“Behind the Curve” is currently on Netflix and is part of what I call their “Disturbingly Uncomfortable Observation You Can’t Turn Off Documentary” series. This one, about Flat Earthers, is better than most. It’s an enjoyable watch that explores the paradigm of purposeful liars and the mentally ill people they thrive off the affections of in a world where everything’s a fix and an inside job.
When you watch this you will be exposed to lying from main subject Mark Sargent, who I’m assuming is an ‘incel’ (Involuntarily Celibate) and is just the Roger Stone of Flat -Earthers. He’s not that bright or that honest. Why he puts himself out there is obvious, he’s an attention junkie. Most all of them are. That’s probably why all of them own prominently displayed musical instruments.
Mark Sargent’s crazy podcast co-host and horrible incel crush Patricia Steere, mostly keeps him at monitors length (or huge bowl of popcorn) away. Steere is Sargent’s sidekick and enabler to a degree. No romance is verified as ever happening, and Steere’s move from Texas to Vancouver never worked out, but they’re still friends and podcasting away. Steere’s inherited enough cash to get by, but she could always use more to buy some more Morrissey memorabilia or another Union Jack Les Paul guitar. She’s had a lot of work done. Her Police description would be something like “Kooky pipe cleaner tied in a knot wearing a babydoll dress”.
They allegedly have some kind of mesmeric chemistry that garners views as they fight, get this, “Science-ism” and try to “Break the Ball” in a bunch of podcasts I won’t name. Mostly its just two crazy people denying reality while Sargent stares lovingly at Steere, cradling his podcast mic like a man obsessed. When you realize it its hilarious. He can have the whole flat world, but he can’t seem to get her. Probably because she’s crazy and so is he and maybe grandiose lying is all they have in common.
Well done, responsible and well rebutted, Behind the Curve delivers a solid viewing experience.
Steere and Sargent are dismal humans at their best moments. They’re just lying. They love the attention. There’s enough people out there indiscriminately watching YouTube to have probably made them a few bucks off their crazy cottage industry/ hobby (before YouTube changed its compensation rules). They were approaching 200 podcasts at the time of filming.
These two liars are just not too great at the lying either. So the idea they could ever con someone is a bit depressing, but you gotta imagine to be conned by them is a personal shortcoming and shows some sort of adversarial personality disorder. You already had some problems if they’re appealing to you.
In the NASA Museum they never should have been allowed into they show up I guess at 930 am on a Tuesday to make sure the place was empty and they purposefully misuse and misinterpret the displays. They touch the screens on display and complain that its fake and doesn’t work. Then without cutting the camera brilliantly zooms in on the “START” button they simply aren’t hitting to initiate the display. So they’re not great at lying.
Thankfully Steere and Sargent aren’t the whole movie. You’d just turn it off after 20 minutes if it was. There’s an entire supporting cast of people with varying levels unmedicated mental illness or who are plain old lacking in intelligence.
The smarter people are mostly very mentally ill. They are a sad lot and they are a compelling display of what you can fall into if you don’t keep a check on some traits that lots of us have but these people are lost in.
The True Believers
So while many of them are liars, the truly mentally ill people are not to be outdone simply because they’re nuts. One dedicated group selectively obey and ignore (or are blissfully unaware of) the Laws of Physics in hilariously misconceived pseudo Science Experiments.
The amount of money they spend on their “Laser” experiment runs into the dozens of dollars, but they did it anyway. They basically put a giant laser leveler beam across about 4 miles of terrain and by doing such try to prove the earth has no curve. Forgetting for a moment that topographical features will play in to any result, no laser can stay focused enough to provide an accurate measure that far away. This took several laughable tries.
Ultimately, 4 miles away the laser was something like 11 feet wide. It couldn’t be measured. Naturally, having a preconceived notion of the outcome, they figure something out on the fly. Of course the nebulous ‘results’ seemed to show them they were on the right track.
Almost all of them are motivated to constantly assert the earth is flat and will just challenge average people to advance their hive-mind dedication to exposing as many people as possible to the Flat Earth belief system such as it is. So it’s the opposite of Fight Club that way.
