Buddy Pine, the villain from The Incredibles, goes by the name Syndrome. But it's not really clear why.

Many of the other superheroes have names that are either fitting their abilities (e.g. Elastigirl, Frozone, ...) or generically heroic (e.g. Thunderman, Mr. Incredible, ...). But the name Syndrome seems on the one hand very generic, without a clear connection to his abilities and traits (be it as an Iron Man style inventor "hero", or even as a villain bound on eradicating all heroes), but on the other hand also remarkably unusual to suggest some deeper meaning above just denoting him as a villain.

So why does Buddy Pine go by the name Syndrome? How does this name relate to his personality, his abilities, or his goals? Does it more relate to his role as a (wannabe) superhero or his role as a supervillain (well, the word itself is certainly more negatively denoted)? Is this elaborated any further in the movie itself or maybe in external material? If not, are there at least reasonable conclusions to be drawn based on his character and his actions? Or is there not much of an in-universe explanation but at least commentary from the film-makers why they chose the name?

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    The answers below are very good for ooc reasons, and I agree with them. ic - look at the sort of person Buddy has always been. I think the answer, if you asked him, would be "What? Because it sounds cool! SYNNNNNDROME! Doesn't it just give you the tingles?" Commented Jul 22, 2016 at 17:00
  • I suspect Syndrome simply didn't want a name that sounds too much like the other super heroes. After all, he did grow up feeling betrayed by said heroes, so it makes sense he'd want to break their traditions of "I'm strong, so my name is 'Super Arms'", and "I'm amazing and wonderous, so I'll call myself 'The Amazing wonder'". PS: yes, I am aware that those names suck. But that's beside the point. Commented Jul 23, 2016 at 2:49

3 Answers 3


Like another of Brad Bird's films, Tomorrowland, The Incredibles is a very objectivist film.

Without getting bogged down in the details, objectivism is a philosophy that states people have no ethical or moral responsibilities to help anyone other than themselves, and that exceptional people shouldn't be held back by normal people.

It isn't hard to see how The Incredibles espouses that philosophy - it's a film about people who are better than most being forced to hide their abilities so that normal people don't feel threatened. Bob Parr expresses this this idea directly at one point in the film, when referring to his sons inability to play sports thanks to his powers;

"People keep coming up with new ways to celebrate mediocrity, but if someone is genuinely exceptional…"

Likewise, the evil plan that Syndrome undertakes can be summed up in one quote;

“When everyone’s super, no one will be.”

These quotes both speak to the idea that society at large is scared of those that are better than them, and will do anything it can to force a feeling of equality between those who are unequal in ability or talent.

Google defines the word "syndrome" as "a group of symptoms which consistently occur together, or a condition characterized by a set of associated symptoms".

Within the context of The Incredibles, Syndrome is what happens when the supers are forced underground - a symptom that society has been broken, or made ill, through placing limitations on what the truly exceptional can do. Here is a normal man who thinks he can compete with the supers, a belief reinforced by a society that limits the supers in order to make the normals feel better about themselves. Of course, he can't really, and it's left up to those who really are super to sort out the mess he created.

He could also be named after hero syndrome, which causes people to create desperate situations that they can resolve in search of recognition for their heroism - something Syndrome actually does in The Incredibles.

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    I think your last comment is right on the money, though I think the OP was going for an in-story answer.
    – Paul
    Commented Jul 22, 2016 at 14:14
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    I would hardly call Tomorrowland an Objectivist-leaning film; quite the opposite in fact, as the strongest, most overarching theme of the story is that those who have the ability to help to fix societal problems have a moral obligation to do so! If anything, it's a stark illustration of what happens when people who think that they don't owe anything to anyone beyond themselves are allowed to gain power: they end up almost destroying the world with their shortsightedness! Commented Jul 22, 2016 at 18:54
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    @MasonWheeler The idea that society only works when the exceptional aren't limited by normal people is a core belief of Objectivism. Regardless of how The Incredibles dresses that up as "trust me, all the exceptional want to do is help us normal folk", it's still very much supporting an objectivist world view. Commented Jul 23, 2016 at 9:54
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    @JoshCaswell This interview with Brad Bird quotes him saying "I felt people got silly with their analysis of it, the Ayn Rand nonsense for example", but I'd argue that doesn't really matter. Even if he'd never heard of Ayn Rand before that day, his films seem to indicate that his world view aligns with the tenets of that philosophy. I'd argue that regardless of intention, it's certainly an overt aspect of both The Incredibles and Tommorowland, as many other people have also noticed. Commented Jul 24, 2016 at 10:39
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    A speculation: Buddy Pine's self-chosen monicker is a comment on the medicalization of abherrant behaviour in young people. Given his strange behaviour as a child it is likely that he was diagnosed/labelled with various syndromes or conditions. Commented Oct 17, 2016 at 10:11

I would say that, Syndrome was chosen for his name because he is the embodiment of the term hero syndrome.

As defined there, hero syndrome refers to the phenomenon in which someone seeks recognition by creating a problem that only he can fix and thus getting praises. That right there is the root of Buddy's plan of creating a robot that only he can stop so that he gets recognition as a hero when he wins.


Hero syndrome:

people who seek heroism or recognition, usually by creating a desperate situation which they can resolve. This can include unlawful acts, such as arson.

Essentially, it's wanting to be a Hero. (but being a false hero just for praise/recognition)

Syndrome does exactly that at the end of the movie. Showing how much he wanted to be a superhero. He was after the praise by defending the people from his own robot. And very poorly acted out, which was likely directed that way specifically, to further express Hero Syndrome at work. Syndrome trying to make himself look all awesome, destroying it with single punches.

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    It looks like @RyanMcPherson already posted this answer. Could you possibly suggest an edit to that answer instead of adding a new one?
    – LevenTrek
    Commented Apr 7, 2018 at 1:08

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