I guess this is an issue that will not register much outside of this little damp island of the UK, but there has been a small media flurry of interest over the amazing quiz-answering skills of a young woman, Gail Trimble, on the BBC show University Challenge. She has had the outrageous nerve of being very good at answering the questions, and worse, she smiles a bit on camera when she gets the answer correct – which is most of the time. For this, she has been variously attacked for being “smug” etc. It makes me wonder why those who are offended by signs of intelligence bother to watch the programme in the first place. Surely fare such as Celebrity Big Brother might be more their style. They are welcome to it.
As humans, we surely have evolved as creatures to feel pride and happiness in accomplishment. The first human probably grinned when he figured out how to shape the perfect flint arrowhead. Pride, and showing happiness at cracking a problem, overcoming an obstacle or winning a prize is not just right, it is natural to any person of healthy self respect. Pride is the reward one gets for achieving something of value. Smugness or arrogance are unfair charges to make in this sense. Of course, there is a lot more to life than being able to store lots of facts and figures in one’s head and answer correctly to a bumptious quizmaster such as Jeremy Paxman, but I find the attacks on this pleasant young lady to suggest a lack of comfort with intellectual accomplishment that is rampant in parts of our culture. In fact, those who wished that the lady could look stony-faced or even miserable are showing a level of aggression, even hatred, for accomplishment. And that I think speaks to a neurotic condition that the abusers of this woman might like to reflect on.
And then again, I will openly confess to having a weakness for brunettes with brains and a cultivated voice. I see the young lady has a few male admirers on the web. Good for her.