Nova (1974–…): Season 21, Episode 12 - The Secret of the Wild Child - full transcript

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TONIGHT ON NOVA,
THE SHOCKING STORY OF A GIRL

WHO SPENT HER CHILDHOOD
LOCKED IN A BEDROOM.

THE GIRL REPORTEDLY
WAS STILL WEARING DIAPERS

WHEN DISCOVERED TWO WEEKS AGO.

RAISED IN ISOLATION,
GENIE WAS A "WILD CHILD"

UNCIVILIZED, BARELY ABLE
TO WALK OR TALK.

Woman:
THE INDICATIONS ARE

THAT SHE WAS BEATEN
FOR MAKING NOISE.

WITH FOOTAGE NEVER BEFORE
SEEN ON TELEVISION

NOVA FOLLOWS THE CONTROVERSIAL
EFFORTS TO UNLOCK

Narrator:
ONCE IN A GREAT WHILE



CIVILIZED SOCIETY
COMES ACROSS A "WILD CHILD"...

A CHILD WHO HAS GROWN UP
IN SEVERE ISOLATION

WITH VIRTUALLY NO HUMAN CONTACT.

THIS IS THE STORY
OF SUCH A CASE.

THE STORY BEGINS IN LOS ANGELES
ON NOVEMBER 4, 1970.

Walter Cronkite:
OFFICIALS IN THE LOS ANGELES
SUBURB OF ARCADIA

HAVE TAKEN CUSTODY OF
A 13-YEAR-OLD GIRL WHO, THEY SAY

WAS KEPT IN SUCH ISOLATION
BY HER PARENTS

THAT SHE NEVER EVEN
LEARNED TO TALK.

HER ELDERLY PARENTS HAVE BEEN
CHARGED WITH CHILD ABUSE.

Narrator:
THIS IS THE SCENE OF THE CRIME.

A CHILD WAS LOCKED IN A ROOM
AND TIED TO A POTTY CHAIR

FOR MOST OF HER LIFE.

COMPLETELY RESTRAINED,
SHE WAS FORCED TO SIT ALONE



DAY AFTER DAY,
AND OFTEN THROUGH THE NIGHT.

SHE HAD LITTLE TO LOOK AT
AND NO ONE TO TALK TO

FOR MORE THAN TEN YEARS.

Cronkite:
THE GIRL REPORTEDLY WAS
UTTERING INFANTILE NOISES

AND STILL WEARING DIAPERS

WHEN A SOCIAL WORKER DISCOVERED
THE CASE TWO WEEKS AGO

BUT THE AUTHORITIES ARE HOPING

SHE STILL MAY HAVE
A NORMAL LEARNING CAPACITY.

Narrator:
HERE WAS A 13-YEAR-OLD
WHO SEEMED LIKE AN INFANT...

A GIRL WHO WOULD
BE KNOWN AS GENIE.

GENIE WAS TAKEN TO CHILDRENS
HOSPITAL IN LOS ANGELES

WHERE SHE IMMEDIATELY
WON THE HEARTS

OF DOCTORS AND SCIENTISTS.

Woman:
SHE WAS FRAGILE AND BEAUTIFUL,
ALMOST HAUNTING

AND SO I WAS PULLED,
I WAS VERY DRAWN TO HER

EVEN THOUGH I WAS NERVOUS

AND HAD NO IDEA IN MANY RESPECTS
WHAT TO EXPECT.

Narrator:
GENIE WAS ABOUT TO TEST AN IDEA

IMPORTANT TO SCIENCE
AND SOCIETY...

THAT A NURTURING ENVIRONMENT

COULD MAKE UP FOR EVEN
THE MOST NIGHTMARISH OF PASTS.

Woman:
IF YOU MAKE UP A SENTENCE
IN YOUR HEAD

OR YOU WRITE IT DOWN

AND IT HAS, SAY,
TEN, 12 WORDS IN IT

CHANCES ARE YOU CAN LISTEN
FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE

FOR SOMEONE
TO SAY THE SENTENCE.

Narrator:
HERE AT U.C.L.A.,
SUSAN CURTISS TEACHES STUDENTS

THE ABILITY TO LEARN LANGUAGE.

Curtiss:
AND CHANCES ARE

YOU WILL NEVER
COME ACROSS THAT SENTENCE.

Narrator:
THE STUDENTS BEGIN THEIR STUDY
THROUGH A FAMOUS CASE.

THE CASE NAME
IS GENIE.

THIS IS NOT
THE PERSON'S REAL NAME

BUT WHEN WE THINK
ABOUT WHAT A GENIE IS

A GENIE IS A CREATURE

THAT COMES OUT OF A BOTTLE
OR WHATEVER

BUT EMERGES INTO HUMAN SOCIETY
PAST CHILDHOOD

AND WE ASSUME THE CREATURE
DIDN'T HAVE A HUMAN CHILDHOOD.

Narrator:
SUSAN CURTISS HAS
A SPECIAL CONNECTION

TO THE STORY SHE'S TELLING.

20 YEARS AGO

SHE WAS ASKED TO JOIN A TEAM
WORKING TO REHABILITATE GENIE.

I WAS LITERALLY AT THE RIGHT
PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME.

I WAS A NEW GRADUATE STUDENT

INTERESTED IN
LANGUAGE ACQUISITION

UNENCUMBERED BY FAMILY TIES
OR RESPONSIBILITIES.

AND THEY ASKED ME
IF I WOULD BE INTERESTED.

Narrator:
WHEN CURTISS FIRST
JOINED THE CASE

GENIE HAD A STRANGE "BUNNY WALK"

AND OTHER, ALMOST INHUMAN
CHARACTERISTICS.

GENIE CONSTANTLY SPAT.

SHE SNIFFED AND CLAWED.

SHE BARELY SPOKE
OR MADE ANY NOISES.

Curtiss:
THE INDICATIONS ARE

THAT SHE WAS BEATEN
FOR MAKING NOISE

AND CONSEQUENTLY HAD LEARNED
BASICALLY NOT TO VOCALIZE

AND SHE REALLY DIDN'T VOCALIZE
VERY MUCH AT ALL.

WHEN I FIRST MET HER, SHE
WAS SILENT MOST OF THE TIME.

Narrator:
GENIE ALSO RECEIVED DAILY VISITS
AT CHILDRENS HOSPITAL

FROM JAMES KENT,
HER PSYCHOLOGIST.

KENT RECALLS FIRST MEETING
HIS NEW PATIENT.

I WAS CAPTIVATED BY HER.

I WAS NOT THE LAST PERSON
TO BECOME CAPTIVATED BY HER.

THE STORY, AS WE BEGAN TO...
TO LEARN ABOUT IT

WAS SORT OF ONE OF THE THINGS
THAT, OF COURSE

WOULD REACH OUT
AND GRAB YOU ANYWAY.

BUT SHE HAD A PERSONAL QUALITY

THAT SEEMED
TO ELICIT RESCUE FANTASIES

AND THIS IN A GROUP OF PEOPLE

WHO WERE INTERESTED
IN TAKING CARE OF KIDS

AND WHO SPECIALIZED
IN EARLY CHILDHOOD

WHO WERE GOING
TO BE SORT OF POWERED

BY RESCUE FANTASIES ANYWAY.

SHE REACHED OUT
AND GRABBED LOTS OF US.

Narrator:
ONE OF GENIE'S MOST
CAPTIVATING QUALITIES

WAS THE INTENSE WAY SHE EXPLORED
HER NEW ENVIRONMENT.

ODDLY, EVEN STRANGERS WHO
KNEW NOTHING ABOUT HER STORY

SEEMED TO SENSE
HER NEED TO DO SO.

Curtiss:
ONE PARTICULARLY STRIKING MEMORY
OF THOSE EARLY MONTHS

WAS AN ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL MAN
WHO WAS A BUTCHER.

AND HE NEVER ASKED HER NAME
OR ANYTHING ABOUT HER.

THEY JUST CONNECTED
AND COMMUNICATED SOMEHOW.

AND EVERY TIME WE CAME IN...

AND THIS WAS SO
WITH OTHERS AS WELL...

HE WOULD SLIDE OPEN
THE LITTLE WINDOW

AND HAND HER SOMETHING
THAT WASN'T WRAPPED...

A BONE OF SOME SORT,
SOME MEATS, FISH, WHATEVER...

AND ALLOW HER
TO DO HER THING WITH IT.

AND TO DO HER THING,
WHAT HER THING WAS

BASICALLY WAS
TO EXPLORE IT TACTILELY

TO PUT IT UP AGAINST HER LIPS
AND FEEL IT WITH HER LIPS

AND TOUCH IT,
ALMOST AS IF SHE WERE BLIND.

Narrator:
WORD OF THE "WILD CHILD" SPREAD

ATTRACTING SCIENTISTS
FROM ALL AROUND THE COUNTRY.

ONE OF THEM WAS OKLAHOMA
PSYCHIATRIST JAY SHURLEY.

Shurley:
WHEN INTRODUCED,
I EXTENDED MY HAND.

SHE REACHED OUT WITH HER FINGERS
AND DELICATELY TOUCHED MY HAND.

AND THEN IN A SENSE,
THAT WAS IT.

SHE HAD MADE MY ACQUAINTANCE.

