strobing lights.
Scene description (NO SPOILERS)
There are at least five scenes throughout the movie, all of which feature the villain, that use bright white flashing/strobe lights for more than fifteen seconds, with at least one scene going over 90 seconds in continuous strobing lights. These lights stay at their rapidly flashing speed in the entirety of these scenes, which are scattered throughout the movie. My brother estimated the light flashes being as fast as 3 flashes per second.
Why is this an issue?
Many different populations can be sensitive to flashing and strobing lights, not just people with photosensitive epilepsy. Here is a small sampling of conditions that can be affected:
- Vision impairment
- Seizure conditions
- Vertigo (specifically flicker vertigo)
Even people who do not have these conditions or have a history of them can still have an adverse reaction to strobe lights. This risk is increased for children and young adults. Read more about conditions that can be affected by strobe lights in my post about camera flashes in restaurants here.
Signs of adverse strobe reactions
Some common signs of adverse strobe reactions include:
- Blank staring
- Garbled speech
- Muscle twitching
- Loss of consciousness
- Large amount of pain centralized in head
- Light sensitivity
- Temporary visual auras (blindness, double vision, floaters)
This post is not a replacement for medical advice. If you begin experiencing any of these symptoms please seek appropriate medical attention.
How descriptive audio helped
Since I am visually impaired, I use descriptive audio devices provided by my theater to get descriptions of visual information on screen. One of the hidden benefits is that I had a warning about scenes involving strobe lights ahead of time, so I could close my eyes and avoid them. While the descriptive audio did not warn me about all of the flashing lights used in the film, I know that had I not had descriptive audio, I would have had to leave the movie early. Read more about going to movies with vision impairment here.
Isn’t there a flashing light warning in place?
As of publishing time, there is no warning in place about the intense flashing/strobing light effects in Incredibles 2. There are warnings attached to many other media types when strobe and flashing lights are present for long periods of time, such as video games, live concerts, music videos, and even certain theme park attractions, but there are typically no formal or informal warnings in place for movies, and none for Incredibles 2. In addition, I do not know of any apps that provide information about flashing lights in movies.
What can be done about this?
I am not asking for Disney and/or Pixar to remove the movie from theaters, nor am I asking them to change the movie to get rid of the strobing lights (though they certainly can if they want to!). I would like for these companies as well as movie theaters to issue a warning to guests purchasing tickets that this movie has a significant amount of strobing lights that can cause adverse health effects, especially in young children. Families have the right to be able to make informed decisions about movies and to determine if this is safe for their children to watch.
Update June 19
After this post went viral, Disney/Pixar sent a notice to theaters asking them to put up a sign warning guests about the flashing light scenes! This is amazing and I am so glad they listened to me and hundreds of others who helped to get this message across.
Should I see Incredibles 2?
This post is not a call to boycott Incredibles 2, or any other Disney/Pixar movies- after all, Pixar did create a visually impaired character I could relate to, which you can read more about here. Despite the large amount of strobe lights, my family and I really enjoyed watching Incredibles 2, and thought that the script was brilliant, with the movie being very well done. If it wasn’t for the large amount of strobes, we would give it a 10/10. However, due to the amount of flashing/strobe lights, I recommend carefully considering whether to watch this movie or not, especially if you have young children.