Axl Rose Syndrome


April 6, 2014 by NowhereButPop

by Andrew Doscas

“The place where I come from is a small town, they think so small…But not me, I’m smarter than that”

-Peter Gabriel, “Big Time”


Forrest Gump is such a great movie because the titular character is such an incredibly likeable man.  He’s such an incredibly likeable man because he is a man who is well aware of his shortcomings, paramount of which is his below average intellect.  The line “I may not be a smart man, but I know what love is” should adequately illustrate why the film is held in such venerable esteem.  It completely summarizes not only humility and simplicity, but also self-disclosure and knowledge of oneself, two traits that are considered great, if not discreet, virtues.

With that being said, there is just something so infuriating about speaking to an idiot who doesn’t know that they are an idiot.[1]  However, one of the few things in life that’s even more aggravating, is speaking to a smart person who thinks that they’re smarter than they really are.[2]  These are the people that think intelligence is absolute, instead of the sliding gradient that it is.  They equate anything above the average intellect to be something akin to genius, a pinnacle that they sit atop alone and unchallenged by the rest of the world.  This is a theory that I’ve stumbled upon by virtue of Guns N Roses being my favorite band of all time.  In honor (or chidingly) of frontman Axl Rose, patient zero, I give you Axl Rose Syndrome.

Obviously we all know at least four people in our lives who think that they’re smarter than they really are.  More often than not however, this is either a ploy, or a sense of overcompensation for either not being cool enough in high school, or a lack of perceived recognition for being smart in the first place, so they have to remind everyone within shouting distance of just how smart they are.  Axl Rose Syndrome is a case where someone sincerely and whole heartedly believes themselves to either be the smartest person in the world, or have the capacity and ability to become the smartest person in the world.  What separates those with Axl Rose Syndrome from your typical spiteful and insecurely arrogant prick, is how the afflicted came to the conclusion of their intellect.

Axl Rose was born and raised in Lafayette Indiana, aka Fucksville U.S.A.  To say that he grew up amongst the stupidest people in the western hemisphere is no stretch of the imagination.  Contrary to popular belief, Axl Rose is not a stupid man; yes he does stupid things like imagine slights and release albums 15 years too late, but he is a smart guy.  He’s no intellect, but he does possess an above average IQ.  Depending on who you ask the average IQ is between 90-100; Axl’s is a purported 115.  But the reason for much of Axl’s megalomania and self-deprecating sense of egotism comes from the fact that he grew up in the middle of nowhere surrounded by idiots at every turn.

Axl Rose Syndrome is the misguided notion that one is the smartest person in all of creation, concluded from their place of upbringing, typically being surrounded by lesser minds.  People with the affliction may very well be one of the smarter people in their community, but they then use that small sample size as a general paradigm for the entire universe.  They rationalize that since they are the smartest person in their limited environment they must therefore be the smartest person in existence.  They extrapolate their misguided observations and then generalize it to apply to the world at large.[3]  In short, Axl Rose Syndrome is the belief in one’s own intellectual superiority based on the environment in which they were raised, wherein they were surrounded almost exclusively by stupider people.

I first became aware of ARS a few months ago when I was trying (in vain) to explain Chuck Klosterman’s theory of the Nemesis and the Archenemy, to a girl I was seeing.  Naturally, I had to lie to her about not believing that everyone needs a nemesis and an archenemy.[4]  I have a nemesis and I have an archenemy.  I know that my nemesis considers me to be his nemesis, but my archenemy does not think of me as his archenemy.  I also know who the archenemy of my nemesis is, and that there was a point in time when my nemesis’ archenemy considered my nemesis to be his archenemy as well.  I’m also vastly curious to know if anyone considers me to be their archenemy.[5]  Even though my nemesis and archenemy occupy such roles in my life for holistically and symbolically divergent reasons, they are both afflicted with Axl Rose Syndrome.  And it’s through them that I came to the conclusion of ARS and retroactively attributed it to one of my favorite singers.

