Also as Connected to Plot Failure in Film & TV
Many articles and discussions center around Early Onset Dementia (EOD) and how devastating it can be for family and friends, not to mention for the person actually debilitated by the disease. That got me to thinking about an equally destructive and even more widespread disease: Early Onset Stupidity (EOS).
EOS has been almost completely ignored by science and the media. In fact, I may even be the first to brace the subject in this way. Of course people complain about poor education systems and the politics of planned ignorance in which logic and self-realization are not only shunned but actively suppressed. But no one, as far as I could find, has tried to understand the EOS disease that is at the core of these policies and is so obviously the driving factor for the general lack of any public stimulus for intellectual thought and discourse. Educated people are present, but they are not valued. This begins with the absolute lack of respect for teachers and professors and anyone, really, who attempts to spread knowledge which is not directly connected to a function that can enable a person to do a job and therefore make money, which always entails working for someone, usually a company or corporation, so that this entity can make twice or three times more money from the work done – when compared to the salary earned by the person who actually does the work.
EOS begins in childhood. School and family are crucial to its spread.
The Beverly Hills (CA) school system has always been among the highest-ranked in the country. Rich people want their kids to learn stuff so that they can take good care of the fortunes which will be passed along later. Good Shepherd, also known as Beverly Hills Catholic School (BHCS) in those days, was run by nuns, the Holy Cross Sisters. That’s where I spent 8 years of my childhood.
The first three years were wonderful for me. My second grade teacher, Miss Helveston, was young, dynamic, good looking and, besides the basics of math and writing, she also taught us my favorite course, Phonics. I was a whizz at Phonics. After all, I had 4 other languages in my ears while I was growing up in Zagreb: Italian (mother), Serbo-Croatian (my best friend Ranko Boric), French (Kindergarten), English (my mother’s American friends), and German (my nanny, from an old Austrian family stuck in Croatia after the Austro-Hungarian Empire disappeared). Phonics was interesting because it presented me with sounds. I loved the sounds in languages. Still do. In fact since childhood I have only learned foreign languages from listening, not from reading about them in a book and then learning how they function. Miss Helveston was so pleased with me and I with her that my mother invited her home, where we had coffee and cookies, and then my mother even tried get her into the film industry where, as a functionary of the Italian Consulate in Los Angeles, she had many connections. I often wonder if that was the reason Miss Helveston vanished from my life after third grade.
In any case, Phonics was gone, Miss Helveston was gone and the nuns took over and taught us what all good children should learn, arithmetic, history (mostly American), English (which meant grammar and writing) and plenty of religion. The Bible stories, all approved by Imprimatur of the Catholic Church, were actually quite riveting sometimes. The illustrations were in color and excellently depicted Jesus as a baby in Mary’s arms, Joseph working as a carpenter with a pre-pubescent apprentice Jesus hewing a log, and then the wandering Jew Jesus with his band of long-haired and bearded followers in their flowing many-hued robes. How many of us Catholic School kids ended up looking just like that merry band of men in the 60s flower power era?
EOS was most visible in those days outside of school, among my friends. Most of them were from school, which meant that they were Catholics and strongly anti-Semitic. That didn’t come directly from the nuns, though they did hint that Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus. Well, at least the group of Pharisees who were asked by the Romans what should they do with him. The antisemitism came from inside the family. One family, the McCann family, had 5 boys. Dick McCann, the second youngest boy, was in my class. He wasn’t very bright and did as little as possible in school. All his older brothers had gone to BHCS and, except for the oldest who was training to be a lawyer, the rest were what you could call “fuck-ups.” I remember Austin, the second-oldest leaning out the window of a passing car and pointing a .45 automatic at us kids walking home. I ran and hid behind an open garage door. EOS had definitely hit that family hard. The father was a lawyer, but obviously that made no difference. The mother was a loving darling and allowed us to make as many Wonderbread PB&J sandwiches as we wanted after school in their kitchen. That didn’t seem to have any effect.
I played Little League baseball, and then PONY League as well, and most of the friends I made in baseball were Jewish. I felt comfortable with them. They weren’t as dumb and reckless as Dick and a few of the other boneheads in my class. I was a good player, so I had some credibility among them. One of my childhood neighbors was Brian Epstein. I spent a lot of time playing board games at his house. His parents were fine with me being a goy. What they didn’t know, and what I didn’t know at the time was that my mother had seriously Jewish family roots through her own mother, and that therefore I was technically Jewish, since the religion is passed down through the mother.
Not all of the nuns were bad teachers. Actually, only one that I can remember was really horrible. It had nothing to do with the teaching of material, which she more or less did according to the guidelines set out by Sister Willomena, the principal. What made “little dynamite” truly despicable was her vile character. She would attack anyone, anytime, on the slightest provocation, whether it was real or imagined. She had a short fuse, and it was, as far we were concerned, because all of us in the sixth grade were either just as tall or taller than she was. Yes. That is how her stature compared with ours. And she hated us for it with all her virulent energy. And she was extremely energetic.
