Penn & Teller: Bullshit! (2003) s08e09 Episode Script

Self Esteem

Hi, I'm Penn Jillette, and this is my partner, Teller.
Man, our self-esteem is in the clouds.
We feel great! We're into our eighth season of "Bullshit!" and our ratings have gone up every damn year.
We won a Writer's Guild Award, gotten over a dozen Emmy nominations, and best of all, we're on Showtime! It's a great network with lots of amazing shows like "Dexter" and Californication," and I guess they both do a lot better than us, but, you know, Showtime just won't do any billboards for us.
But they say that's just a budget thing, and they did say they were going to put a "Bullshit!" poster in their office.
Then they didn't.
Not one.
Oh, fuck.
Over-inflated self-esteem is bullshit! "Self-Esteem" Pizza, baseball, online shopping, jazz, tits, jazzy tits.
In America, there are lots of things to love-- even them.
But there's one thing, it seems, we love more than anything else--ourselves.
I would say my self-esteem is above average.
I think my self-esteem is pretty good.
I actually have really good self-esteem.
I love myself.
Today, everyone's a winner, even if they lose.
The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, you can't tell them apart anymore.
But why? I've never met anybody that didn't have some kind of a self-esteem issue.
There is a relationship between low self-esteem and other issues in life, such as addiction.
- Unwanted pregnancy.
- Domestic violence.
Crime and aggression.
But is low self-esteem really the root of all evil? Tonight, "Bullshit" will explore some of the techniques people think will help them feel better about themselves.
We'll follow this woman's attempt to boost her low self-esteem Today I'm getting ready for a self-esteem affirmations workshop.
We'll meet a woman who plays with dolls I am greatness.
A man who plays with dolls Wonderful! And visit a doctor whose self-esteem boosting method will leave you feeling - Absolutely wonderful.
- Come again? Absolutely wonderful.
Teller's got a perfect magic trick for explaining the bullshit kind of self-esteem.
This glass of milk represents your objective worth.
But bullshitters think you should say the magic words, "I am special," and it'll seem like you have more worth than you really do.
They think if you pretend it's more, that will make you more apt to succeed.
Watch--I am special.
Oh, fuck! Look.
Amazing! Your worth looks even bigger.
It's fake, but you feel better and more successful, don't you? No? All you truly have to be proud of, see, this is the point, is your real worth.
What a great metaphor, and a mystifying trick, too.
No, no, really, Teller, you should feel very good about yourself for that trick.
Oh, look what's just come in! Holy cow! You got an Emmy for best didactic magic trick of 2010/2011.
You, sir are a winner.
No, it doesn't really say-- It doesn't really say that.
I--I did just print it up.
But it's really nice paper, very nice paper.
You know what I'm going to do? I'm going to get me a bumper sticker that's gonna say "My partner did a great job at--" Well, actually, it'll say, "My partner Teller did--" Can I have the milk? Mmm.
You are so special.
Right this way.
Stick with me.
A lot of the self-esteem movement focuses on kids.
I think it's very important to reach kids at an early age.
I've done probably over 2,500 elementary-aged shows.
Meet elementary school motivational speaker Tim-- 2,500 kid shows?! Piccirillo.
Sorry, Tim Piccirillo.
Tim is a comic magician.
How does someone land that cushy job? I do a self-esteem show in elementary schools.
It's called "You are special-- The magic of believing in yourself.
" And if you want-- that's a good starting point to raise your self-esteem.
And I think kids need to hear my message that, you know, you do have this potential.
You can be successful if you want to be.
Well, sure your self-esteem is high.
Look at the size of the ball you can fit into your mouth.
But forget kids for a sec.
How are we supposed to raise our self-esteem? I think that one of the very best things a person can do if they wanted to grow in self-esteem would be to read the following books by Nathaniel Brandon.
By Nathaniel Brandon.
- "Honoring the Self.
" - "Honoring the Self.
" "How to Raise Your Self-Esteem.
" "How to Raise Your Self-Esteem.
" "The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem.
