We Need to Talk About Smart-Shaming…Again

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I’d like to begin by citing my own experience, but it feels weird to admit that I have been a victim of smart-shaming since it implies that I’m claiming that I’m smart.

Why do I feel weird about it? Why am I hesitating to recognize my own intelligence?

Sadly, this is actually a problem.

Holding Your Silence

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I was bullied in elementary and high school for doing well and standing out in class. I fared well in academics, and I actively participated in extracurricular organizations. Somehow, it annoyed my classmates to the point that I would hear them groan or see them roll their eyes whenever I raised my hand during recitations.

Since then, I stopped raising my hand even though I knew the answer and nobody else volunteered. The worst part was the teacher would call my attention knowing that I can answer the question, but I would lie and say that I don’t.

I’m pretty much over that now, but it has affected the way I behave around other people, especially during group discussions. I don’t exactly fear that I would be shamed for my ideas, but I’ve developed a mindset that my ideas were useless, and people can do without hearing from me.

“It’s almost like we’re afraid or ashamed to be too intelligent,” I quote Julia Jasmine Madrazo-Sta. Romana, a scientist turned freelance writer, from her piece on smart-shaming. Funny enough, most of the articles displayed on Google’s results page are from local publications (go ahead and see for yourself).

Preference in Movies and Television Shows

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Moving on from childish teasing and taunting, I still experience or witness smart-shaming in another way. This happens whenever I answer the dreaded question, “What’s your favorite movie or TV show?” or “What are you currently watching? / What’s the last movie you saw?”

When it comes to local films, the last ones I saw were “Patay na si Hesus” and a few movies from the 2016 MMFF lineup. My favorite Filipino movie will always be “Sister Stella L.” My current favorite show is “Designated Survivor”, and I love Wes Anderson’s work (sorry, I just can’t choose one movie). Unfortunately, I’d get the same reactions that my younger self had because of my answers. I would receive disapproving looks as if I meant to show off, which isn’t true.

I like watching things that spark conversation whether it’s about the story or the technical aspect of the film. Entertainment is important, of course, but I also want to see something that is not only memorable, but also gives me a new perspective on the way I see the world.

While I don’t have anything against people who love primetime TV shows and local box office hits, I don’t exactly get that kind of satisfaction with these kinds of media. We have been conditioned by the culture of smart-shaming to settle for lazy tropes, slapstick comedy, and predictable romance plots that keep audiences in a box.

We see variety show hosts demeaning each other’s display of intelligence, which resulted in our negative perception of cleverness and healthy curiosity. We got used to the same kind of themes rehashed and recycled in films and movies that when something new and progressive is presented to us at the box office, it feels like we’re taken out of our comfort zones.

Take the MMFF 2016 phenomenon, for example. This specific season changed the game for the grandest film event in the country when it included many independently produced films in the lineup and introduced changes in the acceptance of entries.

However, as seen in the aftermath — both in box office numbers and in mixed audience reception — it looks like the usual kind of movies are going back to this year’s film fest.

A Wormhole, A Cycle — Is There an End to This?

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Personally, I don’t know if there is a definitive way to end this. As cliche as it sounds, I think it should start with ourselves. If we can’t change the way the industry and the bigger guys work, then maybe we can just start small.

As Modern Filipinas, we must display our intelligence with humility and good intentions. We should encourage thoughtful conversations, so we can question things and not settle for things that can be improved. We should aim to educate, not discriminate.

More importantly, we should be supportive of each other. Instead of rolling our eyes and throwing passive aggressive comments, we should be more open and listen to each other’s ideas and opinions. We should work together, not against each other.

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