For the people who aren’t podcasting about it (which is a shockingly cutthroat world) or doing a wack ‘experiment’ there’s other pastimes. Like the not touched upon but real people who create and sell flat earth T-shirts (doing okay) or, more in focus, people making mechanical art dedicated to showing the Flat Earth (not doing as well). The artist is delusional and thinks he has a goldmine. He painstakingly makes crazy, mechanical representations of the Flat Earth model into clocks and coffee tables. He notes “for what I charge for these I want them to be perfect.” Okay… more on him later.
When they interview the people at a given Flat Earth Meet Up the question “So how’s it going?” is a major obstacle. Everyone’s got a lot of problems and is very isolated. Usually it’s because the “Globe-ists” don’t understand and are instinctively hateful towards them to have them tell it. They’re pretty much all there by themselves. Some tell stories of how they alienated people from their lives by constantly pestering them that the Earth is flat. Its genuinely sad to behold.
The Bad Guy
Aside from the unifying mutual hatred of the CIA, the Men In Black and NASA, the Flat Earthers are actually strongly divided against themselves.
One faction follows a strange 30-ish guy who calls himself Math Powerland. He’s working out of perhaps Amsterdam? His video excerpts were pure insanity, but he had some kind of numerical pseudo science approach that he was using to back up his theories. It’s nonsense of course and he won’t leave his studio to debate it. During his screeds, delivered in front of a keyboard synthesizer, an otherwise tasked female simply walks around with a smartphone in the background while he rants. The whole things pretty weird and almost feels like a lost “Kids in the Hall” sketch. I would say a dutch Gordon Ramsay but angrier describes Powerland pretty well.
It’s probably true that Powerland has better videos and is a better host, but he’s still selling batshit and he’s maybe aware of it. His demands to participate in the documentary showed a self aware guile. What’s he care? He lives in a country that probably has lifetime unemployment benefits and this is how he uses his time. In other words, he’s not dependent on it to get by. His interest seems purely egotistical.
A lot of Math Powerland’s success might be “hate-watchers”. For his part, ‘Powerland’ despises Sargent and Steere. He also made that aforementioned list of demands so crazy there was no way he was going to get into the movie, so he might be the smartest charlatan. He appears in snippets of his own podcasts. I’m assuming he has some good sources of cocaine.
He’s just another person with a slightly different flat earth grift. He’s also animated and angry, whereas Steere and Sargent are in a ‘mutual admiration trance’ of sorts in their podcasts. So they juxtapose well.
The Flat Earth ‘Belief System’
All parties seem to be fixated on movie The Truman Show and the TV show Game of Thrones. These two pieces of fiction form the basis of their assertion of what’s happening to all of us all day every day.
According to the Flat Earthers; we are on a flat plane that’s essentially covered with a dome to which the sun and moon have been fitted onto brackets that move like a clock does overhead ‘simulating’ day and night. So the Entire world is a Movie Set. At it’s ends the world is hemmed in by 200 foot high ice walls “Just like Game of Thrones” according to Sargent. I guess somewhere behind the edge of this ice is where the diorama and the dome meet? They’re actually still debating this aspect.
Ruled over by YouTubers who must surely be feeling the crunch of the new YouTube reality where it’s much harder to monetize, the Flat Earthers are very competitive and hate each other for the most part. They’re all highly suspicious of each other and in general a paranoid (and not very smart) group.
The one guy whose advanced himself to head of IT for a mid-sized US city may be making a gambit for a generous early retirement package by appearing in the movie. He’s the smartest one with the most success.
The Flat Earth “Convention”
In a move that may just be related to the new difficulties monetizing on YouTube, Sargent and Steere become involved in organizing a “Flat Earth Convention” that seems to be all about money and feeling important. Hilarity ensues.
