Genius calls for more than being very good at something. It is characteristic of genius to warrant the hyper-tolerance—and utter isolation—of being put on a pedestal and surrounded with a supportive entourage of yes-men. It is characteristic of genius to lack real friends, as Beth does. Viewers don’t even notice that their attraction to Beth sidesteps the question of the kind of friend she’d be. What they admire is precisely her ability to stand alone, at the top, as though friendlessness were a kind of superpower. But is there really any person whose mind is so alien that she flourishes by being set “free” from the normative expectations that constitute community membership for the rest of us?
It is telling that “genius” is virtually synonymous with “tortured genius.” It is hard to imagine a story like Beth’s without the alcoholism, drug addiction, intense loneliness and self-destructiveness. The myth is of the genius “tortured” by some internal struggle the rest of us are not smart enough to understand, so that the best we can do is step out of their way. The real torture is the one we enact by classifying people as geniuses, to serve our own fantasies of independence. Geniuses are the monsters we make.
Writer - Critic - Poet - Editor