Thursday, January 27, 2011

I'm smarter than most people in general, so I'm definitely smarter than everyone else who has seen this movie.

I read a (possibly made up) statistic once that something like 75% of surveyed Americans believed that they were smarter than the average American. Now certainly, perhaps the sample group for this survey was in fact composed of above-average Americans. But generally speaking, this is impossible, if we accept that the "average" represents middle value of the data set. If 75% of people were on one side, and 25% on the other, then "average" wouldn't be a true middle.

Knowing what I know about people, and observing time and time again interactions with strangers where it's not just that someone makes a mistake -- it's that s/he is a MORON -- this kind of illuminating survey doesn't surprise me at all.

I think about that idea of most people thinking they're smarter than most other people almost every time I read pop culture critiques. I tend to see a lot of comments like "Well, of course we (the readers of this sophisticated critical review blog) understand that it is satire, but I'm worried that it will send the wrong message to the majority of viewers, who aren't likely to understand what the director/author/playwright/musician is really trying to say." It's the elitist assumption that you are smart enough to get it, but most other slackjawed Americans aren't. The irony of course is that I read this kind of thing often enough that it is no longer a select group of legitimately brainy critics declaring their analytical superiority. It is truly a rather cliche viewpoint among many, many media consumers that they (individually) are privy to the true interpretation (thanks to their huge-ass brains,) but we're all stuck with feeble minds that can't process what we just took in.

Some days I'm cynical and feel like most people are idiots. Some days I'm depressive and feel like I'm the biggest idiot in the room. I've met people who look stupid but are smart, and I've met people who act smart but are actually kind of ignorant, and I've met people who say really bone-headed things but actually kick ass in school. And all of that probably depends on the day I catch them on, too.

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