Kate Beckinsale has done it. She’s really done it. She’s stepped in it by talking IQs on Howard Stern, insinuating that despite being born with something enviable—intelligence—it’s actually not that helpful. “Yeah, I’m Super Smart…But It’s Hurt My Acting Career,” TMZ sniffs. Page Six went with “Kate Beckinsale says her ‘very high IQ’ is a ‘handicap’ in Hollywood.”
Sure, when one reads these headlines, it sounds like Beckinsale is putting down the industry that made her famous and saying she’s too good for it, while also bragging about a bit of privilege she enjoys. But it’s all much more innocent than that! Let’s back up: she confirmed when Stern asked that, yes, she’s quite smart. Her mother, who she called to double confirm, said that her IQ as a child was 152 (IQs considered “very high” are above 130). And—here’s where she opened herself up to even more criticism—she said being naturally very smart hasn’t really benefited her.
“Every single doctor, every single person I’ve ever come across has said, ‘You’d be so much happier if you were 30 percent less smart,’” she said. “It’s no good to me, though. It’s really not helpful to me in my career. I just think it might have been a handicap actually.”
So, she didn’t go into a career that would have taken advantage of such brains. As Stern points out, she studied Russian literature at Oxford. But she decided not to make her bones as a Russian to English translator or what have you. She chose to act. She chose film. She chose action and sometimes comedy and occasionally drama. She never indicates that she regretted that choice; just that the career didn’t maximize her natural-born gifts to their fullest potential.
Listen, people do things they they are not maximally suited for all the time! For example, I write blogs all day, usually in a supine position on a couch, but I would be much better suited for a life of, say, a firefighter or a roofer. I have strong thighs! If there was an IQ for thigh strength, mine would really be off the charts and Howard Stern would be losing his mind over me and my magnificent cutlets. But fat lot of good these gorgeous ham-hocks have done for my professional life. Early on, I decided I wanted to make money off of my brain, which, well—it’s turning out fine. These blogs haven’t won any Pulitzers yet, but a pair of perfect thighs with a little head on top can dream, can’t she? At least, I know that it’s not my legs’ fault that I haven’t.
Beckinsale would have been much better suited for a life of solving increasingly arcane little puzzles, but she’s an actrice. And she’s dealing with something much more pernicious than I am. My thighs aren’t out to get in the way of my blogging career, but her brain won’t turn off no matter how much she tries to let it atrophy on the set of, say, Van Helsing. Anyone with bits of overactive cerebral matter knows that heavy is the head that holds a big old brain. It’s exhausting to think so much!