But we only suffered under her dictatorship for that one year. The next year was enlightening because we delved into real literature and were encouraged to read books. In fact, there was a contest of how many books you could read in a month. Maria Roach always won. She read tons more than the rest of us. But two to three books a month was the average for the class. EOS was being fought through exposure to literature. Of course it made no difference to the McCann-types in the class, and there was a solid group of them.
An encouraging moment came for me when we were asked to pick a short story and read it in class. Most everyone picked stories that were three to five pages long, so more than one could be read during the lesson. It was obvious from many of the stories that they had been picked by parents eager to let their children shine. Edgar Allen Poe and O’Henry and Mark Twain among the choices – most of us kids would never have known about them.
On Monday, with about 15 minutes left to read at the end of the class, I was asked. I had some thin and rather small, about 4 inches x 5 inches editions of a series of short stories that my mother had gathered from somewhere and brought home. I chose the thinnest of the lot and it turned out that my story was by Nathaniel Hawthorne. It was classed as a short story, but it was considerably longer than the stories of the others. So, even though the pages were small, there were 35 of them in total, and it turned out that for the whole week, at the end of each class, I had to read from The Great Stone Face. It was like I was the link from day to day and kept the drama alive until Friday. For me it was a wonderful experience. I was able to delve into a remarkably interesting story and also be a bit of a stand-out for the week. The nun running the class had given me a good role and I was able to mesmerize the students (most of them) with the story and my voice, inflecting, learning how to introduce drama and nuance. Unconsciously that was the beginning of my training for a later career as a voice-over specialist and a radio play writer and voice actor. The detailed training came at St.Mary’s School in Nairobi, years afterward, where the drama teacher singled me out and trained me to recite poetry for an inter-school competition in which (despite my American accent) I garnered a joint-second place!
While in our special Beverly Hills Catholic School anti-EOS atmosphere we were learning all about classic literature and history beyond America – after all, how could a Catholic school evade the Roman Empire and its eventual fostering of Christianity and its forcible spread throughout the empire, including the conquest of Jerusalem on more than one occasion – not everyone else was so lucky. In most of the rest of the country the black and white TV era had a firm grip on the minds and habits of the children and their parents. Father Knows Best, Ozzie and Harriet (the Nelson family, with teen idol Ricky), Gunsmoke and I Love Lucy. Leave It To Beaver was for us kids directly, showing us how as “good” youngsters we could thwart the “bad” teenage older brothers and bring balance and justice back from the edge of destructive behavior. Nothing taxing for the brain and straight white-man morality. After all, even Lucy didn’t really break away from her subordinate role as a “good” housewife until later, after everyone realized that Desi had cheated on her.
By 8th grade we were starting to look like people.
There weren’t (and still aren’t) any mainstream programs that challenge the intellect and try and broaden the scope of the normal American individual. The airwaves – public and private – are filled with reality show nonsense and programming which doesn’t disturb the status quo. EOS is woven into the fabric of each show and video one might wander into. I won’t even start talking about the FOX network, which should really change its name to the EOS network.
Early Onset Stupidity, a disease which has been cultivated in the USA and exported abroad to any nation corrupt enough to import it, has been a staple part of the American experience since early colonial times. In fact, colonialism anywhere in the world could not have been possible without EOS-infected populations. Thomas Hobbs, with his Leviathan was a major instigator and pervaded EOS by influencing and thereby infecting the power elite of the 17th century. He preached that men were only power-seekers and that was how things were, so do what you want. If you win, it’s OK. If you don’t, you were too weak.
Who in their right mind would want to go out and conquer some unknown place on the earth? Right mind being of course a mind with self-awareness, logical abilities and a sense of what is morally good, while possessing knowledge of what is evil. Anyway, maybe some right-minded people would go, but definitely not in the multitudes that actually went after the elite infected them with the Hobbsian view of life.
Which brings me seamlessly to plot criticism in some of the films and TV shows I have been watching recently.
My preference in TV and film (as well as novels lately) has been for mystery and crime. Not real crime. The fantasy kind, where Danny Ocean or his sister figure out how to break into a place that holds the ill-gotten gains of evil people. Mysteries are intriguing because you are constantly trying to figure out who did it from the lack or over-abundance of clues presented. It keeps the mind active while watching the banality on the screen.
Luther, with Idris Elba, was a series that I loved to watch. But probably, like most people, it was Ruth Wilson’s murderous character (Alice Morgan) that kept me coming back for more. 20 episodes of brilliant writing and acting that never had me asking WTF? The new film however…
First of all, dear Alice is nowhere to be seen. The evil multinational serial killer is beyond Joker evil, and the motivation for people to allow themselves to be used by this monster is pure EOS in its most virulent form.
You have a secret. EOS-driven, you allow this secret to occupy a space in the digital world. Since the digital world is open to anyone with +/- knowledge of how the internet works, your secret can be found and you can be exposed. Ergo: Blackmail. Well, a self-aware and logical person would first of all not put a secret out there in the virtual world. Second, should by some twist of fate a secret actually come to exist in the virtual world, a non-EOS-infected person would say: Fuck you. Expose it. It can’t possibly be worse than jumping off a building in Piccadilly Circus with a GoPro filming me splatter my brains on the sidewalk. So, without EOS-infected masses of “shame-filled” individuals, the plot of Luther: The Fallen Sun wouldn’t stand a chance.
