So there is this movie that I watched…approximately three times, since the reruns are very frequent and there are a lot of ongoing hype regarding this movie. The first time I saw it I hated it. The second time was today, during an ERP experiment that I participated. At the end of that experiment (thankfully I didn’t finish watching the entire movie) I was shaking with anger. I really can’t understand how anyone could like this movie. There are people who connects with the character because they also had mental problems in the past and had to go through constant therapy. But otherwise, the movie is really for simple-minded people who wants to live life in blissful and smug ignorance about how the world really is, especially regarding geniuses.
Why I hate it the first time.
Coming from China, where the society emphasizes much on effort and hard-working. The movie seems to say that someone who doesn’t need to work hard at a subject, who just does it like some sort of side-hobby, can solve complex mathematical proofs like kids playing board games. While it’s true that there are geniuses who did not have formal training in the subject (and by formal they just mean no consistent schooling) and can understand the subject better than most people, there is not a genius who just do things on the side like a hobby and still beats people who devote their lives into the subject. Even Ramanujan, who was mentioned in this movie, worked his ass off in mathematics, he didn’t just go day job, night partying, and then back and boom, complex problems solved. These people devote their lives in the subject, doesn’t matter if they had consistent schooling or not. THAT’s what made the difference. So this movie, like many American movies, focus very much on talent and not on effort. Which makes it not believable and very much demeans geniuses and lesser people alike.
Why I hate it the second time.
But I know I know, that’s not the main point of this movie. So the second time I ignored that and focused on other aspects. And I found more things that I hated. The second time revealed to me that Good Will Hunting is truly a movie written by amateurs. And it was: Matt Damon and Ben Affleck WERE amateurs straight out of college, and they wrote an amateur script. I would forgive them if they try to call it a family movie for simpler-minded children. But no, they shamelessly sell it as an adult movie. So I’m just going to list all the problems with this movie.
1. cliche cliche cliche: smart person…hmmm… how can I put some flaw into him? make him an asshole? Nah too easy…oh I know! I’m gonna say that he was abused and then orphaned!!! Or alternatively: I want to talk about this boy who was abused as a child… but that’s too boring…Oh I KNOW! I’m going to make him a genius!! that’s going to appeal to the audience! Who doesn’t like geniuses? Why not make him into a vampire who sparkles in the sunlight like diamonds while you are at it? You know teenage girls are gonna suck that shit up. BIG TIME.
2. shallow view of art, science, mathematics and literature: I was fuming when Robin Williams got through to Matt Damon by telling him that all the knowledge in his head doesn’t mean anything until he “experienced them in life.” You’ve gotta be kidding me right? I’m reminded at all the philosopher idiots who tell me that science cannot tell me what a rock is, that is something that can only be experienced. Science can only tell you what rocks are made of, how big it is, how heavy it is etc… but science cannot tell you what a rock IS. Only people who cannot understand science, or do not understand the scientific ways of thinking will claim such idiotic things (more on this subject see my post “I hate debating ignorant philosophers on science”). Geniuses are called geniuses for a reason–they can see things that the average people cannot, and more importantly, they see things DEEPER than most people. They find better solutions to problems. The best example is Darwin (and Wallace but mostly Darwin) who came up with the theory of evolution through natural selection. The simple-minded people who use feelings to see nature see only how pretty nature is, and how well designed, ergo, there must be a designer. Darwin is the one who saw something much deeper and complex–that what is designed is not design at all, but an accumulation from step-wise trait changes in population selection. It’s like that atheist joke: a Christian, Muslim, Jew, and an atheist were condemned to death and went to the guillotine, when the ax came down it stopped before hitting each of the Christian, the Muslim, and the Jew’s necks. All three of them claimed that it is a miracle given by God. Only the atheist realized that the mechanics of the guillotine is faulty and proposed a solution to fix it. This is the difference from the shallow: go with what you feel and the deeper: “what it is all about and how do we go about explaining it as an universal truth.” Good Will Hunting did the opposite: it tries to say that going with your emotions is the better alternative than so-called “book knowledge.” It’s this kind of nonsense that makes people in this country so arrogant as to say: “what has science EVER done for the world?”
3. Poorly written characters in general.
I’ve already said how cliche the movie is. But just for the main character. I don’t know how many people know this, but even though many geniuses have mental problems, their mental problems is often because they feel alone in being misunderstood. They feel alone that no one can see what they see, understand what they understand. So this movie doesn’t even do justice in portraying geniuses with their problems and had to add something that normal people can encounter–abuses! Will doesn’t have any problems with people not understanding what he understands (in fact he’s ever so smug about it), and he expresses his anger in violence. In real life, most geniuses do the opposite, they often retract into depression. Many of them are suicidal, or their physical health deteriorates due to drugs or drinking (think Mozart, Beethoven, Alan Turing, Edgar Allen Poe etc). This movie seems to try to suggest that the next time you see a genius having problems, it must be something external, never mind the internal stuff. Don’t try to understand things that they understand but you don’t, go with the other “EMOTIONAL” things. That’s what’s gonna help them. Can you say condescending? It’s really no different from when Christians tell me that I criticize Christianity harshly because I must be an angry person, or sinful, or had an unhappy childhood etc etc. It’s when people who refuses to address any of your argument and side tracks. And you wonder why many geniuses are assholes?
Overall, Good Will Hunting is an overrated, amateur movie. It’s a movie for critics who know next to nothing about math, science or art who wants to feel good about watching a geniuses–something they can never be–having mundane problems. It’s a movie that tries to bring geniuses down to the ordinary people’s level, so the ordinary people can feel good about themselves in the fact that they are not geniuses. Reality doesn’t work like that people. Geniuses may not have a perfect life, but they light a beacon for us ordinary folks to come out of the darkness of our simple-mindedness, THAT’S what makes them special. But Good Will Hunting wants you to believe that their beacon is nothing but flashlight, and the darkness is where it is the safest.