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Jan 19 2015

{GHF Blog hop} Reel life this ain’t

Reel Life This Ain'tPeople have told me for years that our lives here would make a great sitcom. That’s all well and good, but no one would believe it. A gifted or twice-exceptional family doesn’t transition well to a screen, big or little. Hobbies and jokes that few would get. Too nuanced, too much angst, not enough laugh track.

And yet producers and screenwriters keep trying. They pump out movies and shows and instead of authenticity we get one-dimensional characters. The Math Genius. The Tortured Artist No One Understands. The Over-Achieving Girl Obsessed With Grades. The Precocious Nine Year Old.

Even worse? Reality shows that pit gifted kids against one another, in a sort of intellectual Hunger Games. They’re called scholarship competitions, but so is Miss America, and you know as well as I that people aren’t watching that to see who gets the money for college. They’re watching to see who has a wedgie in the swimsuit segment, if one of them throws a stiletto while wearing an evening gown, or if the flaming baton routine sets the theater on fire. And they’re watching young gifted kids to see if…no, when…the kid fails. “Oh, the kid is a genius? Well, let’s just see about that! Smartypants, too big for his britches. Cut that tall poppy down.” I have a hard time envisioning John Q. Public watching to see the kid get better and better, instead watching to see how high he can get before he falls. He plays Caesar and thumbs down it is.

Instead of real life we get reel life.

Where’s the twice-exceptional kid who is fully capable of higher level work but is refused gifted services because he doesn’t test well or produce enough high-achieving output? Where’s the gifted adult who struggles in a traditional job because she is bored and suffers from existential depression, terrified that this is it? Where’s the tween whiplashing between intellectual age (40), emotional age (4), empathetic age (80), and true physical age (8)? And where are the parents doing the heavy lifting of all of this?

I get it. It’s hard to put perfectionism and Dabrowski’s over-excitabilities and Impostor Syndrome and asynchrony into what is essentially an entertainment medium and not lose people because of the oftentimes heart wrenching moments they can’t relate. Long, drawn-out meltdowns because a kid has hit his limit is not entertainment. I wouldn’t want to watch it, and I’ve lived it. Those who don’t live it aren’t gonna get it and don’t wanna watch it. Can’t say I blame them.

The closest I’ve ever seen to a true gifted family is the 2004 Pixar movie The Incredibles. It’s one of my favorite movies, and not just because the mom isn’t pushing up the daisies. It’s a gifted family, forced to hide their gifts because society doesn’t know what to do with them. Sound familiar? More success in print. Surviving the Applewhites by Stephanie Tolan not only brings a gifted family to light in perfect detail, but is written by a vocal gifted advocate and one of the original members of the Columbus Group.

I’d love to see a real gifted family on my screen. Movie, TV, not picky. There’s a new documentary coming out in the next few weeks about twice-exceptional kids and I’m really looking forward to seeing it. But a movie? Sitcom, drama, dramedy? I’d even go for a clever mockumentary. I can’t see it ever happening. It’s far too challenging for a producer to take on, and the easy money is on the stereotypes. Far more profitable to paint the gifted with a broad (and often inaccurate) brush.

Then again, J wants to be a filmmaker (also architect, vet, photographer, something with travel, something else with geography). Give my 2e second born a decade or two. We may see a real gifted family on our screens after all.

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Today’s post is part of the January Gifted Homeschoolers Forum Blog Hop, on media portrayals of the gifted. Please hop around and read some of our other contributors!

GHF January Blog Hop: Gifted in Reel Life

 

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  1. Cait Fitz @ My Little Poppies

    That is exactly what makes me feel ill about the show: our society wants folks on these reality shows to fail so that they can laugh. It’s awful.

    I’m looking forward to that 2E documentary, too.
    Cait Fitz @ My Little Poppies recently posted…Rise: A Refreshing Dose of Gifted RealityMy Profile

  2. Pamela @RedWhiteandGrew

    Our kid loves “Surviving the Applewhites”! We got it off of Audible and he’s listened to it twice now.
    Pamela @RedWhiteandGrew recently posted…{GHF Blog Hop} That New Show About Kids Who Are “Geniuses”? Yeah, Let’s Talk About ThatMy Profile

    1. Jen

      The boys won’t read it, frustrating as all get out. It’s as though mom can’t possibly know any good books. SMH…

  3. Care

    Yes, this. It’s good to see The Incredibles (though I’m sure mainstream society doesn’t inherently see the gifted correlation), but then there are the Reality Television Shows. The ones that tear down the kids they’re “supposed” to be building up. I’m hopeful the 2E documentary will be somewhere I can see it – it’s one of the few really exciting things to come out in a long time.
    Care recently posted…Gifted in “Reel” Life!My Profile

    1. Jen

      I think you can request to host a showing of the 2e movie, and I’m hopeful a DVD will be out this spring.

  4. Nicole Linn

    I love The Incredibles too, and sometimes our whole family feels like them, i.e. whenever we are out in public/big groups/etc… I won’t watch the show in question. I refuse to give it one more statistic to count. Great post, Jen.
    Nicole Linn recently posted…{GHF Blog Hop} Gifted in Reel Life: Those Quirky Red BootsMy Profile

  5. Jo Freitag

    Great post, Jen! I love The Incredibles too! And I agree that people in general would feel bored, confused or very uncomfortable if they watched an accurate show about gifted/2E people in REAL life, in REAL time span and without any editing to manipulate their opinions.
    Jo Freitag recently posted…Gifted in Reel LifeMy Profile

  6. Chris

    I agree – a TV show/movie about gifted/2e would be great. Portraying a family dealing with these issues accurately – challenging stereotypes – could help reduce stigma. Plus, I wish my son could see a kid he identifies with on TV. Books/movies about Percy Jackson aren’t cutting it, although that series does seem to help with his embarrassment regarding ADHD. And dyslexia, although I’m no longer sure that’s an accurate diagnosis.

    I’m new at commenting and can see that I’ll want to take care not to ramble. I love your work and I’m trying to stop lurking/reading in isolation, and start connecting with the world in new ways. Like actually telling people their blogs are great. Or enjoying Twitter and interacting with other people – not just reading and clicking on links. 🙂
    Chris recently posted…Stigma and self-disclosure of mental illness  My Profile

    1. Jen

      Ramble all you like! 😉
      I don’t know if a show or movie would even get the nuance. If you’ve seen a gifted kid, you’ve seen…a gifted kid. They’re all so incredibly different. I don’t know how it could be done, or how well, but I’d sure love to see it!

      1. Chris

        I envision a scene where a teacher explains to the parents that they’ve got the most complex kid on the planet. 🙂

        Or – I’d like to see a show about a couple of kids with 2e who are best friends. They totally understand each other, but no one else does…

        You’re right, though. Even if these kids weren’t so different, the nuances would be tough to nail.
        Chris recently posted…Stigma and self-disclosure of mental illness  My Profile

        1. Jen

          I’ve lived the scene where the teacher looks at the parent and says, “I see what you’re talking about now.” Only happened once but I still live on that. 😉

  1. On the Gifted in Reel Life blog hop | Sprite's Site

    […] Life This Ain’t ~ Laughing at Chaos (Jen Merrill) http://www.laughingatchaos.com/ghf-blog-hop-reel-life-this-aint/ People have told me for years that our lives here would make a great sitcom. That’s all well and […]

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