An inspiration to all, an exceptional intellect and a creative mastermind. Prior to this course, this has been my interpretation of a genius. However, after our first class, an example of a genius that came to mind was Dr.Martin Luther King Jr., specifically after reading his “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” King was an incredible speech giver, who had the power to inspire millions of people. His speech was brilliant, shedding light on the issues of racism, and ending segregation in the United States. This class shed light on my personal definition of a genius, regarding King and his outstanding influence on society. The genius our group decided on was Albert Einstein, and our drawing included illustrations of different symbols, such as the theory of relativity. Growing up in Canada and receiving an education here has definitely influenced my idea of genius. My lifestyle, tastes, and beliefs would have significantly differed if I was living in my homeland country, Iran. Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche was one of the wackiest, confusing and complex films I have ever watched. Caden, the anti-hero and protagonist, struggles with the purpose and apparent fulfillment of life, even though the purpose of life is unknown, and is a question that will remain unanswered our entire lives.
Caden’s life goes into a downward spiral after his wife and child leave him and a strange disease slowly shuts his body down. When Caden is awarded the MacArthur grant, he moves to NYC and attempts to discover the meaning of life with a single piece of art, so he directs a play called “Death of a Salesman,” a biography about his personal life.
Caden continues to battle with his personal being and work once they conflict. According to the Macarthur grant website, there are criteria one must meet in order to win the grant, and that includes “Exceptional creativity and a promise for important future advances […]”. Instead of using the grant for something meaningful, Caden purchases a city-block, constructs apartment buildings and hires young actors who will have to act out the lives of pain. As a result, he becomes obsessively engrossed in the play and doesn’t end up creating anything meaningful.
The film mocks the concept of genius because they award the Macarthur grant to an emotionally unstable lunatic whom nothing to give back to society nor impact it in any way. The “genius” I selected from the MacArthur website is Betsy Levy Paluck, a psychologist from Princeton, New Jersey. Paluks studies on social norms and networks provide insights for reducing patterns of racism, discrimination, bullying, and ethnic conflicts in American and Rwandan high schools. Her theories of social psychology have allowed her to identify positive influences on group behavior.
Paluk worked with over 25,000 schools and investigated a series of bullying, harassment, and prejudice in over 60 schools. Her work has led to a “significant reduction in harassment and other negative behavior.” Paluck has significantly impacted behavior amongst youth that can be traced back to social norms, and her work has changed the potential for social psychology on a broad scale. Caden Cotard’s work significantly differed from Paluck’s, and he in no way shape or form provides “important future advancements” for our society. Cotard idiotically used the grant for discovering the mystery of life, thinking he was going to make a significant change in society. Overall, years go by and all the actors he hires for the play dies, and he fails to create anything meaningful in his lifetime.