What is a genius?
But how can we question power structures that are so embedded into our collective consciousness? How can we challenge the well-connected, white, male, genius figure? Especially when anyone coming into industry is at the bottom – power structures work like a triangle. And we all know a ‘genius’ at the top. How can we change something so ingrained, and do we even want to? We need to start unpacking the myth. So we’ll start, as most copywriters do, with the definition of the word.
What is a genius? We’ve all been bombarded with representations since childhood, but how can we break it down? Luckily for me, Central Saint Martins associate lecturer Monika Parrinder beat me to it, with the extremely handy Genius Checklist.
Characteristics routinely associated with genius include the following:
1. The creator – usually artist, writer or scientist – who rises above the ordinary mortal, acquiring a semi-divine status, in past times as a messenger for “the original creator,” God.
2. The individual – a pioneering, solitary non-conformist.
3. The madman – links between genius and madness are legendary.
4. The intuitive person – whose work is “natural” and unlearnt and hence cannot be analysed.
5. The pioneer – who is ahead of his or her (but rarely “her”) time and possibly a misunderstood or tortured soul (see 3 above).
So let’s start with one. We’re all creators of some description – we’re on our way to being geniuses! But wait…we can’t all be geniuses. Only very special people are geniuses.
The solitary pioneer
So I guess the next point is….am I a non-conformist pioneer who does everything alone?
Let me start with this: This is not how advertising works. And everyone in industry knows it. If a solitary genius could make a successful ad single-handedly this industry would 100% let them in and would then have a big bath in all the money they’d make. Every single one of your favourite ads has a huge squad of people making it happen; from planners to editors, this is not a one-man show.