The Flynn Effect: It’s Why All Your Favorite Films All Suck Now

the flynn effect
Written by Jason Dias

“Jurassic Park” just ain’t what it used to be. But what is?

aNewDomain — The Flynn Effect is pretty weird.  It’s the so-called “secular trend,” which has nothing whatsoever to do with the absence of religiosity: It describes the tendency for average IQ scores to rise at about 3 points per decade.

As it turns out, IQ scores rise even faster in “less developed” nations, at more like 4.5 points per decade.

Flynn suggests this trend has to do with our adaptation to modernity. The way the test proposes questions, the sorts of problems one is expected to solve, have everything to do with life in the modern world and nothing to do with life in antiquity. 

Would a nomadic reindeer-herder really need to be able to memorize eight-digit numbers and repeat them back — backwards?

IQ’s don’t necessarily relate to intelligence so much as the ability to solve the problems of modern living, like mentally rotating 3-D objects, quickly decoding symbols and pattern-matching …

And as our IQ’s increase, so do our standards for film.  Watch this little gem the next time you have an hour and change. It’s Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Lost World” (1925).

Right around minute 48, you can watch a brontosaurus fight an allosaurus (or something).  For 1925, this really isn’t bad. 

But audiences at the time were astounded. They were completely taken in. Willing suspension of disbelief was easier in 1925.  You wouldn’t be fooled by such crude effects any more, of course.  Ray Harryhausen couldn’t make his stop-motion masterpieces in 2015.  Star Wars can no longer rely on the puppet genius of Frank Oz.

Now look at these little guys, in the last third of the “Journey to the Center of the Earth” trailer, below.


Nobody today would buy that iguanas with sails glued onto their backs were really giant dimetrodons.

Even Jurassic Park is starting to go stale.  Some of the scenes hold up pretty well. But others? When you see the Brachiosaurus for the first time, with the iguanodons stampeding by, it’s flat. Fake.

It’s not just that we’re jaded.

It isn’t just that we’re smarter than our parents and grandparents. Hell, those generations invented the computer, the atomic bomb, the lunar module. They put men on the Moon using the Saturn V, which we couldn’t recreate if we wanted to.

We have lost the blueprints, forgotten the technology.

When I was a teenager (I won’t say just how long ago) my favorite movie was “Highlander.”  Now, today, it’s unwatchable due to quite lousy special effects that were totally believable back then.

This adjustment to modernity makes it hard to watch old movies. It also makes it hard to cling to old ideas. 

Spirituality, for example, is as popular as ever. But religion? It is on the decline. 

So are racism and sexism. It’s easy to leap to the conclusion that religion causes racism, but that’s probably spurious: Young people just have a hard time buying that one kind of person is better than another. 

It just doesn’t fit in with modern, rationalist modes of thinking.

For aNewDomain, I’m Jason Dias.

1 Comment

  • “This adjustment to modernity makes it hard to watch old movies. It also makes it hard to cling to old ideas. ”
    Is this article meant to be ironic? I must submit that I strongly disagree with the article’s thesis. The ruthless homogeneity of 21st-century pop culture is precisely why old movies and old music are more and more compelling now. The old stuff just tends to be — wait for it — interesting. For the past few thousand years entertainment was all about showing people unusual things, interesting things, unexpected things. Surprises. Nowadays we get a dozen superhero movies every year that are almost interchangeable with one another. The same beats, the same fill-in-the-blank elements and structure. It reminds me of professional golf and how there’s a crisis because Tiger Woods doesn’t win every week anymore. Golf is boring now, say the critics, because you don’t know what’s going to happen. Whereas golf was so incredibly interesting during Tiger’s successful years, because you knew exactly what was going to happen.
    Re: special effects, most adults simply have no patience for the cartoonish CGI in movies today. It’s just too cartoony and fake. Nothing looks real and there’s no weight to the way things move. The reason people still watch the original Jurassic Park is because the animatronic T-Rex looked great. It looked real, believable, menacing. And yet young people (who were raised on cartoons) want to insist that 21st-century CGI is ultra realistic? The current generation seems to be incapable of distinguishing extremely fake CGI from reality, which is rather alarming.