People 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.
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!