There is great importance that there be a fair discourse on cinema and it’s role in shaping our society. Of course my personal preference is that this discourse be informed by fair and balanced opinion. Its not even a matter of politics or philosophical belief. When Canadian independent filmmaker Albert Nerenberg made this film in 2003 it set about to do something that had never been done before-to analyze and investigate in depth the subject of ignorance and lack of intellectual thought process in modern society. Promising a witty and, yes balanced outlook on a subject that I was greatly interested in. Much of my own writing and exploration has been on the same subject. And this movie was presented to me in aa potentially exciting and even mildly humorous way, which gave it all the more appeal. To say that anything but these factors were met in this documentary would be an understatement of the highest order.
Nerenberg gathered together a group of writers, cultural analysts and celebrities such as Coolio, John Cleese and Noam Chomsky to make the point that we live in a time where society is bombarded with far more information than the mind can mentally handle. And therefore too many people have resorted to either “zoning out” after their long and tedious day by watching television programs and movies that showcase other people making fools of themselves. It also points to the fact that all human beings are in fact inherently stupid. And our ability to cope with our surroundings largely depends on our own individual understanding of that stupidity. It also makes the assertion that society has come to worship an uneducated youth culture where even the universities have increasingly become institutes of higher ignorance rather than learning.
When all is said and done the key to this film is it’s complete ineffectiveness in making its point. The narration, sounding very much read hurriedly off of a cue card and the often grainy and pixelated quality of the film greatly add to this unprofessional atmosphere-even for an independent film. A good deal of the footage is also composed of bizarre footage of bucked toothed people jumping about in dunce caps, very much like a poorly executed satire of the type of reality television the movie condemns. While the origin points of terms such as moron, idiot and even a rather feeble attempt at explaining the origin story of the dunce cap are made, the manner in which these are presented lack any conceptual coherence and come off as mere vignettes randomly strung together with little care for logic or sequencing.
The most irksome quality of this film is on the more personal level. Stupidity is a bad movie. Not in the sense of the low quality/low budget films of an Ed Wood. But bad in the sense that its presentation has high potential to encourage negativity. All of the dialog of the film is presented in an extremely hectoring manner-almost as if it had been deliberately designed to provoke loud and unpleasant arguments between the different people who might be watching this film together, for example. Most of the social experts and writers speaking on this film take an extremely patronizing and insulting tone about everyone and everything they talk about. They make it more than clear without directly saying it that they look down their nose at most human beings. And they consider their views to be morally and intellectually above any given viewer of the film. The film does this in different was-each worthy of mention as far as I’m concerned.
First off, this film is extremely anti-children-to the point of being abusive. I would even recommend that people under 20 year of age shouldn’t watch this film as it never articulates such a person has any right to be on this planet. Bill Maher himself states in his appearance in this film that young people are inherently stupid by virtue of their young and that, as in other countries it’s only the old who should be considered worthy of any veneration. An author who spoke toward the end of the film actually evoked the concept of finding ones inner child to be a stupid concept because, to quote him whenever he saw a child in a grocery store they were “stupid and ugly”. Emphasis on youth is also blamed for Hollywood movies, dumbed down because of pandering to a “younger” audience. It personally attacks actress Uma Thurman for not completing high school with an academic father-along with her apparent interest in metaphysical literature which is of course dismissed as “rubbish”.
Perhaps most importantly every participant in this film are treated in a cruel manner . The man and women on the street, including a homeless street philosopher are interviewed for this film with the plainly obvious intent of making fun of their lifestyles. Not only that but the film itself dismisses all politicians and artists’ entire points of view as being based in inherent stupidity. While much of the historical information such as tracing genetic intelligence among immigrants, the origin of the term IQ and how the brain has been observed and studied are compelling this film defeats its own purpose by not further emphasizing these points within its own context. Instead it chooses to revel in the side of itself that is emotionally abusive to a number of different people,especially the young, by utilizing the scripted equivalent of bullying tactics. In the end I would never recommend this film to the enlightened, intelligent, the ignorant or the stupid people of the world. And those who created and participated in this should be ashamed for their involvement in this horrible insult to documentary making and all it stands for.