SHE WAS SATISFIED FOR HERSELF
ABOUT ME.

BUT MY REACTION WAS I HAD A
THOUSAND QUESTIONS IMMEDIATELY.

WHO? WHAT? HOW?
HOW DOES THIS COME ABOUT?

WHY IS THIS?

WHY DO I SEE WHAT I'M SEEING?

Narrator:
SHURLEY WAS AN EXPERT
IN SOCIAL ISOLATION.

GENIE WAS THE MOST EXTREME CASE
HE'D EVER SEEN.

Shurley:
SOLITARY CONFINEMENT

IS DIABOLICALLY
THE MOST SEVERE PUNISHMENT.

AND IN MY EXPERIENCE, REALLY
QUITE DRAMATIC SYMPTOMS DEVELOP

IN AS LITTLE AS 15 MINUTES
TO AN HOUR

AND CERTAINLY INSIDE
OF TWO OR THREE DAYS

AND TRY TO EXPAND THIS
TO TEN YEARS BOGGLES ONE'S MIND.

Narrator:
SHURLEY WANTED TO ASSESS

HOW WELL GENIE HAD SURVIVED
HER LONG YEARS OF ISOLATION.

HE DIRECTED THE TEAM TO GATHER
INFORMATION ON HER BRAIN WAVES.

FOR FOUR NIGHTS RUNNING,
THEY WIRED GENIE TO INSTRUMENTS

THAT MEASURED THE ELECTRICAL
ACTIVITY IN HER BRAIN

WHILE SHE SLEPT.

WHAT THEY FOUND WAS
AN UNUSUALLY HIGH NUMBER

OF SO-CALLED "SLEEP SPINDLES,"
THE DENSE BUNCHING PATTERNS

THAT LOOK LIKE SPINDLES
ON A SPINNING MACHINE.

THIS WAS AN ABNORMAL
BRAIN WAVE PATTERN.

THE SLEEP STUDIES
RAISED A QUESTION

THAT WOULD PUZZLE
THE GENIE TEAM FOR YEARS:

WAS GENIE BRAIN-DAMAGED
FROM HER YEARS OF ABUSE

OR HAD SHE BEEN RETARDED
FROM BIRTH?

WHEN GENIE WAS A BABY

HER FATHER APPARENTLY
DECIDED SHE WAS RETARDED.

HE INSISTED ON KEEPING HER
ISOLATED BECAUSE OF THAT.

AUTHORITIES PIECED TOGETHER
THESE FEW FACTS

IN THE EARLY WEEKS.

GENIE'S STRANGE
FAMILY CIRCUMSTANCES

MADE IT HARD TO LEARN MORE.

GENIE'S MOTHER, WEAK AND NEARLY
BLIND, CLAIMED THAT SHE, TOO

HAD BEEN A VICTIM
OF HER DOMINEERING HUSBAND.

GENIE'S FATHER, SHORTLY AFTER
AUTHORITIES DISCOVERED GENIE

SHOT AND KILLED HIMSELF.

THE SUICIDE ONLY ADDED
TO THE INTEREST IN GENIE'S CASE.

SHE WAS A PRIZED PATIENT,
AND IN THE MONTHS TO COME

THE NUMBER OF VISITING
SCIENTISTS INCREASED.

GENIE'S NEW CELEBRITY STATUS
MARKED THE BEGINNING OF A DEBATE

HOW SHOULD HER CASE BE HANDLED?

JAMES KENT'S PLAN
WAS THE FIRST TO BE ADOPTED.

HE BELIEVED GENIE
COULD GET BETTER

IF SHE WERE ALLOWED
TO FORM RELATIONSHIPS

AND HE WAS ENCOURAGED
WHEN SHE STARTED TO DO SO.

Kent:
UP UNTIL ONE PARTICULAR DAY

GENIE DIDN'T SEEM TO RESPOND
IN ANY SPECIAL WAY

TO MY COMING OR GOING
AT THE END OF OUR SESSIONS.

THEN ONE DAY WHEN I LEFT

HER EXPRESSION CHANGED FROM
SORT OF HAPPY TO SAD TO INDICATE

THAT THERE WAS SOME SADNESS
IN THE SEPARATION FOR HER.

AND IT WAS THE FIRST INDICATION
THAT I HAD

THAT WE WERE BEGINNING
TO FORM THIS RELATIONSHIP.

I THOUGHT IF AS LONG AS SHE HAD
THE CAPACITY TO FORM ATTACHMENTS

SHE HAD A CAPACITY TO LEARN

SHE HAD THE CAPACITY
TO GET BETTER.

Narrator:
BY THE END OF MAY,
SOMETHING HAD HAPPENED

TO ADD TO THE HOPES
FOR GENIE'S FUTURE.

IT WAS A BREAKTHROUGH
THAT EVERYONE HAD WAITED FOR.

IT WAS CAPTURED ON VIDEOTAPE
BY JEAN BUTLER

GENIE'S SPECIAL
EDUCATION TEACHER.

HERE IN A CLASSROOM
AT CHILDRENS HOSPITAL

BUTLER IS TEACHING GENIE
TO TIE HER OWN SHOES.

BUTLER IS ABOUT TO TELL GENIE

"YOU DO IT; THEN WE CAN TELL
DOCTOR KENT WHAT YOU CAN DO."

LISTEN TO GENIE'S REACTION.

YOU DO IT,
YOU DO IT.

THEN WE CAN...

WE'LL TELL DOCTOR
KENT WHAT YOU CAN DO.

DOCTOR.

DOCTOR KENT,
UH-HUH.

Narrator:
GENIE SAID THE WORD "DOCTOR."

RIGHT THERE
IT SAYS THAT.

DOCTOR.

DOCTOR KENT.

Narrator:
IT WAS ONE OF OVER 100 WORDS
SHE KNEW BY THAT SPRING.

TIE IT?

TIE.

TIE IT, UH-HUH.

Narrator:
SHE WAS DIFFICULT TO UNDERSTAND

BUT GENIE WAS REPEATING WORDS.

GENIE WAS BEGINNING TO TALK.

Curtiss:
I COULD TELL
AS ALL OTHERS COULD

JUST LOOKING AT HER,
THAT THERE WAS A LOT TO GENIE

AND THAT WHAT WE HAD
TO DO WAS TO MAKE SURE

WE GAVE HER OPPORTUNITIES
TO EXPRESS

FIND A WAY TO TAKE WHAT
WAS LATENT AND EXPRESS IT

OR SOMEHOW THEN,
YOU KNOW, ACQUIRE IT

BECAUSE THE POTENTIAL
JUST SEEMED SO GREAT.

Narrator:
FOR THE FIRST TIME IN HER LIFE,
GENIE SEEMED TO BE THRIVING.

HER MENTAL AND PHYSICAL GROWTH

SINCE COMING TO CHILDRENS
HOSPITAL WAS OBVIOUS.

GENIE'S PROGRESS GAVE BIRTH
TO A DARING HOPE...

SHE MIGHT FULLY RECOVER,
AND SCIENCE MIGHT LEARN HOW.

HER DOCTORS EVEN PUBLICLY
PREDICTED SUCCESS.

THEIR CONFIDENCE WAS AN EERIE
ECHO OF A MOMENT FROM THE PAST...

AN ECHO OF ANOTHER CASE
LIKE GENIE'S

THAT PRECEDED HERS
BY NEARLY 200 YEARS.

THE CASE BEGAN IN 1800

WHEN CITIZENS OF THIS REGION
IN SOUTHERN FRANCE

DISCOVERED A REMARKABLE CREATURE

WHO HAD CREPT OUT
OF THE NEARBY FOREST.

HE WAS ANIMAL IN BEHAVIOR,
HUMAN IN FORM, MUTE AND NAKED.

HE WAS A WILD CHILD.

HE WOULD BE KNOWN AS VICTOR,
AND THIS STATUE WOULD BE ERECTED

TO MARK HIS ENTRY
INTO CIVILIZATION.

CITIZENS IN THE VILLAGE
WHERE VICTOR WAS DISCOVERED

GUESSED HE WAS 12 YEARS OLD.

HIS FOOD PREFERENCES,
HIS LACK OF SPEECH

AND THE SCARS ON HIS BODY

INDICATED HE HAD BEEN IN
THE WILD FOR MOST OF HIS LIFE.

VICTOR'S STORY INTRIGUED

HISTORIAN AND PSYCHOLOGIST
HARLAN LANE.

AROUND THE TIME
DOCTORS IN LOS ANGELES

WERE FOLLOWING GENIE'S CASE

LANE WAS IN FRANCE
TRACKING VICTOR'S STORY.

Lane:
SHORTLY AFTER
THE BOY WAS CAPTURED

A BIOLOGY PROFESSOR TOOK
A VERY CAREFUL LOOK AT HIM

NAME OF BONATERRE.

BONATERRE TELLS A STORY

OF TREMENDOUS INDIFFERENCE
TO COLD THAT VICTOR HAD.

ONE DAY HE TOOK HIM
AND TOOK OFF ALL HIS CLOTHES

AND THE BOY WAS THRILLED
TO HAVE HIS CLOTHES TAKEN OFF.

AND HE STARTED LEADING HIM
INTO THE OUTDOORS

AND IT WAS SURROUNDED
BY SNOW AT THAT TIME.