Action scenes are action scenes and today they are expertly constructed and carried out. No problem with the techniques and the emotional impact of the scenes themselves. But now we get to another point that rankles. Luther, who has been railroaded into prison by the monster serial killer Robey, informs DCI Odette Raine, the new head of Serious and Serial Crime, of what is going on and how dangerous this person can be. Luther more or less does all the work to catch the monster, but DCI Odette is reluctant to embrace the intelligent Luther. She is obviously at least partially infected by EOS. This is brought out quite succinctly when Robey manages to kidnap Odette’s daughter. This happens in Odette’s apartment, at night, while Odette is busy hunting the criminal and Luther. Now, if you are not infected by EOS and you understand the nature of the online-addicted victims of this monster, the first thing you do is send someone from work (police) to go get your family members (daughter) and bring them to a safe location in the station because (if EOS has not yet invaded you) you know that what makes you most vulnerable to any monster you might be chasing is your family.
So when the daughter gets grabbed, I think, WTF? for the second time in this movie.
The only hopeful, maybe redemptive aspect of this movie is the fact that at the very end, the secret services want to enlist Luther. Idris didn’t get or (more probably) didn’t want to be Bond, James Bond. But now we might get a super-spy Luther as a future reward. Hopefully the new non-Bond Luther scripts will be devoid of EOS plot moments. And will somehow re-integrate Alice, the most interesting TV character the BBC ever featured.
Meanwhile, although there are many more shows I could critique for their EOS-infected writing, I will move on to The Watchful Eye. Mariel Molino is excellent in this show. She has a website (https://www.marielmolino.com/) and IMDB says she has worked in both Mexico and the USA, but she is not really well known yet. This show should make her very well known in the business. Most of the time she has a good, scary sometimes, mystery-solving personality, which wants you, as a viewer, to have her win. But there are some rather EOS moments that don’t actually work for a veteran mystery-watcher like me. The most egregious EOS material woven into the story is the occasional appearance of the “ghost” nanny who is the mother of “Ruby” (really Mrs. Ivy) the illegitimate daughter of the original Mr. Greybourne and who actually owns the whole building. This ghost can be heard crying by Mrs. Ivy and can be seen and heard by Molino’s character Elena Santos.
I don’t mind plotting to con rich people out of a precious stone, a ruby, which turns out to be Ruby the illegitimate daughter. And I find the mystery surrounding the evil families who have inter-wed in order to maintain their power, not all bad. But then, after the constant reappearance of the ghost nanny, comes the most imbecilic moment of all when Elena Santos reveals to her awful and obviously untrustworthy brother that she is planning to run away with 5 million bucks and from whom, why and how she is to get it. Directly after that we see the EOS-infected brother report back to his/their loathed (by Elena) and recently released from prison mother, who has been previously described as the original fount of evil in the family.
Eliminate the horrible brother and the useless mother from the story and Elena Santos, as a solo orphan, can be a complete well-rounded character, on her own, fighting against the corrupt world of moneyed power and trying to navigate her way to safety and freedom. But no. The writers and producers believe that they must cater to an EOS-riddled audience – their targets. Any carefully crafted and intellectually challenging plot twists and turns would create brain-freeze in the sad EOS-infected morons who believe in ghosts and other-worldly spirits. These sad consumers couldn’t stand the spasms in their frontal lobes brought on by awakening their curiosity about new areas of thought and would reflexively press a button or hit a key and escape to some reality-besotted island or other in the Archipelago of Stupidity.
EOS is a serious disease which should be studied by more qualified researchers than me. They will be sure to find more sinister causes for its virulent spread in society than a lab leak or an animal market. Racism and antisemitism was normal in Spain many hundreds of years ago (https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/how-racism-was-first-officially-codified-in-15thcentury-spain), and without orders from above – the church and the royals – EOS would not have spread through the land and eventually through the world. Later, when the European fascist movements (fed by their success in Franco’s Spain) took up the racist and anti-Semitic chants and spread EOS among Il Popolo and Das Volk in their countries, the infected masses were used as fodder for wars that eventually came back home to bite, and bite hard.
And now, with the new batch of authoritarians in Russia and the USA (as well as Hungary and Poland and China, etc.) the battle cry is once again: “Them – of impure blood!” and “Us – the pure ones and rightful masters.” Same as the 14th and 15th century in Spain and Portugal, then eventually all the colonial powers seeking to convince their EOS-ridden populations that it was OK and not a sin to wreak genocide on the non-persons of the new lands they were conquering. And even after conversion to Christianity or whatever religion the conqueror touted, the newly converted were still not accepted as pure and as important as we, the original “We” of the conquerors.
EOS is infecting everyone these days. Inoculate yourself with knowledge.