‘Randomly’ stopping during his journey to the Flat Earth Convention, Sargent ends up in front of an inexpensive, not that greatly located scrolling electronic sign. He is ‘amazed’ to see an ‘unrelated’ ad for his convention that ‘he had nothing to do with.’ Rather than confront him they show some of the other ads the sign scrolls and how fast it scrolls them and it seems pretty obvious this was no coincidence and he was the one behind the ads.
Finally arriving at the “Flat Earth Convention”, held at a mediocre motor inn near Raleigh NC, I assume near the airport, they one-fourth filled a medium-sized ballroom. Attendees had come from as far away as Ireland (allegedly) in one case. While I doubt anything that ‘just happens’ in front of the camera because they’re such liars, for the most part the attendees at the ‘convention’ were few in number and all too authentic. A confederacy of dunces would seem to cover these poor fools well. The person who bought their child should maybe be visited by Child Protective Services.
Introduced by a man who looks very, very terminally ill; Sargent prepares to address the audience amid doubts from the promoters. The “No Refunds” sign is scaring people away, but clearly it was legally necessary to pull off the grift cleanly. Or the motor inn was concerned about trouble. Whatever the reason it’s important enough to be the last thing they tell him before he walks up to speak.
Sargent was dressed as badly and blandly as always. Wearing a Flat Earth oriented hat and t-shirt and perhaps long pants for once; he took the stage. There were enough people for a minimally robust show of welcome.
Sargent gave little more than a State of the Union on his grandiose ideas to the members of the small but real movement. He didn’t have the pseudo-science down as clean as a Math Powerland-type, and he was live rather than edited. So he wan’t all that great. As a speaker he lacks a good voice or experience and is just not a natural. He also avoids specifics like the plague.
The crowd was still receptive. Lets face it, they walked in to a Flat Earth Convention willingly. They’re all crazy. Most can’t even sit in a chair without being conspicuously mentally ill. It doesn’t appear staged. Sargent and Steele just don’t have the budget to fill the place with actors anyway.
We didn’t see anyone asking for their money back. Make of that what you will.
What we see of the Q&A showed crazy people asking insane questions unflinchingly fielded by liars. Not that the answers were great. The attendees, theorized by the real scientists we see as suffering from severe Dunning-Kruger Effect, are definitely not playing with full decks.
The part where they couldn’t seem to catch the Flat Earth Art Guy making any sales was reassuring. After he drove 1,100 miles to Raleigh to try to sell to the only people who would ever buy his semi-interesting insanity he didn’t seem to do too well. So it seems most of them of them are broke. His art was more clever than good anyway.
Review – Reaction
In my non expert view they were mostly in a certain phase of mental illness best described as between ‘on the street’ and ‘in the psych ward’. Barely functioning. A place where they were just a few coincidences away from being homeless. If they don’t get help they’re ending up in an institution.
Here and there among them a few have struck some Fools Gold in the form of internet validation. It’s just harder to get paid on YouTube these days though.
It seems some people who see it just can’t believe anyone would willingly lie. So every few weeks a few more people ‘bought in’ in the form of a YouTube view.
In the past YouTube monetization was a lot easier. Plus there’s enough people who will just watch anything the autoplay throws by. So the amount of people flat earthing got to be pretty high.
Having created an ‘internet Microenvironment’ they then proceeded to have a ‘Game of Thrones’ amongst themselves over who would be the Kings of the Flat Earth on YouTube. Eventually monetization was cut off from most. The producers dont talk about this but if you watch anyone regularly on YouTube you’ve heard about the monetization woes firsthand. It’s fascinating to see these people and their greed and/ or insanity.
This movie needed to be made. It’s artistic to a degree. Totally voyeuristic, if you’ve never had a relative die of dementia you probably will learn a lot from this movie. There’s help out there but these people aren’t going to get it. They like being crazy. It makes them feel important.
For my part I’ve seen the curvature of the earth out the windows of an airplane and have been to the top of some of New York’s biggest skyscrapers. I believe I’ve seen visual proof the earth is round. I’m sure of it. The world’s round people.
I give it 5 Stars in the “Strange Observations Documentary” category.
It’s a great documentary and flies by when viewing. Just go put it on now.