AND VICTOR, FAR FROM PROTESTING,
WAS FILLED WITH JOY.

HE GAVE OUT CRIES OF JOY

AND PULLED BONATERRE
OUT THE DOORS

AND WANTED TO GET OUT
INTO THE SNOW.

ON OTHER OCCASIONS

HE WAS ACTUALLY OUT IN THE SNOW
BARE NAKED, LEAPING ABOUT

THROWING THE SNOW IN THE AIR,
EATING SNOW.

BONATERRE CONCLUDES,
AND I THINK WE HAVE TO CONCLUDE

THAT OUR SENSITIVITY
TO TEMPERATURE

IS VERY MUCH INFLUENCED
BY OUR LIFE EXPERIENCES.

Narrator:
WORD OF THE WILD CHILD
TRAVELED NORTH TO PARIS

WHERE THE FIRST ANTHROPOLOGICAL
SOCIETY HAD JUST FORMED.

IT WAS THE END
OF THE AGE OF ENLIGHTENMENT

A TIME OF ENORMOUS DISCOVERY
AND DEBATE.

Lane:
VICTOR WALKED INTO THE MIDDLE
OF A RAGING DEBATE.

HIS TIMING WAS INCREDIBLE.

WHAT MAKES US HUMAN?

WHAT SEPARATES MAN
FROM THE BEASTS?

IS IT HUMAN APPEARANCE?

WELL, ANTHROPOLOGICAL
EXPEDITIONS WERE RETURNING

WITH A WIDE VARIETY OF RACES

AND PARISIANS WERE NOT
SO CLEAR ON HUMAN APPEARANCE.

IS IT WALKING UPRIGHT?

BUT ORANGUTANS WALKED UPRIGHT.

IS IT LANGUAGE?

FIRST REPORTS WERE
THAT VICTOR HAD NO LANGUAGE.

THEN AGAIN,
PERHAPS HE COULD LEARN SOME.

IN ANY CASE, PHILOSOPHERS,
ANATOMISTS AND THEIR ILK

WERE CONVINCED
THAT CAREFUL STUDY OF VICTOR

COULD FINALLY ANSWER
THE QUESTION:

"WHAT IS IT
THAT MAKES US HUMAN?"

Narrator:
WITH VICTOR,
PARISIANS HAD A CHANCE

TO SEE HUMAN NATURE STRIPPED
OF SOCIETY AND CULTURE.

THIS WAS A SITUATION

NO ONE WOULD SET OUT
TO CREATE ON PURPOSE.

IT WAS THEREFORE REFERRED TO
AS THE "FORBIDDEN EXPERIMENT."

SCIENTISTS IN PARIS
QUICKLY SUMMONED VICTOR

FROM THE SOUTH OF FRANCE.

ALTHOUGH VICTOR COULD HEAR, THEY
BROUGHT HIM TO THIS SCHOOL...

THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE
FOR THE DEAF.

OKAY, WE'RE AT THE NATIONAL
INSTITUTE FOR THE DEAF

AND IT HAPPENED RIGHT HERE.

THE GARDENER FROM RODEZ BRINGS
THE WILD BOY RIGHT THROUGH HERE

INTO THE COURTYARD.

AND I GUESS THEY WERE EXPECTED

AND THE DIRECTOR,
THE ABBE SICARD, COMES OUT.

AND... COME ON IN...
THEY WOULD MEET ABOUT HERE.

SICARD COMES OUT,
AND WHAT DOES HE SEE?

NOT A NICE, LITTLE BOURGEOIS
DEAF KID IN THE SCHOOL UNIFORM

HIS NEW PUPIL

BUT A RAGING, SPITTING,
SNARLING, FILTHY SAVAGE

DEFECATING WHERE HE IS,
URINATING WHERE HE IS

BITING, COVERED WITH SCARS

LONG HAIR, WADDED, YELLOW TEETH,
LONG FINGERNAILS, A SAVAGE.

SICARD HAD NEVER SEEN
ANYTHING LIKE THAT IN HIS LIFE

SO HE BACKS OFF.

WHAT'S HE GOING TO DO?

HE'S JUST HIRED
A YOUNG PHYSICIAN

FROM THE MILITARY HOSPITAL
UP THE STREET

A FELLOW BY THE NAME
OF JEAN-MARC ITARD.

SO HE CALLS, "ITARD! ITARD!"

Narrator:
JEAN-MARC ITARD WAS
A 26-YEAR-OLD MEDICAL STUDENT

WHO WAS READY TO MAKE HIS MARK.

HE SAW THE WILD BOY
AS AN OPPORTUNITY.

Lane:
ITARD WAS AN INTERESTING MAN.

HOW'S HE GOING
TO MAKE A NAME FOR HIMSELF

A PLACE FOR HIMSELF IN MEDICINE

AND IN THE INTELLECTUAL
EXCITEMENT OF THE TIME?

BECAUSE HE WAS
A BRILLIANT FELLOW

AND HE READ PHILOSOPHY ASTUTELY,
HE STUDIED MEDICINE.

WELL, THE ANSWER WAS

THAT HERE WAS A CHANCE
THAT WOULD MAKE OR BREAK HIM.

IF HE COULD ACTUALLY
CIVILIZE A WILD CHILD...

THE FIRST PERSON IN HISTORY
TO DO SO...

WHY, HE WOULD BE A FIGURE
DOWN THROUGH HISTORY.

EVEN IN THE 20th CENTURY,
PEOPLE MIGHT BE DISCUSSING HIM.

Narrator:
ITARD'S AMBITIONS WOULD PAY OFF.

NOT ONLY WOULD PEOPLE
IN THE 20th CENTURY

STILL BE DISCUSSING HIM

BUT THE FAMOUS FRENCH DIRECTOR
FRANCOIS TRUFFAUT

WOULD PLAY ITARD
IN A MOVIE ABOUT THE CASE.

THE MOVIE ILLUSTRATES
THE RISK ITARD TOOK.

MORE EXPERIENCED
DOCTORS CONCLUDED

VICTOR WAS PROFOUNDLY RETARDED
FROM BIRTH

AND UNABLE TO LEARN.

ITARD, THOUGH, BELIEVED
THAT VICTOR HAD BECOME RETARDED

BECAUSE OF HIS YEARS
OF LIVING IN THE WILD.

HE BELIEVED HE COULD
CIVILIZE VICTOR.

ITARD'S DIARY OF HIS WORK
WITH VICTOR

MAKES THIS ONE OF
THE MOST DOCUMENTED CASES

OF WILD CHILDREN
THROUGHOUT HISTORY.

IN FACT, THE DIARY SERVED AS
THE BASIS FOR TRUFFAUT'S MOVIE

CALLED THE WILD CHILD.

IN LOS ANGELES,
TRUFFAUT'S MOVIE PREMIERED

AT THE LOS FELIZ THEATER
IN HOLLYWOOD.

ONE OF THE STRANGEST CHAPTERS
OF THIS STORY

IS THE TIMING OF THE PREMIER.

FOR TRUFFAUT'S MOVIE ABOUT
HISTORY'S MOST FAMOUS WILD CHILD

OPENED EXACTLY ONE WEEK
AFTER GENIE WAS DISCOVERED.

IN TRUE HOLLYWOOD FASHION

THE GENIE TEAM TOOK ADVANTAGE
OF THIS COINCIDENCE.

THEY ARRANGED THEIR
OWN PRIVATE SCREENING.

IN CHARGE OF THIS EVENT

WAS HOSPITAL CHIEF
OF PSYCHIATRY HOWARD HANSEN.

Hansen:
WELL, THAT AFTERNOON AT 4:30

WE LEFT CHILDRENS HOSPITAL,
AND WE PARADED UP THE STREET.

WE HAD AN ENTOURAGE UP THE
STREET TO THE LOS FELIZ THEATER.

IT WAS AWE-INSPIRING TO US
BECAUSE HERE WAS

THE FIRST CASE THAT HAD BEEN
DOCUMENTED IN ANY SCIENTIFIC WAY

AND HERE WE WERE HAVING
AN OPPORTUNITY

TO SEE A FILM PORTRAYAL OF THAT.

Narrator:
HERE WAS HISTORY'S
STAMP OF APPROVAL

FOR DARING TO REHABILITATE
A WILD CHILD.

ITARD INSPIRED EVERYONE
AT THE SCREENING.

AFTERWARDS, EVERYBODY
WAS SHOCKED AND STUNNED.

THEY JUST SAT
IN SILENCE FOR A BIT

BECAUSE THE FILM WAS
SO POWERFUL IN ITSELF

AND THEN THE ANALOGY
WITH GENIE BEGAN TO HIT.

IT WAS LIKE HERE HISTORY
WAS REPEATING ITSELF

AND EVERYBODY THERE THOUGHT

"HERE IS AN OPPORTUNITY
TO LEARN SOMETHING."

Narrator:
THE SCREENING WAS PART
OF A SPECIAL CONFERENCE

FOR WHICH THE GENIE TEAM
INVITED CONSULTANTS

FROM ALL OVER THE COUNTRY.

THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE
OF MENTAL HEALTH HAD AGREED

TO FUND A SCIENTIFIC
PROJECT ON GENIE.

