Sunday, 21 October 2007

Lessons of Stupid

Last week I was in Vegas, because my friends were going and I'm trying to uphold my rep as the Nicest Guy in Hollywood. In my 2 day stay, I discovered that Las Vegas is at once America at its finest (and by finest I mean lowest), and kinda cool provided you can ease yourself into a level of stupidity that lets you get off on its extravagance.

Since I have high empathy levels, and can usually engage in non-condescending discourse with people far dumber than me, this wasn't really a problem.

Joseph and I are in the hotel elevator when a drunk guy strikes a conversation. (Take note: He was holding a glass of whiskey. I wouldn't typically accuse someone of being drunk just for lacking social inhibitions.)

"Software guys, huh?"


"You're software guys, right? I can tell."

"Yeah, Microsoft," Joseph lies.

"See, I knew. You guys dress however the hell you want."

I'm wearing a Disneyland t-shirt and Joseph is wearing a Star Wars tee and shorts. Admittedly, this is not proper fancy hotel attire in a city where everyone is trying to prove they're high stakes players. But it takes a level of stupidity to openly negatively stereotype someone based on their wardrobe.

Today's topic of discussion: The Stupid.

They may be the most unfairly, routinely, and without the aid of rights-activitists, universally bashed legal group in the world that isn't founded on sociopathy. For some reason, it's considered alright to bash midgets in movies too. But midgets have some activists on their side. Nobody likes The Stupid. It's politically correct to hate them. Even stupid people hate other stupid people.

Let's start by distinguishing 3 prominent groups of stupid people. (For the sake of brevity, I'm leaving out purely hateful idiots: Terrorists, racists, etc.)

1) Those who know better but choose to be stupid anyway.

These are the people of whom it's most OK to disapprove. They're the university kids who go out on city streets at night and think they're being clever by yelling "Drugs!" really loudly. They think it's cooler to not care about anything, and write letters to the paper complaining that my reviews aren't dumb enough. They're the people who have been alive for 80 years, and still haven't found the time to learn what side of the street they're allowed to walk on. Fuck these people.

The second group isn't much better.

2) The stupid people who try to sound smart in really insincere ways.

In some ways, this group ranks among the most horrible people on Earth. We call em pseudo-intellectuals ("pseuds" for short.) You can identify one right away if he or she claims to have no regrets. No sane person has "no regrets," and the majority of people who say they don't just talk without thinking. Anybody over the age of 3 who sincerely doesn't regret anything either has no life experience or is a narcissistic asshole. The people in this group also talk about movies like they're quoting things they read out of a magazine. They give their opinions loudly in public places so everyone can think they don't kowtow to the party line if they adore Wes Anderson and hate Spielberg. They love the idea of "indie", but secretly despise truly independent thought. They use backwards sentence endings like, "Explosions and nudity does not a good movie make." And they throw around the always unnecessary pseud-phrase "the fact that" verbally and in writing.

(If you want to work at hiding your pseud-status, I'd also recommended always saying "I feel" in place of "I think." "I think" indicates uncertainty; the way you feel can't be wrong. I'm just helping out my fellow man.)

I remember when I was 19, standing in a short line with 2 friends to take in Bride of Chucky on a weeknight. This line was parallel to a much longer line. In the longer line, a guy was trying to impress his girl by snickering at our line's apparent poor taste in entertainment. What was that other lineup lined up for? Practical Magic! The movie about Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman as sister witches with dating problems. At least going to see Bride of Chucky is an honest stupid way to spend 2 hours.

The third group is the most innocent.

3) People simply of below average intelligence.

They don't want to be stupid any more than the blind want to be blind. But people hate them for it, as though they can magically start being smart. It's like when clinically depressed people are told to just snap out of it. Or like asking a wheelchair-bound person if they've ever tried walking. No. They can't do that. With those groups, we realize such attitudes are wrong. The Stupid, on the other hand, are treated as a blight on our well-being.

Let me add to this that I truly believe that most people are smart in their own way. There are people you think are dumb that are better in some situations than you are. On the other end of things, people who are basically smart are stupid about certain things. For instance, just because you major in biology doesn't mean you know how to get a date. And just because you can crush a beer can on your head doesn't mean you can program a computer.

