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The Theory of the Tortured Genius


There was a time when geniuses were professionals who were not only good at their jobs, but pleasant to others as well. The entrenched stereotype of geniuses once labeled them as shy outsiders or tongue-tied geeks, not arrogant narcissists. Somewhere down the line, Hollywood stopped telling stories of gifted individuals who were mild-mannered and jump-started the difficult genius routine.

Take television’s long-running tortured genius, Dr. Gregory House. House, starring Hugh Laurie as the highly critical medical genius, started a trend of anti-social geniuses and audiences ate it up. For all of the highly unusual medical cases and House’s wizardry in solving them, the reason viewers tuned in was to see what exactly the caustic doctor would say next. With all of his intellect and glee in exposing hypocrisy in others, House indulged his own demons early and often. A man so talented at saving others despite his own grand self-destruction made for unique television, the industry took notice, and more series about disgruntled intellectuals came along.

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