NOW IT WAS TIME TO FOCUS
THE DIRECTION OF RESEARCH.

IT SOON BECAME CLEAR, THOUGH

THAT PARTICIPANTS
WERE UNLIKELY TO AGREE

ON ONE COURSE OF ACTION.

OH, WE WERE OFF
IN A MILLION DIRECTIONS.

I MEAN, EACH EXPERT, EACH PERSON
IN THEIR OWN DISCIPLINE THOUGHT

"OH, WOW, I CAN DO THIS.

I CAN DO THIS, I CAN DO THAT."

WE WERE FLOODED, FLOODED
WITH OUR OWN ASSOCIATIONS

AND WITH THE PURSUITS THAT
EACH OF US MIGHT HAVE THOUGHT

"WOW, LOOK WHAT WE CAN DO.

"LOOK WHAT WE MIGHT
LEARN FROM THIS...

A GIRL WHO HAS APPEARED
OUT OF NOWHERE."

Narrator:
TO BRING ALL THE PROPOSED PLANS
FOR GENIE INTO FOCUS

THERE WAS ANOTHER PLAYER
ON THE TEAM...

DAVID RIGLER, A PSYCHOLOGIST
AT CHILDRENS HOSPITAL.

RIGLER, TOO, WAS HOOKED
ON GENIE'S CASE.

Rigler:
EVERYBODY WHO CAME IN CONTACT
WITH HER WAS ATTRACTED TO HER.

SHE HAD A QUALITY OF SOMEHOW
CONNECTING WITH PEOPLE

WHICH DEVELOPED MORE AND MORE

BUT WAS PRESENT
REALLY FROM THE START.

SHE HAD A WAY OF REACHING OUT
WITHOUT SAYING ANYTHING

BUT JUST SOMEHOW BY THE KIND
OF LOOK IN HER EYES

AND PEOPLE WANTED
TO DO THINGS FOR HER.

Narrator:
RIGLER DECIDED
HOW TO FOCUS THE RESEARCH

AROUND GENIE'S FIRST BIRTHDAY
AT CHILDRENS HOSPITAL.

GENIE WAS NOW 14 YEARS OLD.

THE TIMING WAS FITTING
BECAUSE RIGLER WANTED TO KNOW

COULD THE CLOCK BE TURNED BACK
FOR GENIE?

IN PARTICULAR, COULD A TEENAGER
STILL LEARN TO TALK?

THIS HAD ALREADY BEEN
THE SUBJECT OF MUCH DEBATE

BY THE TIME
GENIE WAS DISCOVERED.

IT ALL BEGAN WITH NOAM CHOMSKY,
A YOUNG LINGUIST

AT THE MASSACHUSETTS
INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY.

CHOMSKY DECLARED
THAT WE ACQUIRE LANGUAGE

NOT JUST BECAUSE
WE ARE TAUGHT IT

BUT BECAUSE WE ARE BORN
WITH THE PRINCIPLES OF LANGUAGE.

THEY'RE IN OUR GENES.

WE HAVE LANGUAGE, CHOMSKY SAID

BECAUSE OF NATURE,
NOT JUST NURTURE.

THEN, ALONG CAME
A NEUROPSYCHOLOGIST

WHO HAD HIS OWN TWIST
TO THE THEORY.

ERIC LENNEBERG AGREED WE'RE BORN
WITH THE PRINCIPLES OF LANGUAGE

BUT THERE IS A DEADLINE
FOR APPLYING THEM.

IF A FIRST LANGUAGE ISN'T
ACQUIRED BY PUBERTY, HE SAID

IT MAY BE TOO LATE.

CHOMSKY AND LENNEBERG
ROCKED THE FIELD.

THEY WERE HOT.

LINGUISTICS WAS IN.

IT WAS A PERFECT TIME
TO TEST THE NEW IDEAS

RECALLS LINGUIST ELISSA NEWPORT.

Newport:
WHAT LENNEBERG PROPOSED

IS WHAT'S CALLED
THE CRITICAL PERIOD HYPOTHESIS.

HE SUGGESTED THERE'S A PERIOD
IN THE LIFE OF HUMANS

WHEN THEY'RE RIPE
FOR LEARNING LANGUAGES.

WHAT THIS HYPOTHESIS
WAS LOOKING FOR

WAS SOME MORE DIRECT EVIDENCE

BUT OF COURSE, YOU DON'T
DO THESE EXPERIMENTS.

ONE NEVER WISHES TO DEPRIVE
SOMEBODY OF LANGUAGE

DURING THE CRITICAL PERIOD
TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS.

AT THAT TIME, WHEN THAT WOULD
HAVE BEEN THE RIGHT THING

FOR LENNEBERG'S HYPOTHESIS,
GENIE WAS DISCOVERED.

STOVE.

STOVE.

Narrator:
THIS IS WHY SUSAN CURTISS
JOINED THE GENIE TEAM.

SHE WAS A GRADUATE STUDENT
IN LINGUISTICS.

SHE WOULD PUT THE CRITICAL
PERIOD HYPOTHESIS

TO ITS FIRST REAL TEST.

SPOON IS FOUR.

SHARP.

Narrator:
THIS IS ONE
OF THE FIRST VIDEOTAPES

OF CURTISS'S WORK WITH GENIE.

Curtiss:
A SHARP SQUARE.

SHARP SQUARE.

Curtiss:
SHE WANTED, IT SEEMED TO ME,
ALMOST DESPERATELY

TO RECODE HER WORLD
WITH VERBAL LABELS

AND SOMETIMES WE WOULD
JUST STAND AT A WINDOW

AND SHE WOULD POINT
AT A PANORAMA BEFORE US

AND I WOULDN'T KNOW

EXACTLY WHAT IT WAS
SHE WANTED TO KNOW THE WORD FOR

BUT SHE WOULD PERSIST UNTIL
SHE AT LEAST GOT A NEW WORD.

Narrator:
WHILE CURTISS TRACKED
GENIE'S SPEECH

JAMES KENT CONTINUED WORK
ON HER EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT.

KENT WAS CONCERNED

THAT WITH THE GROWING NUMBER
OF PEOPLE INVOLVED IN HER CASE

GENIE WOULDN'T BE ABLE TO FORM
SINGLE, DEPENDABLE RELATIONSHIPS

SO HE SET OUT
TO BE HER SURROGATE PARENT.

Kent:
WANTED TO BE A PART OF HER
SORT OF ORDINARY LIFE

SO I WOULD FREQUENTLY BE THERE
WHEN SHE HAD BREAKFAST

AND WHEN SHE WENT TO BED

READ HER A STORY,
KISS HER GOOD NIGHT

TURN OFF THE LIGHTS AND GO

AND THEN DO THINGS
DURING THE DAY.

AND WHEN SHE HAD TO GO THROUGH
THINGS LIKE PHYSICAL EXAMS

I WOULD COME ALONG WITH HER
AS THOUGH SHE WERE MY CHILD.

SHE WAS VERY SPECIAL TO ME.

Interviewer:
DID YOU FEEL YOU LOVED HER?

WELL, DOCTORS AREN'T SUPPOSED
TO LOVE THEIR PATIENTS

BUT IF YOU COULD FIND A WORD
THAT MEANT THE SAME THING, YES.

YEAH, I WAS VERY
ATTACHED TO HER.

FIRST TIME SHE SAW
HELIUM BALLOONS

SHE COULDN'T BELIEVE
THAT YOU COULD LET THEM GO UP

AND PULL THEM BACK DOWN AGAIN.

SHE HAD THIS KIND OF LAUGH
SOME PEOPLE HAVE

AND IT'S JUST
A FULL-OUT CHUCKLE.

IT'S SO CONTAGIOUS, EVERYBODY
AROUND THEM STARTS TO LAUGH.

WELL, THEY MADE HER
LAUGH LIKE THAT.

Curtiss:
ONE OF MY MEMORIES WAS

THAT WE WOULD GO TO A PLACE,
SAY A WOOLWORTH'S

WHERE THERE WOULD BE A STAND
OF SPOOLS OF THREAD

AND SPOOLS
WHERE EACH COLOR THREAD

WOULD INCREMENTALLY CHANGE
FROM THE SPOOLS NEXT TO IT.

AND SHE WANTED A WORD
FOR EVERY DIFFERENT HUE.

AND I DIDN'T KNOW.

I MEAN, I HAD A BOX OF
64 CRAYOLA CRAYONS AS A CHILD

AND I REMEMBERED,
YOU KNOW, BURNT SIENNA

AND ALL THESE COLORS THAT I
TRIED TO EXTRACT FROM MY MEMORY

BUT ENGLISH DOESN'T HAVE WORDS
FOR ALL OF THESE DIFFERENT HUES

AND SHE WAS VERY FRUSTRATED
WHEN I WOULD SAY

"VERY DARK BLUE" AND
"VERY, VERY DARK BLUE."

Narrator:
FOR GENIE, EVERY NEW OBJECT

EVERY FIELD TRIP WAS A VISIT
TO A MAGIC KINGDOM.

THE PREVIOUS FALL,
THE WORLD HAD DISCOVERED GENIE.

NOW GENIE COULD
DISCOVER THE WORLD.

