The Destructive “Good Will Hunting” Fantasy

Dave Gutteridge
From the Gutt
Published in
8 min readAug 8, 2021

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Scene from the movie “Good Will Hunting” of Will looking at a chalkboard.
(Image owned by Miramax films, used without permission, please don’t sue me.)

Good Will Hunting is a terrible movie for all sorts of reasons, but I find the fundamental premise particularly toxic. It’s something that hits me on a deeper level, because I’m basically the person that the fantasy of Good Will Hunting is supposed to appeal to.

I grew up in an overly educated family. Almost everyone in my parents generation and up, all my aunts and uncles and grandparents, had been teachers, most of them at university level. They had PhDs and masters degrees. The walls in every home were covered in shelves of books. Learning things at home was always better than what was available at school.

I skipped out most of my grade nine math class, and my teacher told me I’d fail it if I didn’t demonstrate that I had learned enough in a year end final exam. My father taught me in 90 minutes everything that a year’s worth of math class was supposed to teach me, and I passed the test with a score of 97%. My teacher pulled me aside and said I had real talent for math that was being wasted because I wasn’t taking it seriously.

The lesson I took from that experience, and others like it, was that school was holding me back by being tedious and slow. Around the same time, my mom showed me papers she was marking from students in her first year philosophy class, and I felt so above them in terms of not only their comprehension of the topic, but their ability to articulate an argument. Yes, I was completely arrogant.

Part of the reason for that arrogance is that my parents failed to provide any guidance on my emotional development. They were both way too young when they had my brother and I, and were still in need of emotional guidance themselves. Not to mention there were probably gaps in what my grandparents had offered them. My parents weren’t monsters or anything, just lacking the wisdom or facilities to be role models or mentors for anything outside of academic learning. But the fallout from that is a topic for a different day. For now I’ll just say I don’t resent them for any of this, as I have come to understand that they were just people trying to get by like we all are, and it’s just up to me to deal with the hand I was dealt.

One thing I still believe my parents did right is instill in me a confidence that I can solve any problem by thinking…

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Dave Gutteridge
From the Gutt

I don't post often because I think about what I write. Topics include ethics, relationships, and philosophy.