Stupidity (2003)

June 15, 2008 § Leave a comment

Surrounded by a lot of buzz at recent documentary film festivals, “Stupidity” by Albert Nerenberg prefers smugly looking down on people for a lack of obscure knowledge (most Americans interviewed in the town where the term “moron” was invented didn’t know it had been invented there) to real analysis. For a film critical of our cultural three second attention span, it rarely flags from its own music video pace, offering sound bites and quotes out of context: when David Suzuki suggests we’re all in a car racing towards a brick wall, doing nothing more than arguing about where we’ll sit, he’s talking about our lack of action on the environment, not merely stupidity. Cultural references are vague, without anyone mentioning anything as specific as that daily affront to human dignity the Jerry Springer show or Homer Simpson, because Nerenberg seems to prefer endless, quick shots of people tripping (is that not just a momentary lack of dexterity?) teenagers wiping out on skateboards, or someone bouncing on a trampoline, as though silliness and intelligence are completely incompatible. 

While there are undoubtedly clips of people doing stupid things, the film also manages to subtly imply that old, unspoken attitude that if you find joy in anything, you must be naïve. The view that people strictly and stupidly adhere to religious views for comfort and security is presented as though it’s nothing anyone would ever have thought about before, along with a small amount of research into the history of the IQ test. The academic world is criticized for never studying stupidity, without the slightest suggestion as to how you would begin to break down such a massive topic. An interview between the filmmaker and a TV station is edited to make it appear that the station became disinterested and ended the interview in about five seconds. Some valid points are raised, but all too briefly, and quickly washed away in a torrent of style. An admirable idea for a documentary, but a deeper analysis was desperately needed. For a doc that examines its subject, and even follows through with some suggestions on what to do about it, have a look at The Corporation.

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