Rigler:
THERE WAS A TIME THAT
SHE PASSED A FATHER

AND A LITTLE BOY
WHO WERE COMING OUT OF A SHOP

AND THE LITTLE BOY WAS
CARRYING A TOY FIRE ENGINE

AND THEY JUST PASSED

AND THEN THEY TURNED AROUND
AND CAME BACK.

AND THE BOY, WITHOUT A WORD,
HANDED THE FIRE ENGINE TO GENIE.

SHE NEVER ASKED FOR IT,
SHE NEVER SAID A WORD.

SHE DID THIS KIND OF THING
SOMEHOW TO PEOPLE.

COULD I SEE THINGS
THROUGH HER EYES?

I DON'T BELIEVE I REALLY COULD.

SOMETIMES I COULD UNDERSTAND

AND GUESS PRETTY WELL
WHAT SHE WAS GOING TO DO

BUT THAT WAS FAMILIARITY

AND NOT AN ABILITY, I THINK,
TO EMPATHIZE WITH, UNDERSTAND

THE WAY SHE SAW THE WORLD.

Narrator:
THE SUMMER AFTER HER DISCOVERY
WAS A TIME OF FIRSTS FOR GENIE.

Genie:
WATER!

Butler:
THERE'S A GLASS OF
WATER... YOU CAN.

Narrator:
THE MOST SIGNIFICANT
HAPPENED HERE

IN THE HOME OF JEAN BUTLER, HER
TEACHER AT CHILDRENS HOSPITAL.

DO YOU WANT TO
GET SOME WATER?

Narrator:
GENIE MOVED IN.

MM-HMM, YOU
CAN GET WATER.

Narrator:
IT WAS A NEW STEP FOR GENIE:

HER FIRST TRIAL RUN
IN A FOSTER HOME.

Butler:
THIS IS JULY 11,
MRS. BUTLER'S HOUSE.

THIS IS LUNCHTIME.

SHE JUST TOOK THE MILK

AND THE CHOCOLATE MILK
INTO THE BEDROOM.

Narrator:
HERE, BUTLER VIDEOTAPES GENIE'S
PASSION FOR HOARDING THINGS

ESPECIALLY CONTAINERS OF LIQUID.

ALTHOUGH THERE IS
NO OBVIOUS EXPLANATION

THIS HAS BEEN REPORTED
IN OTHER CASES

OF CHILDREN RAISED IN ISOLATION.

GENIE BEGAN LIVING HERE
AFTER BUTLER SAID

SHE HAD EXPOSED GENIE
TO GERMAN MEASLES.

IT BEGAN AS
A TEMPORARY QUARANTINE.

BUTLER WANTED
TO MAKE IT PERMANENT.

Child:
Go backwards!

Narrator:
BUTLER, SHOWN HERE
WITH GENIE AND JAMES KENT

WANTED TO BE GENIE'S
OFFICIAL FOSTER PARENT

AND SHE WANTED TO SEE CHANGES
IN THE HANDLING OF GENIE'S CASE.

BUTLER THOUGHT FREQUENT VISITS

BY TEAM MEMBERS KENT AND SUSAN
CURTISS WERE EXHAUSTING GENIE.

THAT WAS THE SUMMER WHEN
WE WERE THEN BOTH DISALLOWED

INTO JEAN BUTLER'S HOUSE

SO, YOU KNOW, WE DIDN'T HAVE
SUCH A FUN SUMMER.

IT WAS A SUMMER
THAT INCLUDED WEEKS

OF CONCERN AND ANXIETY AND ANGER

BECAUSE HE AND I WERE KICKED OUT
OF JEAN'S HOUSE.

Interviewer:
WHY?

WHY? SHE WAS CRAZY

AND SHE DIDN'T WANT
THE OTHER ATTACHMENTS.

SHE USED TO SAY, "I AM GOING
TO BE THE NEXT ANNIE SULLIVAN.

THIS GIRL IS GOING
TO MAKE ME FAMOUS."

AND WE USED TO JOKE BECAUSE
SHE WAS SO OVERT ABOUT IT

AND WE THOUGHT,
"GOD, EVEN IF SHE HAS THE DESIRE

WHY IS SHE SO WILLING
TO TELL THE REST OF US?"

BUT SHE CERTAINLY FOUND A WAY;
SHE CONCOCTED THIS STORY.

THE WHOLE THING IS UNTRUE.

SHE DIDN'T HAVE GERMAN MEASLES;
SHE HAD A RASH.

Narrator:
THE BICKERING CONTINUED
FOR MORE THAN A MONTH

ACCORDING TO JOURNALS
LEFT BEHIND BY JEAN BUTLER

WHO DIED IN 1988.

Butler:
SHE'S DOING
AN EYE EXAM.

Narrator:
BUTLER WROTE

SHE FEARED GENIE WAS BEING
EXPERIMENTED WITH TOO MUCH.

ARE YOU GOING TO
DO THAT AGAIN?

Narrator:
WHETHER THIS WAS
BUTLER'S TRUE MOTIVATION

IN KEEPING AWAY OTHER
TEAM MEMBERS CANNOT BE KNOWN

BUT IT RAISED AGAIN THE ISSUE
OF HOW GENIE SHOULD BE TREATED:

COULD SHE BE A SCIENTIFIC
SUBJECT AND STILL BE A PATIENT?

ON THE MORNING OF AUGUST 13

SOCIAL WORKERS ARRIVED AT
BUTLER'S HOUSE WITH A DECISION

ON HER APPLICATION
TO BE GENIE'S FOSTER PARENT.

PARTLY ON ADVICE FROM CHILDRENS
HOSPITAL, IT WAS REJECTED.

WE WERE NOT SATISFIED
WITH THE QUALITY OF THE CARE

THAT GENIE WAS ABLE...
WELL, HAD AT JEAN BUTLER'S

SO THAT HAD TO BE INTERRUPTED,
AND AGAIN, IT WAS UP TO...

UP TO MANAGEMENT... I.E., US...
TO INTERRUPT THAT.

Narrator:
GENIE RETURNED
TO CHILDRENS HOSPITAL

FOR ONLY A COUPLE OF HOURS.

A NEW FOSTER PARENT
CAME TO TAKE HER HOME.

IT WAS DAVID RIGLER.

RIGLER DECIDED
TO TAKE CHARGE OF THE CASE.

HE DECIDED TO TAKE OVER
KENT'S ROLE AS THERAPIST

AND ALSO BE GENIE'S
FOSTER PARENT

AND THE PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR.

Rigler:
ORDINARILY, MENTAL HEALTH
PEOPLE ARE NOT INVOLVED

IN THESE KINDS OF MULTIPLE ROLES

BUT I HAVE TO STRESS
HOW DESPERATE WE WERE

TO FIND A PLACE
THAT WAS APPROPRIATE.

AND I REMEMBER MAKING
THE COMMITMENT IN MY MIND

FOR A THREE-MONTH PERIOD

WHICH OBVIOUSLY
GOT EXTENDED MUCH LONGER.

Interviewer:
HOW LONG WOULD
SHE STAY?

SHE WAS WITH US
APPROXIMATELY FOUR YEARS.

Narrator:
GENIE'S NEW HOME

WAS IN A NEIGHBORHOOD
NEAR CHILDRENS HOSPITAL.

SHE LIVED HERE WITH DAVID
RIGLER, HIS WIFE MARILYN

AND THE RIGLER CHILDREN.

Marilyn Rigler:
WE REALLY DIDN'T KNOW
WHAT TO EXPECT.

WE KNEW THAT GENIE NEEDED
A GREAT DEAL OF HELP

AND ON THE OTHER HAND,
IT WAS VERY EXCITING TO FEEL

THAT PERHAPS WE COULD HELP HER

AND PERHAPS SHE COULD BE
REHABILITATED.

Narrator:
MARILYN, A GRADUATE STUDENT
IN HUMAN DEVELOPMENT

WAS GENIE'S NEW TEACHER.

SHE SOON FOUND HERSELF GIVING
GENIE UNCONVENTIONAL LESSONS.

GENIE WOULD ERUPT
IN SILENT STORMS OF RAGE

TUGGING AND TEARING
HER OWN BODY.

TO TURN GENIE'S
SELF-DESTRUCTIVE ANGER OUTWARD

MARILYN TAUGHT HER
HOW TO HAVE A FIT...

HOW TO SLAM DOORS
AND STAMP HER FEET.

EVENTUALLY,
MARILYN ENCOURAGED GENIE

TO TURN HER PAIN
AND ANGER INTO WORDS.

Marilyn:
AND THERE CAME A TIME
WHEN SHE COULD SAY, "ROUGH TIME"

AND SOMETIMES SHE COULD TELL YOU
THE DEGREE OF HOW UPSET SHE WAS

BY WAVING ONE FINGER,
WHICH MEANT SHE WAS VERY UPSET

OR KIND OF WAVING HER HAND,
WHICH MEANT SHE WAS UPSET

BUT IT WASN'T GOING
TO BE A BIG DEAL.

"I"...

"I JUMP."

"JUMP," YEAH.

YES, LET'S SEE YOU JUMP.

JUMP.

GOOD! CAN YOU
JUMP SOME MORE?

JUMP!

Narrator:
ONE OF MARILYN'S FIRST TASKS
WAS TO AWAKEN IN GENIE

A SENSE OF HER CONNECTION
TO THE PHYSICAL WORLD.