" "The Pillars of Self-Esteem.
" That's enough for now.
Hey, thanks! So who is this Nathaniel Brandon, anyway? I am Dr.
Nathaniel Brandon.
I am a practicing psychotherapist.
You were talking about yourself in the third person recommending your own books? Your shit must work.
For the past 40 years, Dr.
Brandon's findings have been considered a reference point for the whole self-esteem industry.
When I began doing psychotherapy, I was struck by the fact that regardless of the particular complaint the person came into my office with, one common denominator was a poor self concept; underdeveloped self-esteem.
Back in the seventies, Dr.
Brandon declared that virtually all psychological problems are traceable to low self-esteem.
Anxiety, depression, fear of intimacy, spousal battery, child molestation, parking violations-- all low self-esteem.
I'm Leann Gomez, and I'm newly unemployed.
Leann was recently and unexpectedly laid off.
Losing my job really struck a blow on my self-esteem.
It really had me question if I had anything of value to contribute anymore.
So Leann is going to attend a self-esteem affirmations workshop.
Sounds interesting.
Mind if we, uh, tag along? We'll just scrunch down here and for some reason point the camera directly into the sun while you tell us what you're hoping to get out of this affirmations workshop.
Out of this seminar, I hope to accomplish a greater level of self-esteem and self confidence.
I hope that helps me just to attract everything that I want in life.
Um, from a new job to a family.
And, you know, one day buying a home.
Just the all American dream.
Well, Leann, we have good news for you.
A camera operator job has just opened up on "Bullshit!" You can add that to your affirmations.
I was in kindergarten when the trophy generation thing started.
There was a pet show competition in my school.
The rules were clear-- Your pet had to do a trick.
I had Ralph, a big, fat rabbit who couldn't do anything but eat and shit.
I knew Ralph couldn't be in the show unless he did a trick.
Then I noticed Ralph would gnaw on sticks to keep his teeth short.
It gave me an idea.
I took pencils and stuck little rubber tires on the end so they looked like barbells.
My mother even made a vest, a little rabbit vest.
And on the back it said, "Ralph, the weight lifting rabbit" in glue and glitter.
We entered the contest.
Ralph went-- Everybody laughed and applauded.
Then five other kids brought out pets that did jack shit.
They did nothin', nothin'! And then we all got awards.
We all got the same award, every single one of us.
I'm still pissed.
We were up against animals you could actually teach to do tricks, and Ralph is a fucking idiot rabbit.
What bothered me and still bothers me is the fact that people who didn't even follow the rules still got ribbons.
I think people, and maybe even rabbits, should earn the right to have self-esteem.
Ahh, beautiful, beautiful.
See, this rabbit deserves a ribbon.
Do it again.
Ahh, the affirmations workshop is starting.
Welcome, everyone, to using affirmations to raise self-esteem.
My name is Jackie Duvall, and I am an empowerment life coach.
And I work with people to help them change things in their lives they've been unable to change on their own.
There's Leann, sitting with some other people who are looking to improve their self-esteem.
This is Adam.
Everything I kind of had in my life and around me, job-wise, relationship-wise, friend-wise, all just kind of disappeared over this year.
And Brandy.
Well, I guess being a writer, you have to deal with a lot of rejections.
And I just need some motivation, I guess, to help me find more work.
This workshop, I am hoping will help me with my self-esteem and give me more tools to get better and gain confidence in myself again.
Okay, thanks.
I think we're done.
Oh, one more.
I want to be a correctional officer at a maximum security prison.
So that's pretty much my life story.
That's kind of smoking hot.
And you're really attractive with a clear and hot career goal.
If you have self-esteem problems, what chance do the rest of us have? Oh, shit! Gotta get back to the workshop.
So we can use affirmations as a way of addressing this part of ourselves that is not where we want it to be.
Well, for the next few hours, Jackie will help the participants craft individual and deeply personal affirmations.
Which she claims will change their lives for the better.
So, Jackie, how did you get interested in self-esteem? I was always into personal development.
I was always into that, about learning and growing as a person.
