Real Geniuses

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Tony Stark and his “asset” Peter Parker

I had originally planned to write a post today about the character Winter Soldier as a MKUltra symbol, but got distracted by a random viewing of the 1985 comedy Real Genius. This movie reminded me of the flip-side of the MKUltra’ed soldier/assassin theme, the “softer side,” if you will: that of the young “real genius” who gets recruited by the government as to exploit their prodigious skills.

And the reason Real Genius “flipped switches” for me is because I also watched Captain America: Civil War for the first time a couple of days ago, and found out (admittedly, quite to my nerd-tinged shock) that Peter Parker—Spider-Man—is essentially an intelligence asset in that movie. Parker is a “Real Genius,” literally pulled out of school by his rich handler (Tony Stark, “Iron Man”) to risk his life out in the field.

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what a trustworthy “recruiter” might look like; from “Real Genius”

Young prodigies are “sourced” by various organizations—governmental, but I would have to imagine “extra-governmental” (think-tanks, etc.) as well—all the time. Most of my academic life, from kindergarten all the way to college, seems to have been “touched” by some aspect of what I’ve just said—perhaps not in any exciting, thriller-worthy way, but certainly more than neither me nor my parents had initially suspected (though my dad did start to get suspicious of a few of these programs & I think pulled me out of at least one of them).

So basically, the kids get “flagged” at an early age and are put into “special classes” for “smart kids.” I’m not sure how things are now with the dawning of the Common Core curriculum and all that, but when I was a kid we were often given these sort of weird, experimental curricula—sometimes with all these symbols, modules, etc.—that even as a kid I knew were kind of just weird. I remember one time in like third grade or so we were taught an “alternative” reading of “Jack and the Beanstalk” where Jack was a thief who stole the giant’s hard-earned treasure. And we were told like: “when you really think about it, Jack was the actual villain of the story.”

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When your professor is the “no-dicked” guy from “Ghostbusters,” that should be your first clue that you are in trouble.

Now, that’s actually kind of cool: just the idea of being taught “critical thinking” about a commonly-accepted fairy tale. But the point I’m trying to make is that what we were taught was waaaaay different than the rest of the school population. It wasn’t just a little bit different…it was way different. And so you come out of there with a feeling like you don’t belong anymore with the general population of kids.

And where this starts to get very “political” and “ideological” is when you are in high-school, college…and you’re fed very political/ideological stuff from your teachers. Like maybe you were fed this stuff before, but you were just a kid & never realized it. But now by the time you get to college you’re still in these “special programs”—no matter what school or region you go to, you are quickly “flagged” for them—and they’re paying for your education now, they’re giving you stipends.

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Val Kilmer from “Real Genius” getting “cultivated”

You start to get connected to important people, you start getting money to go travel and do stuff that doesn’t quite fit the established “line” of the curriculum. Like, I was given a scholarship to go study in England…and the class they put me in was exactly like an “international” version of the one I had back home. Like, what I was doing stateside, but “the next level.”

(I sort of made up my mind to dump the entire thing—and by that I mean, the stateside stuff too—by my last week in the England program, ditching everyone to obsessively play the “Batman Forever” pinball machine at the local pub. I just…didn’t feel comfortable anymore with anything. I just “tuned out.”)

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“Batman Forever” pinball machine: certainly much better than Graduate School

And then you are given a world-view in which the masses are kind of dumb and sheep-like, and that there is a pressing need to have “philosopher king” type rulers to steer them in the right direction. This was a common thread.

In both the movies Real Genius and Captain America: Civil War we have teenagers who are “recruited” to work for vaguely governmental “think-tanks.” They are basically being recruited into a “war,” but don’t realize it (because they’re just kids). Peter Parker is given all this cash by Tony Stark (“but don’t tell Aunt May”).

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the pizza t-shirt is a nice touch.

In the case of the MKUltra archetype, the hapless “asset” (The Winter Soldier, the Manchurian Candidate, Jason Bourne) is cultivated to ultimately be some sort of assassin/patsy. With the Real Genius archetype, it’s not quite that “messy” (usually).

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a teenage Edward Snowden

After studying Edward Snowden’s life for a graphic novel I was writing, I came to the conclusion that he absolutely was cultivated as a “Real Genius”—which is why he was able to get security clearance so easily, and the type of high-level jobs he acquired without the experience. I’ve known several people who have had odd “backstories” like this, who have subsequently led “odd” lives.

And then there are the stories of doomed young people like Aurora “Dark Knight” shooter James Holmes & attempted Pastor Tim Remington assassin Kyle Odom, whose lives seem to take an immediate dark turn the moment they get accepted into these “special programs” in college. Very similar pattern between these two. And now I remember a fellow student at the program I was in who suddenly climbed on the roof during a faculty party and threatened to commit suicide. And I remember another student, who I was good friends with, whose mental condition started to slide really, really fast into like operatic insanity-level shit.

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is this a still from “Real Genius”…or a snapshot of James Holmes in class?

If you look into the background of John Lennon assassin Mark David Chapman—you see the same pattern. He seemed to be “flagged” all the way back in high-school. He had weird adult friends who used to inexplicably give him money and plane tickets. Travelled extensively—around the world, even—and worked for all these organizations. And then one day he’s dissociative in front of The Dakota holding a copy of The Catcher In The Rye in one hand and a recently-fired gun in the other; Lennon dead at his feet.

Was Chapman a Real Genius or a Winter Soldier?

Nowadays, it’s probably more easy than ever to “cultivate” Real Geniuses and Winter Soldiers. Because you just go on the Internet. I mean, it must be a veritable smorgasbord out there. Why bother recruiting in schools? Kids increasingly can’t afford college anyway.

Anyway. There’s a lot of weird shit out there, man. That’s why I learned to love pinball. Pinball saved my life.