Smarter than the average bear


Last night I watched the Yogi Bear movie. Before my partner Marc put it on, (‘twasn’t me, honest guv) I hadn’t even known it existed. Actually, I had all but forgotten that Yogi existed, the memories only started flooding back when yogi was talking about ‘pic-er-nic’ baskets and declared that he was ‘smarter than the average bear’. I guess most people would say the latter was true, despite Yogi wearing a collar and tie in the middle of a national park, which seems pretty dumb actually. But when Yogi screws up and nearly kills a ton of people by shooting fireworks at them and setting things on fire (this movie gets pretty dark for a kids film), he decides to live like an average bear. He stays out in the park all night, and his foraging attempts fail miserably. He’s utterly confused by the idea of catching fish with his paws. What I’m trying to say is that, from the perspective of the other bears, he probably seems pretty stupid, as he relies totally on the presence of humans to survive.

The film also had Anna Faris playing a love interest. You’ve probably seen her in stuff before, she’s quite recognisable with her saccharine baby voice and doe eyes. In Yogi Bear, she’s kind of a strange character, as she’s some kind of researcher but still keeps her trademark ‘I’m confused by everything’ look. I only really recognise her from that awful-but-weirdly-watchable film ‘Housebunny’, where she plays a playboy bunny named Shelley who is tricked into leaving the mansion, and somehow ends up running a sorority house of misfits. Now, I don’t know whether Playboy actually had anything to do with her sighs and continuous laments about missing the apparently wonderful Hugh Hefner, or whether the production company were just terrified of being sued… but I’m more inclined to trust Gloria Steinem’s account of the company, despite it being over 50 years old. (If you’ve not read it, you can do so here: http://dlib.nyu.edu/undercover/bunnys-tale-gloria-steinem-show-magazine . It is genuinely a fascinating read).

Anyway, in Housebunny, Shelley becomes attracted to an intellectual. To impress him, she pops on some specs (Hollywood’s go-to look for smart girls) and reads some books. But it turns out that she doesn’t need to pretend to be book-smart, because she is learned in other skills. Ultimately, she saves the day, and the sorority house, and she gets the guy. I’m pretty conflicted about this film, as you can probably tell. Because while it’s mushy and predictable, and presents girls as vapid and relationships as vital, and portrays boys as hapless idiots who just want a pretty girl on their arm, it also does hammer home the idea that there are many ways to be clever. Just because you’re not book-smart, that doesn’t mean you’re not smart.

I guess this idea particularly hits home for me because I can be kind of the opposite. I’m book smart, but sometimes lack common sense. My family refer to me as Dr Donut, because while I’ve now officially earned the right to use the title ‘Dr’ (of philosophy, not medicine, so don’t come to me with any ingrown toenail woes) I can be a bit dense at times. So like a donut, substance on the outside, but with a hole in the middle where ‘everyday smarts’ are supposed to sit. I once watered a plant for about three months before I realised it was plastic (I’d been so proud that I hadn’t killed it). So every time I come out with something a bit stupid, my family teases me, “Dr Donut strikes again”! I can tell you how plenty of things work in theory, but I’m not so good at putting them into practice.

So if you’re ever feeling a bit dumb, or convinced that the whole world is smarter than you, just remember that there are lots of different kinds of clever. If we were all clever in the same way, the world would fall apart. So appreciate your own particular brand of intelligence, and don’t look down on anyone for having a different type. They might well be ‘smarter than the average bear’, but you could be looking at them from the perspective of a standard brown bear that can forage, catch fish, and survive unaided.

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