And so within one week of being laid-off, I found an ad for a coaching school.
And it had that sense of destiny all over it, if you know what I'm saying.
Hold on-- Hold on a second.
Um, "desolation," "despair," oh, there it is.
" A noun.
"The feeling an unemployed person gets when encountering an opportunity for easy money.
" Example--when I saw the wallet hanging out of the dead guy's pocket, I knew it was destiny.
But why are we being such sour pussies? Maybe Jackie has something new to offer Leann, like, uh, encouraging her to, uh, get in touch with her feeling place? The feeling place is basically-- It's your heart.
It's that essence of who you are that goes beyond your intellect.
When we connect with that and we say an affirmation, then we're speaking the truth about ourselves.
We're not trying to convince ourselves.
We're speaking a truth that a part of us already knows is true.
So they have to connect with some touchy-feely place? Why? Once you're there, I believe anything's possible.
Anything is possible? Eat the sun! Get on the Supreme Court! Make Pluto a planet again! Our next stop takes us to a dock in Tampa to meet a little doll maker? Fuck.
We really have to--oh.
Maybe we should hear this woman out for a few hours.
I'm Natalie Hensgen, and I have invented a new product to help with self-esteem.
That's good! The self-esteem movement clearly needs more than just workshops and magic shows.
Okay, Natalie, show us what you've invented.
My body is healthy and happy! What the fuckity fuckity fuck fuck is that?! Affirmation angels are adorable little plush 14-inch cuddly angels which say positive affirmations to help you bring your dreams into reality.
An example of an affirmation is I am a gift to this world.
Well, not exactly a gift.
More like a C.
These dolls sell for $33 a piece.
And I let my light shine brightly.
I really have a passion for teaching children they can be or do anything that they want to, because I really do believe that.
And this led you to make dolls that have fantastic self-esteem.
Notice they don't say to the child, "You are a gift to this world.
" They say, "I am a gift to this world.
" I am a gift to this world.
The doll doesn't care about the kid! Fuckin' self absorbed pieces of plastic shit! I'd rather my children played with fucking Chucky! The dolls make it easy so you don't really have to think about it.
Because they say the affirmations in the correct format, and then you just follow what the doll says.
Just follow what the doll says? Wow! We gotta get back to Tim's magic show for kids.
Oh, they want a really big hat, Jake.
There we go, big hat, okay.
This psychology stuff is so counter-intuitive.
That's supposed to increase his self-esteem, all his peers laughing and pointing at him? The message is that we're all different.
It doesn't matter what you look like on the outside.
- No! - What's it matter? - Where you feel what? - Inside! And how you feel about yourself inside.
And I want you to feel good about yourself, - because you are - Special! Special? Did he say special? He does 2,500 shows and say, 500 kids a show.
1,250,000 kids, and not one of them is a fuckin' loser? And just what would Tim know about special? His tricks are all right off the rack.
Ali Bongo's expanding hat, 22.
Break away wand, 9.
Spongeballs, four for six bucks.
Willingness to appear on "Bullshit!" and let us mock him? Priceless.
You're - Special! - All right.
This belief that kids have bad self-esteem and need to be bolstered, this is just empirically wrong.
I'm Professor Roy Baumeister.
I'm a research psychologist.
I've been studying self-esteem for 35 years.
Wait a second! Is that Dr.
Zaius? Kids quite naturally have very, very positive views of themselves.
They're not in need of bolstering.
They're in need, if anything, to be brought somewhat down to Earth.
Well, now, that's something a magic show really can do.
Most kids think they can grow up to become a president and a cowboy and a mother and an astronaut.
And they'll get all these things done and still have time to be a movie star, too.
Thanks, Dr.
Say hi to Cornelius for us.
How much self-esteem must I have to make a 1968 "Planet of the Apes" joke in 2010? I rock! Let's check back in on Jackie's workshop.
The class is just finished writing their affirmations.
One by one, they'll take the stage and reveal the truth from deep inside their feeling place, which I have hanging.
I am a unique, beautiful, trustworthy woman who gives and receives love.
