21 December 2007

"My Kid Could Paint That!"

The headline of this entry is also the title of a new documentary film by Amir Bar-Lev.

Sounds fascinating. (It isn't playing anywhere in my area, so this is very much a hearsay blog entry.)

The movie concerns the Olmstead family, celebrity, and the whole idea of a prodigy. Are we as a public too eager for the next child genius, the next Mozart?

Maria Olmstead, the 4-year-old painter at the heart of this documentary, was a media sensation. Jane Pauley introduced a segment about her, "The hottest new phenomenon to hit the art scene is a painter who arrives at the gallery in a car seat."

Then came 60 Minutes, with an expose, suggesting that her father was actually doing the work, and the searchlight turned ugly.

Then, in turn, came Mr. Bar-Lev, who seems to have begun work on this movie with the idea that Maria really was a genius/prodigy, that he could prove it, thus rebuking 60 Minutes and chilvarously rescuing the Olmsteads.

Things didn't work out as he had hoped, though. I understand the over-all tone of the movie is one of ambivalence.

But finally, as I indicated above, Maria isn't really its subject. We are. The idea of the "prodigy" and our eagerness to celebrate, then to tear down the "imposter" when our expectations aren't quite met -- that's the subject.

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Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.