Hello my Imaginary Friends,
I’ve been watching Scorpion, it’s a fun procedural show. The storylines feel pulled from bad pulp novels but the characters are lovable and interesting. But it has me thinking about Intelligence.
It seems one of the new trends in movies and TV is the stereotype “Genius” (Warning Link goes to TV Tropes). Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a new trend but it seems to have gotten new traction the past few years.
There seems to be two major types of “Geniuses” on TV the charming superbrain who is based off of Sherlock Holmes and the broken super-intellect.
Almost all the brainy detective types on TV are based off of Sherlock Holmes. Monk, Mentalist, Forever, Elementary, etc…
Most of the super-intellects that are broken are in cast centred shows. They vary from the mildly socially awkward but smoking hot Felicity from Arrow, to the broken and unable to function without help of Steve Urkle.
Does television have it right? Does a higher IQ mean you have to give up other parts of you mind? No!
The characters of Big Bang Theory are just more interesting to watch for television audiences than a true genius.
Not only are they more interesting, they are more comforting. They always have something the audience can feel they are better at, even if it’s just seeing their own limitations. The audience thinks, I might not be able to understand string theory but they feel superior because they can comfort a friend.
Deus Ex Genius
In a story, it’s easy to believe that the character can determine the chemical composition of slime with their science kit in their parent’s basement, easy as long as the character is smart.
A weak writing plot is to have your super genius work like the hand of god to fix anything. If you’re going to do this make sure you build up that your character has been studying the area of science that you’ll be using. Just because someone is smart doesn’t mean they know how to do surgery.
The Lies of Intelligence
Let me tell you a secret…
Intelligence is as hard to define as Talent and they are both destructive.
The general idea of genius or intelligence is that you have it or you don’t. That is total Poodoo. If you work, study, and dedicate yourself to something you will become an expert in that field. Intelligence isn’t something you’re born with any more than being able to drive a car or lift a hundred pounds.
I’ve had teachers tell me it was ok that I was getting 50-60 per cent on tests because I just wasn’t that smart. That’s the greatest excuse to give up. It’s also a total lie. I’ve taken IQ tests and I’m firmly in the “Above Average” category. But those tests check for logic and problem solving skills. Those are skills, learned skills.
Robots are smart, logical, and have no emotions. So are certain Vulcans. It’s just another lie. Intelligence doesn’t depend on how little emotion you show. It’s not an either or situation. Both can exist in the same person. Some of the smartest people have been highly emotional.
Einstein said, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”
Who’s your favourite fictional Genius?