"MARCH."

"MARCH."

TELL ME WHAT I'M DOING.

Narrator:
LIKE HER HISTORIC
COUNTERPART VICTOR

GENIE SEEMED DISCONNECTED
FROM CERTAIN BODILY SENSATIONS.

Marilyn:
I WOULD ALLOW HER
TO RUN HER OWN BATH WATER

OR HER OWN SHOWER WATER

AND WHEN I WOULD TOUCH IT,
I WOULD REALIZE

THAT IT WAS ICY COLD

AND I WOULD SAY,
"OH, THIS IS SO COLD.

YOU'RE GOING TO FREEZE."

AND IT WAS AS THOUGH
IT DIDN'T MAKE ANY DIFFERENCE.

Narrator:
IN THEIR NEW ROLE
AS GENIE'S FOSTER PARENTS

THE RIGLERS WERE
SUDDENLY RESPONSIBLE

FOR A CHILD WHO NEEDED
FULL-TIME SUPERVISION.

I LIKE DAVID.

Narrator:
THEY ALSO TOOK RESPONSIBILITY
FOR GENIE'S THERAPY...

ATTEMPTS TO HELP HER GRAPPLE

WITH THE HORROR
OF HER CHILDHOOD.

OKAY, BABY,
OPEN YOUR MOUTH.

Narrator:
IN THIS PRIMITIVE
ROLE-PLAYING EXERCISE

MARILYN PRETENDS
TO BE GENIE'S MOTHER.

HURRY UP!

HURRY UP, BECAUSE
THERE ISN'T ANY TIME.

FATHER'S GOING
TO BE ANGRY.

Narrator:
MARILYN TRIES TO ELICIT
MEMORIES OF GENIE'S PAST.

Marilyn:
I WONDER WHAT
YOU'RE THINKING.

DEAD FATHER, FATHER DEAD.

DEAD.

DEAD FATHER.

Marilyn:
YOU WANT TO SEE
YOUR FATHER?

YOUR FATHER
IS NOT LIVING.

NOT LIVING?

DO YOU REMEMBER
WHAT IT WAS LIKE

WHEN YOU LIVED
AT HOME?

WHAT WERE YOU
SITTING ON

WHEN YOU ATE
THE CEREAL?

IN THE POTTY.

IN THE
POTTY CHAIR?

MM-HMM, POTTY CHAIR.

WHERE DID
YOU STAY

WHEN YOU LIVED
AT HOME?

WHERE DID
YOU LIVE?

WHERE DID
YOU SLEEP?

IN POTTY CHAIR.

YOU SLEPT IN
THE POTTY CHAIR?

MM-HMM, IN A POTTY CHAIR.

Narrator:
WHILE THIS VIDEOTAPE SHOWS

HOW DISTRESSED GENIE WAS
BY HER CHILDHOOD

IT ALSO REVEALS
A DEVELOPMENTAL BREAKTHROUGH:

GENIE WAS USING LANGUAGE
TO DESCRIBE PAST EVENTS.

I LIKE MY TOY.

Narrator:
GENIE WAS TALKING
ABOUT THINGS THAT HAPPENED

BEFORE WORDS WERE
A PART OF HER WORLD.

FOR A CHILD WHO BARELY SPOKE
JUST A SHORT TIME AGO

GENIE WAS DOING REMARKABLY WELL
WITH LANGUAGE.

SUSAN CURTISS CONTINUED
TO TRACK HER PROGRESS.

"MONK."

YEAH, RIGHT.

"MONK."

"MONK"!

RIGHT!

Narrator:
GENIE COULD READ SIMPLE WORDS.

HER VOCABULARY WAS GROWING.

HERE, SHE IS ABOUT TO SAY,
"I LIKE LOG."

"I LIKE LOG."

Curtiss:
LET ME SEE...
THE LOG?

"I LIKE LOG."

YOU FOUND A PICTURE
OF A LOG.

I DIDN'T
EVEN KNOW

YOU KNEW WHAT
A LOG WAS.

WHERE DO YOU
SEE A LOG?

Curtiss:
I WAS STRUCK

WITH HOW DIFFERENT
THE WORDS THAT SHE KNEW WERE

FROM THE VOCABULARY WORDS
THAT YOUNG CHILDREN WOULD KNOW

WHEN THEY'RE ACQUIRING
A FIRST LANGUAGE.

SHE HAD WORDS FOR EMOTIONS:

"ANGRY," "SAD,"
"EXCITED," "HAPPY."

SHE HAD WORDS...
COLOR WORDS, SHAPE WORDS:

"SQUARE," "RECTANGLE."

I LIKE CIRCLE.

YOU LIKE CIRCLES.

I LIKE CIRCLE.

Narrator:
GENIE SEEMED TO BE PULLING OFF
A LINGUISTICS COUP.

SHE HAD PASSED
THE CRITICAL AGE OF PUBERTY

BUT SHE SEEMED TO BE LEARNING
A FIRST LANGUAGE.

CURTISS BEGAN DOUBTING
THE NOTION

THAT THERE WAS A DEADLINE
FOR DOING SO.

Curtiss:
MY EARLY IDEAS WERE THAT
THE SKY MIGHT BE THE LIMIT.

ROUND.

I COULDN'T HELP THINKING

THAT SHE MIGHT, IN FACT,
JUST BE ABLE... BE ABLE TO SHOW

THAT PEOPLE REALLY WERE WRONG.

Narrator:
GENIE WAS AT LAST SETTLED
INTO HER NEW LIFE.

SHE EVEN WENT
TO A NURSERY SCHOOL.

HOPES GREW
THAT UNLIKE OTHER CASES

OF CHILDREN ISOLATED
FROM SOCIETY

GENIE'S COULD HAVE
A HAPPY ENDING.

AT THE PARIS INSTITUTE
FOR THE DEAF

GENIE'S HISTORIC COUNTERPART
ALSO SEEMED TO FLOURISH

WHEN REUNITED WITH CIVILIZATION.

UNE.

Narrator:
AS SHOWN IN TRUFFAUT'S MOVIE,
VICTOR RESPONDED SUCCESSFULLY

TO METHODS USED
TO TEACH THE DEAF.

VICTOR'S TEACHER CREATED
HIS OWN METHODS AS WELL:

ITARD USED CUT-OUT LETTERS
FOR LESSONS THAT ARE STILL USED

IN KINDERGARTENS
ALL OVER THE WORLD.

HE HAD A KNACK
FOR GRADUALLY INCREASING

THE COMPLEXITY
OF VICTOR'S TASKS.

Lane:
ITARD IS TEACHING VICTOR
TO READ SIMPLE PHRASES

LIKE "TO THROW A KEY," SO HE
WRITES "THROW KEY" IN FRENCH

AND THEN FLINGS A KEY, THEN
EXPECTS VICTOR TO DO THE SAME.

VICTOR'S DOING WELL.

HE'S READING THE SENTENCES,
PERFORMING THE ACTIONS

BUT ITARD DOESN'T TRUST IT.

IT COULD BE BY SHEER MEMORY.

SO HE DECIDES TO SCRAMBLE
THE NOUNS AND VERBS

AND GET SOME WEIRD COMBINATIONS

LIKE "TO TEAR A STONE,"
"TO CUT A CUP," "TO EAT A BROOM"

PRESENTS "TEAR A STONE"
TO VICTOR

AND HE SHOWS SOME INGENUITY.

HE GETS A HAMMER
AND HE SMASHES THE STONE.

"CUT A CUP"... PICKS UP THE CUP

AND HURLS IT ON THE FLOOR
AND IT SHATTERS.

"EAT A BROOM"...
THIS TIME HE CHANGES THE NOUN

GOES OFF AND GETS A PIECE
OF BREAD AND DEVOURS IT.

THIS WAS ITARD, CONSTANTLY
ANALYZING, UPPING THE ANTE

PUSHING THE KID
TOWARDS CIVILIZATION

TOWARD THE SKILLS THAT WE HAVE

AND VICTOR GENERALLY RISING
TO THE CHALLENGE

EACH TIME TAKING THE SMALL STEP.

THIS WAS THE KIND OF STRUGGLE

THEY ENGAGED IN TOGETHER
FOR SIX YEARS.

Narrator:
INDEED, FOR A WHILE,
TEACHER AND PUPIL WERE JOINED

IN A SHARED MISSION
OF AWAKENING.

LAIT.

BIEN.

Narrator:
AND THIS IS AS FAR

AS FILM DIRECTOR TRUFFAUT
TAKES HIS VERSION OF THE STORY.

MANY PEOPLE HAVE ASKED ME,
"WHAT DO YOU THINK

OF THE TRUFFAUT FILM THE WILD
CHILD... L'ENFANT SAUVAGE?"

I THINK THAT IT WAS
A PRETTY SOLID JOB

OF FOLLOWING ITARD'S REPORTS.

Lane:
BUT I DO HAVE ONE EXCEPTION.

AT THE END OF THE FILM
THE CHILD CLIMBS THE STAIRS

AND THE IDEA IS
THAT HE'S WALKING OFF

INTO A FUTURE
OF ENDLESS POSSIBILITIES

IN WHICH HE MAY EVEN WRITE
HIS AUTOBIOGRAPHY

AND THAT'S SIMPLY FALSE.

