A while back, someone linked to a synopsis on metaphilm.com that may lend an idea on this topic, at least in terms of Richie and Margot. The “selling you your memories” synopsis was too cynical for me, but the writer did hit on one aspect that had occurred to me.
First time around, it wasn’t that easy for me to identify – I couldn’t recall my parents handing me a blank check with “genius” written on the memo line.
Finances notwithstanding, most kids who are anywhere near average are told by someone that they’re “gifted” in some area and are put in a special class in school or whatnot with 30 other “gifted” kids.
To throw in my own cynicism, there are these outfits like Who’s Who that live off parents who will pay for the ceramic mug and to see their kid’s name in a directory of the thousands of other gifted kids who graduated in 1987.
The Tenenbaum children obviously had wider renown, but that only makes the fall harder when your skill diminishes, or you simply realize that, in the vast configuration of things, you’re not the genius you were cracked up to be.
Not only is that humbling personally, the thought that maybe you never really were a genius (Margot), but there’s a feeling that you’ve possibly let down your parents by not fully living up to their expectations (Richie). With your niche gone, where do you go from there with the rest of your life? And, not for nothing, that Eli was never accused of being a genius, but there he is giving lectures and enjoying fame.
That’s one aspect. On a lighter note, despite the class difference, it was a hoot to see the closet (with the Monopoly hotel on the pull string) and say “Whoa, we had that game! And that one!” That was a nicely placed and identifiable reminder that the Tenenbaums did a lot of the same stuff as kids like us.