But people who are thought of as stupid are usually stupid frequently and in pronounced ways. And it's not curable by just accumulating more knowledge. They're dopey like some people are clumsy. It's a poor sign of one's character to hate them for it. There are other qualities as valuable as intelligence.

The irony here is that society is designed for The Stupid. You don't have to look around much to see this is true. Just turn on the news and listen to commentators theorize that Barack Obama has no chance of being President because some people consider him too smart. Being too smart is an issue?! If you're smart you get what they're skating around: Obama has no chance because some people consider him too black. The media doesn't need to be truthful, because it has already assumed you're an idiot.

This is an example of why the smart fear the social influence of The Stupid. And as Yoda taught us, fear turns to hate.

But can't we just accept that some stupid people are not malicious and just lack the brain-function of the rest of us? So long as they're not ruling a country, just put up with it. Our basic humanity accepts that the ugly are valuable, so why not The Stupid? My dog isn't evil because he isn't as smart as me.

Perhaps my altruism comes from feeling a kinship with many stupid things. I know some episodes of Beavis and Butt-head line-by-line. I enjoy twisted stoner movies, humour, and cartoons in a sober state. Within limits, I enjoy hanging out with drunk friends. At the same time, I hate elitist elegance, and anything stupid that's trying to appear smart.

I have, however, always had some problem with Jackass that I couldn't pinpoint at first. Now I know. It was a show designed to kill The Stupid.

Copycat Jackass stunts have resulted in death and injury to many stupid people. This is usually defended by people saying it's a way of cleansing the gene pool, or it's evolution in progress. The old to-the-point standby in dismissing an accidental death is, "Well, that person was stupid for doing that anyway." The problem is there is no level of stupid that's too stupid for Jackass. The Stupid is an ideal audience for that show. It preys on them. So of course idiots will watch it and die. Just because you're stupid doesn't mean you don't deserve to live.

The supposedly educated public (ie. the ones whose prefered topics of discussion are the things they read on Perez Hilton that day) secretly enjoys it when unstable celebrities die. They take it as a win for intelligence whenever this happens. This smug elite killed Anna Nicole Smith. They created a demand for a reality show about how stupid she is, which made her lose any shred of her self-esteem, leading to an increased negative media spotlight, and then to her suicide. Score.

But sometimes the world surprises you...



alex said...

Say, is that use of "The Hours" poster a reference to a specific incident of some years back?

alex said...

Also, my enjoyment of Jackass comes from my love of watching people get hurt, but relatively guilt free because Bam Margera really does deserve it.

Mark Palermo said...

The Hours poster: I can't openly comment on that. Except to say that movie is a prime example of fake intellectualism.

I don't think your reason for liking Jackass is too out of line with why it's popular, but maybe I'm wrong about that.

Mark said...

Man, nothin' makes me madder than when people die "stupidly" and people push the Darwin thing. The Darwin Awards are basically the grossest things I can think of.

I wrote about my notion that the great idea behind, and part of the appeal of, Jackass is that it's all about a bunch of dudes getting hurt (in undeniably entertaining fashion) and going back for more. It's pro-life in a kind of drunk, hedonistic form - like the song that ends the second movie (and maybe even the first) says, "If you're gonna be dumb, you gotta be tough". It also wouldn't be fun if the guys involved weren't as charismatic as they are, or having as much fun as the audience is - for proof of this, see Dirty Sanchez.

Mark Palermo said...

I read up on Dirty Sanchez. It sounds completely unappealing. Now granted, there is a certain joie de vie in Jackass, but does the intentional masochistic delight of its players change the audience's relation to it? What I mean is, doesn't the viewer's pleasure in watching Jackass remain primarily sadistic?

I was watching a new network reality series called Phenomenon, which is American Idol for aspiring magicians. One of the acts was some guy playing Russian Roulette with nail guns pressed to his head. He was using his intuition to know which one was loaded. One of the judges said it was incredibly brave of NBC to air it. Actually, it's incredibly irresponsible. It doesn't take a big leap of imagination to foresee some kid watching that and assuming he has the same intuition before firing a nail through his brain. Yeah, we can say he's stupid. But that's because kids make a lot of dumb mistakes. They're kids. Fuck the Darwin Awards.