That seems nice.
How about a little more ambition? My creativity is a quality within myself capable of bringing inspiration beyond the realm of ordinary living.
Beyond the realm of ordinary living.
Now we're talking.
I am perfectly and precisely as God would have me be, and my purpose in the world will touch many lives.
So God has sent his only daughter, and she has low self-esteem?! Does anyone think this shit works? I feel that there are some people who use this type of approach to ignore the fact that they need to get off their asses and do some stuff with their life.
Adam, you did it.
You snatched the pebble from her hand! That's the point of the class.
She sets you up to realize for yourselves that positive affirmations don't do squat.
Right, Jackie? Positive thinking affects how we feel.
Fuck! So if we have positive thoughts, then we have a tendency to have more positive feelings.
And therefore, everything that flows from that is positive as well.
Are you positive? The trouble with trying to reload your mind, or it's really kind of self hypnosis with affirmations, is it does not seem to work.
I'm Barbara Ehrinreich.
I'm the author of "Bright-Sided: "How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America.
" In fact, I think it probably makes them more sort of self-conscious and a little bit anxious about how they're feeling, if you're constantly going around monitoring, "Am I feeling good now? Am I feeling good? Am I the least bit negative, or what--" That's worse than, you know, not having this in the first place.
I'd like to go.
It's time for our friend Leann's affirmation.
- It's a matter for me-- - Please.
Um, I lovingly embrace my sadness and look to the light of a brand new day.
"Lovingly embrace my sadness"? Isn't that like saying, "I squeezed the porcupine to my chest"? We need some fresh air.
Ahh! Hey, you.
Yeah, you.
The only other person walking on this beach.
How's your self-esteem? My self-esteem can definitely be worked on.
Um, it's definitely not as low as some, but definitely not where I want it.
What the fuck?! Another gorgeous woman with low self-esteem? All right, what's your story? My name's Melissa Allen, and I'm going to see Dr.
Who? Dr.
Bunny, and I can help improve your self-esteem.
That's Dr.
Bunny Vreeland, and if you think we just dug up some nobody with a cute name, think again.
This wascally wabbit has her own wadio show.
Is it girl troubles, is it family troubles, is it your career, what's happening? I-- You know, you might have just hit all three.
- Hi.
- Hi! - Melissa? - Yes.
Bunny considers herself qualified to help our new best friend Melissa because I'm a board-certified clinical hypnotherapist, and I've been doing that for 20 years.
Ahh, yes.
The Reese's Peanut Butter Cup of alternative medicine.
Because it's Hypnosis and therapy coming together to create whatever it is that the client is there for by the use of relaxing the body, opening up the subconscious mind to accept those suggestions.
So my job is to get them to a place where they're ready to go into my magic room.
Which is what she calls her den.
She calls her kitchen Valhalla.
She's got a wild hare up her ass.
Attention, citizens! Attention, citizens! The expression "has a wild hare up her ass" does not refer to a poorly positioned strand of ass hair in the rectal area.
It's h-a-r-e, and it means "angry, wild bunny in your butt.
" Thank you.
Carry on.
I put a headset on them so it blocks out all the noise from the streets or the planes overhead or whatever it might be.
It also helps them to just focus more.
Okay, buddy, don't blind us with science.
Just show us what happens on your magic laz-e boy.
Now just let my voice take you on a journey.
You have more than enough of what you need to follow your life's purpose.
You're happy.
You are prosperous.
We are Penn & Teller.
We are funny.
We do great magic.
We show clips of people talking and then say insightful and funny things.
Deep things, witty things.
That guy did look like Dr.
We do great magic.
We are funny.
We are Penn & Teller.
Look! There's Nathaniel Brandon again.
His claim that low self-esteem is responsible for all that's bad in the world? That theory was tested.
In 1987, the state of California created the California Task Force to prove once and for all that low self-esteem was responsible for everything from poor academic achievement to criminal behavior.
But, get this-- They found that there was no worthwhile correlation between low self-esteem and any of those scary things Nathaniel Brandon and the rest of the self-esteem posse claimed.
