"The Bell Curve"+20: The Omnipresence of IQ in Pop Culture
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I don’t know much about being an electrician, but is the babe on the ladder really being pure genius about how to handle high voltage wires?

I don’t know much about being an electrician, but is the babe on the ladder really being pure genius about how to handle high voltage wires?

With the 20th anniversary of the publication of Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray’s The Bell Curve coming up in October, you’re going to be seeing journalistic references to how, of course the concept of IQ has since been thoroughly discredited and nobody cares about IQ anymore and so forth and so on.

But then there’s popular culture, which is more IQ obsessed than ever. My wife channel-surfed past the new CBS show “Scorpion” and remarked to me that the characters gabbed more about their IQ scores than anything else. Now, Grantland has done the hard work of transcribing the opening episode’s dialogue for us:

How Smart Are the Quirky Geniuses of ‘Scorpion’? Let’s Just Ask Them, They Can’t Shut Up About It


Scorpion, the relentlessly publicized new drama that debuted last night on CBS, is a show about a ragtag team of misfit geniuses who solve problems that the Government (played with trademark craggy resolve by Robert Patrick) can’t handle on its feeble-minded own. We know that this ragtag team is composed entirely of misfit geniuses because they remind us of this roughly every five seconds of their 44-minute screen time. Even making allowances for the often-awkward stage-setting of pilot episode exposition, these geniuses do a lot of talking about their brilliance. Did you forget this is a show about geniuses? Don’t worry, they’ll drop that in three more times before the next Big Bang Theory promo.

The Scorpion team — excuse us, </Scorpion>, because if you don’t close the markup tag, their bursting-at-the-seam brains will leak out of your television set and onto your rug — runs the TV-supernerd gamut: There’s the handsome-but-socially-maladjusted leader genius, the overweight-and-awkward-OCD genius, the mechanical-engineer-who-seems-like-the-tough-one genius, and the behavior-reading-hustler-in-a-fedora-and-hoodie-underneath-a-leather-jacket genius. Also: There is a waitress (Kat McPhee) whose average-at-best emotional intelligence makes her the Stephen Hawking of empathy by comparison. She has a genius child whose massive intellect she’s ostensibly ill-equipped to nurture, because how is somebody who’s busy refilling that bottomless coffee cup supposed to realize her Lil Scorp is playing an intense game of crypto-chess with salt shakers and napkin dispensers?

So: Would you like to know more about how smart they are? Of course you would. Let’s run down all the genius-talk from last night’s episode, so you’re better prepared to appreciate the dazzling spectrum of quirky savants you’ll encounter next week. …

“We have a combined IQ of 700 and we can’t even pay our bills.” …

“Even with half my IQ, I wouldn’t be dumb enough to believe you twice.” …

“Walter O’Brien is one of the five smartest people alive.”

“Einstein had a 160 IQ. Mine’s 197.” …

“I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but your son is a genius.” …

“Toby grew up penniless, gambled his way through school. Even then, he got his doctorate at the age of 17.” …

“For all practical purposes, I have no right brain. People with high IQ tend to have low EQ. That’s emotional quotient.” …

“You’re the world’s smartest computer guy.”

It’s almost like people don’t believe what they read in Respectable Journalism, including even the ones who write it.

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