Narrator:
IN REALITY,
THE HISTORY BOOKS SHOW

THAT VICTOR'S PROGRESS
SLOWED DOWN.

ITARD REPORTED WHILE VICTOR
KNEW HOW TO READ SIMPLE WORDS

HE NEVER REALLY LEARNED
HOW TO TALK.

ITARD RECOMMENDED THAT THE
FORBIDDEN EXPERIMENT BE STOPPED.

Lane:
YOU KNOW, WE ATTRIBUTED
TO ITARD THIS MOTIVE

OF WANTING TO USE VICTOR
TO BUILD HIS OWN CAREER

AND I THINK THAT WAS TRUE.

WHEN THE POINT CAME THAT HE WAS
NO LONGER SERVING VICTOR

NOR SERVING SCIENCE
OR HIS CAREER

HE ABANDONED HIM, HE LET HIM GO.

ITARD GAVE UP.

HE ASKED MADAME GUERIN, THE
HOUSEKEEPER, TO TAKE THE BOY IN

DOWN THE STREET
FROM THE DEAF SCHOOL

AND THERE THEY LIVED A RATHER
GRAY, SAD, FORLORN EXISTENCE

THE TWO OF THEM.

SO THE STORY IS NOT AS ROMANTIC

AS TRUFFAUT
WOULD HAVE US BELIEVE.

Narrator:
VICTOR LIVED HIS LAST DAYS
AT THIS VERY SPOT IN PARIS.

HE DIED IN HIS 40s IN 1828.

VICTOR'S STORY DID NOT END WELL.

IN LOS ANGELES,
MORE THAN A CENTURY LATER

GENIE'S CAREGIVERS WERE WORKING

TO ENSURE THAT THEIR PUPIL
FARED BETTER.

WHEN WILL YOU SEE
YOUR MAMA IN THE HOUSE?

Narrator:
WHEN GENIE USED GESTURES
A LOT TO COMMUNICATE

THE RIGLERS ARRANGED FOR HER
TO LEARN SIGN LANGUAGE.

I...

I...

WILL...

WILL...

SEE MAMA...

SATURDAY!

SATURDAY!

RIGHT!

Narrator:
CRITICS FAULT VICTOR'S TEACHER

FOR EMPHASIZING
SPOKEN SPEECH.

THE RIGLERS TRIED
TO AVOID THIS MISTAKE.

WHEN WE'RE
ALL FINISHED.

Narrator:
THE WEEKS TURNED INTO MONTHS,
THE MONTHS INTO YEARS

AND DAVID RIGLER,
WHO WAS SCIENTIST, THERAPIST

AND FOSTER PARENT TO GENIE,
SEEMED TO FIND A WAY

TO JUGGLE ALL THOSE ROLES.

IN REALITY, THE JUGGLING ACT
HAD STARTED TO FALL APART.

Marilyn:
THIS IS THE PAPER
THAT'S UNFOLDED.

Narrator:
FOR YEARS, RIGLER HAD TROUBLE

MANAGING THE RESEARCH PART
OF THE CASE.

CURTISS'S LANGUAGE
STUDIES PROCEEDED

BUT RIGLER HAD BEEN GETTING
GOVERNMENT MONEY TO DO MORE.

INDEED, HE GATHERED
HUNDREDS OF VIDEOS

HE SUPERVISED COUNTLESS TESTS

BUT HE NEVER CLEARLY DEFINED
HIS OWN RESEARCH.

SHOW ME THE SHOE
THAT'S UNTIED.

TIE.

UNTIED.

Narrator:
TO ADD TO THE MURKINESS
OF THE STUDY

WAS AN UNRESOLVED QUESTION
WHICH WOULD MAKE IT DIFFICULT

TO DRAW FIRM
SCIENTIFIC CONCLUSIONS:

WAS GENIE BRAIN-DAMAGED
FROM BIRTH?

TEAM MEMBERS DISAGREED.

Shurley:
MY IMPRESSION WAS CLEARLY

THAT GENIE WAS
MENTALLY RETARDED FROM BIRTH

BASED ON, FOR EXAMPLE,
MY SLEEP STUDY

WHICH SHOWED
THESE EXTREME SPINDLES

WHICH ARE FAIRLY CHARACTERISTIC
OF SEVERE MENTAL RETARDATION.

Curtiss:
GENIE, ALTHOUGH
FUNCTIONALLY RETARDED

BECAUSE SHE HAD HARDLY LIVED AND
EXPERIENCED THE WORLD AROUND HER

WAS NOT MENTALLY DEFICIENT
IN ANY SENSE

IN WHICH WE TYPICALLY THINK OF
AS MENTALLY DEFICIENT.

FOR EXAMPLE, ON PSYCHOLOGICAL
TESTS THAT MEASURE MENTAL AGE

EVERY YEAR AFTER
SHE HAD BEEN FOUND

HER MENTAL AGE
INCREASED ONE YEAR.

THIS IS JUST NOT SOMETHING
THAT HAPPENS IN A PERSON...

WITH A CHILD OR AN ADULT...
WHO'S MENTALLY RETARDED.

Narrator:
THE GOVERNMENT AGENCY THAT WAS
FUNDING THE RESEARCH PROJECT

GREW UNEASY WITH THE SCIENTIFIC
AMBIGUITIES OF GENIE'S CASE.

THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE
OF MENTAL HEALTH

WAS LOOKING FOR PAYBACK

FOR THE YEARS OF MONEY
IT POURED INTO THE STUDY

AND IT WASN'T FINDING ANY.

AFTER REPEATED WARNINGS,
IN THE FALL OF '74

N.I.M.H. STOPPED FUNDING
THE GENIE PROJECT

CITING A FAILURE TO COLLECT DATA

IN A SCIENTIFICALLY
MEANINGFUL WAY.

NOBODY KNEW EXACTLY
HOW TO DEAL WITH THIS.

WE WERE DOING OUR BEST...

WE GOT THE BEST KIND OF COUNSEL,
THE BEST KIND OF ADVICE

WE HAD TO SORT THAT OUT
AND TAKE THAT AS IT CAME

BUT WE DID THE VERY BEST
WE KNEW HOW

AND WE BELIEVED
THAT NOBODY KNEW ANY BETTER.

Narrator:
IN THE YEAR FOLLOWING THE LOSS
OF THEIR RESEARCH GRANT

THE RIGLERS DECIDED TO END
THEIR FOSTER CARE OF GENIE.

THEIR DECISION CAUSED CONCERN
AMONG THEIR COLLEAGUES.

IT'S NOT THAT IT CAME
AS A SURPRISE TO US

OR SHOULDN'T HAVE.

WE HAD A LOT OF CONSULTANTS

AND ONE OF THE QUESTIONS
WE WERE ASKED OFTEN

BY MORE THAN ONE PERSON

IS "WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN HERE
WHEN THE HOSPITAL GOES AWAY

"IF THE RESEARCH GRANT
GOES AWAY

"IF ALL OF THE INTEREST IN HOW
THIS YOUNGSTER IS DEVELOPING

"WHEN THE RESEARCHERS
FOLD THEIR TENTS AND GO AWAY

WHO'S GOING TO STAY BEHIND
WITH GENIE?"

THIS WAS SOMETHING THAT I WAS
CERTAINLY CONCERNED ABOUT...

THE FACT THAT
"SHOULD WE NOT TAKE GENIE?"

BECAUSE WE DID NOT PLAN
TO HAVE HER FOREVER.

AND THAT WAS SOMETHING
THAT WE...

WE TALKED ABOUT VERY ACTIVELY

AND WE FINALLY DECIDED THAT
IF WE COULD GIVE HER A GOOD HOME

WITH MUCH LOVE
AND REHABILITATION

WITHIN THAT HOME...

NURTURING, CARETAKING
AND... AND GOOD THINGS...

THAT THAT WOULD GIVE HER
THE ABILITY TO COPE

AT SOME LATER TIME

SO THAT SHE WOULD HAVE A GOOD
FOUNDATION AND A STABLE HOME

AND THAT WAS OUR REASONING.

WHAT IS ON
THE RED BOX?

Narrator:
FOR LINGUIST SUSAN CURTISS

IT WAS TIME TO SUM UP
HER YEARS OF WORK WITH GENIE.

A CLEAR PICTURE WAS EMERGING
IN HER DATA

BUT FOR GENIE,
THAT PICTURE WAS NOT PROMISING.

HERE, WHEN ASKED
TO MAKE A QUESTION

GENIE COMES UP WITH
"WHAT RED BLUE IS IN?"

Curtiss:
"WHAT RED
BLUE IS IN?"

DOES THAT
MAKE SENSE?

IS THAT A
SILLY QUESTION?

Narrator:
GENIE DIDN'T SEEM TO BE ABLE
TO PUT WORDS TOGETHER

IN A NORMAL, GRAMMATICAL WAY.

THIS SEEMED TO SUPPORT THE IDEA

OF A CRITICAL PERIOD
FOR ACQUIRING LANGUAGE.

Curtiss:
IN GENIE'S CASE

THE VOCABULARY WAS
WHAT SHE WAS GOOD AT

CONVEYING MESSAGES WAS
WHAT SHE WAS GOOD AT

BUT IF YOU LOOK AT A SENTENCE
THAT SHE WOULD UTTER

IT WOULDN'T BE GRAMMATICAL.