In fact, here's the quote from the follow-up report-- And that's California! If anyone was going to believe that shit, it would have been the Cali Task Force.
That means Nathaniel Brandon was wrong.
And there we have it for you, Jake, your very own little pet.
So if all the self-esteem boot strapping doesn't work, is it possible that Dr.
Bunny is full of shit? Tiny balls of shit that look like cocoa puffs.
As you begin moving toward your life purpose, you'll discover that your relationships are getting better.
Awakening totally and completely on the count of five.
And feeling absolutely wonderful.
One, beginning to return and feeling good.
Two-- Fuck! You'd think a wild hare up her ass would make her talk faster.
Let's just cut to Dr.
Bunny telling us how Melissa did.
Today's session was very satisfying.
I was very pleased with the change, and I know that we'll be very successful.
Great! You don't mind if we ask the patient, do you? As far as me going into the session with Dr.
Bunny, my self-esteem, I believe, is just the same.
It's not gone up or down anymore than where it was before.
Okay, but Dr.
Bunny does have an M.
Wait a second, it's a Ph.
D and it's in-- What is your Ph.
D in, anyway? Clinical psychology, behavioral neuroscience? My Ph.
D is in irritable bowel syndrome.
Must be that wild hare up her ass.
Speaking of irritating bowels, how is Tim's show going? Now say, "I'm number one!" I'm number one! There's your magic wand, right there.
All right.
Now you never forget that you are number one.
You are what? - Number one! - Because you are - Special! - All right, fantastic.
With all this recent pumping up of kids' self-esteem, are we creating a nation of narcissists? They're going to come out of school with very high expectations, and a very high opinion of themselves, and reality isn't going to fit.
And the problem with reality is that it wins.
I mean, reality always wins.
Keith Campbell, Professor of Psychology at the University of Georgia, and co-author of "The Narcissism Epidemic.
" And some of them will adapt and, you know, make things work, and a lot of them will be unhappy and feel disconnected from others and depressed and isolated.
So it's--I don't think it's going to be pretty for everybody.
So we'll do it again.
1, 2, 3-- - I am special! - Wonderful! When we start telling people, you know, and this goes back to the kids, you know, "You're special, you're different, you're unique," you know, that's producing narcissism a little bit more than it's producing self-esteem.
It's not like we're having kids saying, "I have worth, I have some basic dignity, "I have respect like all people, all people are equal.
" I mean, that's not causing narcissism.
Specialness is.
We're Penn & Teller.
We know we're not very strong, smart or good-looking.
Hell, we're not even the strongest, smartest or best-looking people on our own fucking show.
And yet we have no shortage of self-esteem.
It didn't come from affirmations.
Our parents didn't make us chant, "We're special.
" They just encouraged us to learn to do good stuff, even if we wouldn't get credit for it, like fucking Ralph, the weight-lifting rabbit.
I got into show business by practicing juggling.
I started when I was 12, mostly 'cause you can't spend every single moment of the day jerkin' off.
Teller-- Teller couldn't catch a baseball, so he hit away and worked on magic, and he got to love it.
And here we are, working at what we love.
Do we fail? Fuck.
All the time.
We don't even have jokes for this stand-up, and you see how Teller's getting along with the, uh, with the tablecloth trick.
But he'll do it.
Or, if he doesn't, he'll figure out how to cheat, or he'll give up and start another trick.
But for now But for now, we suck.
We can't do either of these for shit.
But we'll keep trying.
It's the only way we know to earn our self-esteem.
When it comes to raising your self-esteem I get better every day.
There are no magic words.
1, 2, 3! No magic tricks.
No magic rooms.
I want to thank you all so much for coming today.
Thank you.
And no magical thinking.
That's it! Now I've got it.
There it is, mama! Yeah, that's it! Ha! Ha! I can achieve anything I dream of.
I am a sure success.
Every experience leads me to success.
The Universe sends me everything I need to be successful.
I come from greatness, I attract greatness, I am greatness.