It’s all the mad scientists’ fault: rant comparing The Incredibles, The Bee Season, The Hulk and Pi (the movie)

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It is particularly frustrating when a book or movie or other work of art or entertainment has clearly been CREATED by a gifted person and yet espouses the view that Giftedness is a Perversion that Must Be Stamped Out. In The Incredibles, a family has to (simultaneously) hide its genetic, extreme physical gifts (which, we are led to understand, is a very bad thing) and fight an evil genius who has designed and built devices of mass destruction. Society, including the Incredible Family, doesn’t recognize that the Evil Genius has any gifts at all. This Evil Genius is also short, the only physical characteristic that politically correct people are still allowed to make fun of these days.

In many gifted circles, the animated movie, The Incredibles is acclaimed as a metaphor for the treatment of gifted. “Just look at the Incredible Girl, Violet! Her invisibility is obviously symbolic. We are all forced to hide our giftedness,” they simper. “Just like the Incredibles.”

Wrong, not like the Incredibles.

The moral of The Incredibles is that athletic giftedness is not to be hidden. Intellectual giftedness, now, that is another story entirely.

In The Incredibles, it’s the “athletic types” who are encouraged to hide their gifts. The gifts that the “bad guy” is supposed to suppress have to do with his mental acumen which he uses to augment his physical characteristics, whereas the gifts that the “good guys” are suppressing are athletic — strength, speed, flexibility.

The Incredibles does not actually champion the gifted. In fact, in The Incredibles, as in most “modern” mad scientist plots, there’s a \”reason\” why the mad scientist got to be the way he is. (Bad mother, etc.) In the Incredibles, it was because the superhero dissed him. (Kind of like at Columbine, huh?)

In this, the message of The Incredibles is consistent with other messages of our society:

  • Bullying by the physically powerful is a-ok.
  • Hiding one’s physical accomplishments is not ok, and therefore encouraging football heroes to be humble is unnecessary.
  • Hiding our mental powers — those with extraordinary ones probably SHOULD do that much, for the comfort of others not comparably endowed.

The moral of this movie, as I saw it, was that athletic talents are unique but smart people are just evil and we need to nurture our physically strong people to keep the smart people in line.Have you heard that Bush’s new budget cuts subsidies for college loans, by the way? And increases the military budget. Hey, makes sense to me!

The Bee Season is another example of a genre of literature and entertainment which I call “Gifted/Unique People Hate Themselves and Others and, Because of Their Giftedness, Are A Danger to Others and Therefore Unfit to Live”. (The movie Pi is the worst of this genre that I’ve encountered, but there are many, many, many works that fit.)

Having foolishly believed the SF Chronicle’s extremely positive review of The Hulk last week, I dragged my 8 year old to see it. She cringed in her seat as the movie unfolded. The “highlight” for me was when the Hulk’s father, a brilliant but crazy scientist (all brilliant scientists are crazy, right???) tells the Hulk’s girlfriend, who is also a brilliant scientist, that his brilliant scientist son is amazing and unique and special and it’s admirable that she’s trying to be supportive of him — and then he tries to eliminate her.

Or, actually, it’s possible that that’s not exactly what happened in the movie, which is such a chaotic mess that I really couldn’t understand anyone’s motivations (and had to sit there for 2.5 hours trying to explain them to my 8 year old who was just devastated that a frog had blown up early in the movie. It’s ok to blow up frogs in a Good Movie, but to show a perfectly beautiful frog dying in a movie this bad is — criminal).

And The Hulk is SO bad that I refuse to ever see it again, so if any of you go to see it and care to explain the plot to me, please feel free.

ANYWAY in The Hulk, a whole SLEW of brilliant people spend approximately 2.5 hours trying to destroy, for no good reason whatsoever, others who they know are brilliant. Even the brilliant people who are related to each other hurt and betray and occasionally try to kill each other. It put the phrase “mindless violence” in an entirely new and unpleasant light for me.

I have recently been reading the book The Selfish Gene. And thinking How Cool It Would Be if gifted people who have attained positions in which they are privileged to create books and movies and other works that might influence up-and-coming generations would nurture the image of gifted people as People Who Love Their Gifted Children as much as other People Who Love Their Children. And who might create scientists and other intelligent people in literature who are NOT crazy-people-Driven-Mad-By-Their-Brilliance.

Aren’t the genes of gifted people Selfish too? Is it just the genes of gifted people in high positions in the Arts that feel the need to express the idea that gifted people are perversions, or is that what most of us feel about ourselves and our children?

Well, guess that’s the end of my rant. I enjoyed reading the Bee Season; finished it in a day and then — and I rarely do this — I destroyed it. It certainly is an intriguing book, but not one I’d encourage my gifted teenager to read.

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