SO SHE MIGHT SAY THINGS

LIKE, "SPOT CHEW GLOVE,"
"APPLESAUCE BUY STORE"

WHERE THE MESSAGE WAS CLEAR:

"THE DOG, NAMED SPOT,
CHEWED THE GLOVE"

OR "WE NEED TO BUY APPLESAUCE
AT THE STORE."

BUT IN BOTH OF THESE CASES
YOU CAN SEE

THEY'RE NOT SENTENCES
OF ENGLISH.

WE WOULDN'T SAY,
"APPLESAUCE BUY STORE"

WE WOULD SAY, "WE NEED TO BUY
APPLESAUCE AT THE STORE"

OR SOMETHING THAT IS
AN ACTUAL SENTENCE OF ENGLISH.

Narrator:
MUCH OF THE LANGUAGE RESEARCH
ON GENIE WAS COMPLETED BY 1975

A PIVOTAL YEAR FOR HER.

THAT SUMMER, SHE RETURNED HERE,
TO HER CHILDHOOD HOME

TO LIVE WITH HER MOTHER.

GENIE'S MOTHER
HAD BEEN ACQUITTED

OF CHILD ABUSE CHARGES.

SHE WANTED TO RESUME CARE
OF HER DAUGHTER.

BUT SHE SOON FOUND IT
TOO DIFFICULT.

THUS BEGAN ANOTHER SAD CHAPTER
IN GENIE'S LIFE...

A SERIES OF PLACEMENTS
IN FOSTER HOMES.

Hansen:
GENIE WAS SUBJECTED TO ABUSE,
TO PUNISHMENT, TO HARASSMENT

TO THE EXTREME
IN SOME OF THESE HOMES.

THEN SHE WOULD BE MOVED AGAIN

TO ANOTHER HOME,
AND ANOTHER HOME

AND MEANWHILE,
WE KNEW NOTHING ABOUT IT

UNTIL THE BOMBSHELL HIT.

THE BOMBSHELL.

A LAWSUIT.

A LAWSUIT?

AGAINST HANSEN,
RIGLER, KENT, CURTISS

AND CHILDRENS HOSPITAL
OF LOS ANGELES.

Narrator:
LIKE VICTOR'S,
GENIE'S CASE HAD NOT ENDED WELL

AND NOW, THERE WAS A MODERN
AMERICAN TWIST TO HER STORY...

A LAWSUIT.

THE LAWSUIT, FILED BY GENIE'S
MOTHER, CHARGED THE GENIE TEAM

WITH "EXCESSIVE
AND OUTRAGEOUS TESTING."

WE'RE GOING TO BE
FINISHED SOON.

AS SOON AS YOU PUT
ALL THOSE CARDS IN BOXES

WE'RE GOING TO BE
ALL FINISHED.

Narrator:
THE LAWSUIT CLAIMED

THE RESEARCHERS GAVE TESTING
PRIORITY OVER GENIE'S WELFARE

PUSHING HER BEYOND THE LIMITS
OF HER ENDURANCE.

LOOK CAREFULLY.

DARK.

IT'S DARK, YES.

DARK.

DARK.

DARK.

WHICH BOX DOES
THAT BELONG IN? NO.

Narrator:
THE LAWYERS SUING
CHILDRENS HOSPITAL

WERE LOUISE MONACO
AND SAMUEL PAZ.

Monaco:
THEY SHOULD HAVE HAD CLUES

THAT THEY WERE GOING
AT THINGS WRONGLY

BECAUSE THEY WERE
GETTING VISITS

FROM N.I.M.H., THE NATIONAL
INSTITUTE OF MENTAL HEALTH

TELLING THEM, "YOU GOT
ALL THESE VIDEOS

"BUT THEY'RE NOT INDEXED,
THEY'RE NOT CATALOGUED

"THEY'RE ALL THROWN
IN A DRAWER.

"YOU'RE DOING TESTS

THAT HAVE NO
SCIENTIFIC PURPOSE."

AND THEY WERE DOING
TESTS REPETITIVELY

WHICH LOSE
THEIR VALIDITY

WITH THE REPETITIVENESS.

YEAH, WITH
CERTAIN TESTS

IF YOU ADMINISTER THEM
WITHIN A YEAR

YOU'RE JUST MEASURING

HOW FAMILIAR THE SUBJECT
IS WITH THE TEST.

OKAY, NOW TRY IT AGAIN.

HERE, YOU DO IT.

PUT THEM IN THE BOX

BUT I WANT YOU
TO WORK FAST.

COME ON,
LET'S WORK FAST.

Rigler:
IT WAS OUR JOB
TO MEASURE HER PROGRESS

TO DETERMINE WHAT
CHANGES WERE TAKING PLACE.

INDEED, IF WE HAD NOT DONE
AS MUCH AS WE DID

WE WOULD HAVE
REALLY NOT FULFILLED

THE PURPOSES OF OUR GRANT.

BUT, IN ADDITION TO THAT,
THE TESTING THAT SHE UNDERWENT

WAS BY AND LARGE
FUN EXPERIENCES FOR HER.

Narrator:
DEPOSITIONS WERE TAKEN,
EXPERTS WERE SUMMONED

AND WHILE THE SUIT
WAS EVENTUALLY SETTLED

IT RAISED AN IMPORTANT QUESTION:

DID THE TEAM GO AS FAR
AS IT COULD GO IN TREATING GENIE

OR DID THE RESEARCH
GET IN THE WAY?

WE DID EVERYTHING WE COULD
NOT TO EXPLOIT THE CASE

UM... IN A WAY THAT WOULD
IMPINGE ON HER PRIVACY

UM... OR IMPACT ON HER
PSYCHOLOGICALLY OR EMOTIONALLY.

AND THAT WASN'T DIFFICULT

BECAUSE OF THE FEELINGS
WE HAD FOR HER.

I DON'T THINK
THEY STARTED OUT

WITH THE NOTION OF
"LET'S EXPLOIT HER

FOR ALL THE MONEY
WE CAN GET."

I THINK MAYBE
EVERYBODY STARTED OUT

ONE,
THEY WANTED TO HELP HER

BUT TWO, THIS WAS
LIKE THE BIGGEST THING

THAT HAD HIT TOWN IN
QUITE A NUMBER OF YEARS.

IT WAS RIGHT ON THE HEELS

OF TRUFFAUT'S MOVIE
THE WILD CHILD

HENCE THE NAME
THAT WAS GIVEN TO HER.

WHEN THEY HAD SEMINARS
AT CHILDRENS HOSPITAL

THEY SHOWED THE MOVIE

AND SO THIS WAS LIKE
A WORLDWIDE ATTRACTION.

SO I THINK IT WAS REAL EASY
TO GET SIDETRACKED.

Narrator:
DESPITE ALL SHE'D BEEN THROUGH,
GENIE'S TROUBLES WERE NOT OVER.

IN HER FIRST FOSTER HOME

GENIE WAS SEVERELY PUNISHED
FOR VOMITING.

A LONG
TIME AGO?

Narrator:
THE EXPERIENCE
WAS SO TRAUMATIZING

GENIE ENDED UP
BACK IN CHILDRENS HOSPITAL

WHERE THE RIGLERS
OFFERED ASSISTANCE.

YOU COULDN'T
HELP IT.

SO NOW YOU'RE KEEPING
YOUR MOUTH CLOSED

SO YOU WON'T VOMIT.

Narrator:
GENIE WAS AFRAID
TO OPEN HER MOUTH.

SHE REGRESSED TO THE ONLY WAY
SHE KNEW HOW TO BE UNDER SIEGE...

COMPLETELY SILENT.

THIS WOULD BE
ONE OF THE LAST TIMES

THE RIGLERS VIDEOTAPED GENIE.

GENIE NOW LIVES
IN AN ADULT-CARE FOSTER HOME

IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA.

IT'S AT LEAST THE SIXTH HOME
SHE HAS LIVED IN

SINCE THE RESEARCH
PROJECT ENDED.

Lane:
WHAT DO WE TAKE AWAY
FROM THIS REALLY SAD STORY?

THERE'S AN ETHICAL DILEMMA
IN THIS KIND OF RESEARCH.

IF YOU WANT TO DO
RIGOROUS SCIENCE

THEN GENIE'S INTERESTS ARE GOING
TO COME SECOND SOME OF THE TIME.

IF YOU ONLY CARE
ABOUT HELPING GENIE

THEN YOU WOULDN'T DO A LOT
OF THE SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH.

TO MAKE MATTERS WORSE, THE TWO
ROLES, SCIENTIST AND THERAPIST

WERE COMBINED IN ONE PERSON
IN HER CASE.

SO I THINK FUTURE GENERATIONS
ARE GOING TO STUDY GENIE'S CASE

NOT ONLY FOR WHAT IT CAN
TEACH US ABOUT HUMAN DEVELOPMENT

BUT ALSO FOR
WHAT IT CAN TEACH US

ABOUT THE REWARDS AND THE RISKS

OF CONDUCTING
THE FORBIDDEN EXPERIMENT.

A PRODUCTION OF WGBH BOSTON