My nemesis is my nemesis because he is my opposite in every single way.  Our beliefs and opinions are always contra to each other (at times this seems to be done on purpose just so as to not agree with the other one), and our inner dichotomies are gross inverses of each other, he being the logical socio-path, tormented by a cauldron of repressed bubbling emotion underneath him, and me, wearing my heart on my sleeve, constantly trying to intellectualize and underscore the torrent of emotions I feel with a dose of cold reason and rationality.  However, my nemesis is not a bad person; even though I oppose everything he stands for, I can never actually hate him.

Being my antithesis, my nemesis is my nemesis instead of my archenemy because there is no personal strife or vendetta against each other.  It’s nothing personal, it’s just business.  Even though he is jealous of me and harbors a poorly disguised resentment towards me, and even though I am completely unsympathetic, and aggravated by everything he says, I would never wish harm upon him, nor would he unto me.  My archenemy, by contrast is someone whom I actively loathe.  If his wife left him for a homeless transsexual paralytic, it still would not be enough pain for him to endure.  He is the summation of every quality that I hate seeing in people.  My archenemy is also the worst imaginable version of myself.

With my archenemy, it is entirely personal; wherein my nemesis is at the other end of the personality spectrum, my archenemy is only a few scant steps away from me, as we are more similar than I’d like for us to be.  This is probably the biggest motivating factor in my disdain for this person, because I know that within me is the potential to be him. We like the same music, movies, and even majored and minored in the same subjects.  He is a condescending bully, but a charismatic showman; he is judgmental, but deceptively amicable; he is sociable, but a phony.  My archenemy once called a girl a “whore” after she refused to sleep with him, and has mild anti-Semitic tendencies.  He is an insincere con-man and for an entire year of my life I could only watch helplessly as everyone around me fell for his ploy.  He is one of the only few people who I’ve met who I would classify as being a “bad person”.

What adds to both my hatred for him and my theory that we are similar people is that we have also been with three of the same girls.  And I know that all three of these women fell for the same thing in both of us.

Every guy has a routine, a shtick, for getting with girls.  It’s a tried and true method that we have that plays upon our strengths and makes us more engaging and appealing to the opposite sex.  Some guys are cool jerks, others the lovably neurotic type, and others play the brooding rebel card.  My shtick is the “Game show host”.  I’m a good talker and an entertainer, so I amuse my way into seduction.[6]  My archenemy is a fellow game show host as well.  And the girls that we’ve both been with were attracted to an articulate, seemingly confident guy who was paying them attention by amusing them, instead of blatantly (and drunkenly) hitting on them.  We are both con men, but that is all my arch enemy aspires to be.

The common link between my nemesis, my archenemy, and I suppose, myself is Axl Rose Syndrome.  Both my nemesis and archenemy have it, and I’d hazard a guess that there’s more than one parallel universe where I suffer from it.  My nemesis can’t understand that he isn’t always right, but my archenemy won’t understand this fact.  Growing up my nemesis was surrounded by people who didn’t recognize his intelligence (yes he is a smart person), and now has made a point to tell everyone about how smart he is.  My archenemy grew up in an area where people didn’t understand his intelligence; he was the weird kid in high school whose sense of humor revolved around offbeat and obscure pop-culture references that most people would be unfamiliar with, as a result he was ostracized for not only being loud, but being weird and loud.  To see someone go through a similar experience as did I, only to end up a gross distortion of how I perceive myself is both greatly harrowing, and unendingly infuriating.

Everyone needs to hear praise and receive accolades, but people with ARS such as my nemesis and my archenemy have to do it themselves, because either no one did it for them growing up, or because everyone did it to them, all the time.  They are both intelligent people, but neither to the degree that they tell themselves they are.  Both have openly complained to me that they believed they were smarter than most of their college professors, and both of them have (non-argumentatively) tried to convince me that they are smarter than me.  Despite the arrogance of the majority of the human race, only people with ASR would have this kind of conversation with somebody else.

My nemesis thinks my archenemy is a pompous ass, and my archenemy thinks my nemesis is a socially inept freak.  Watching them interact those few times was immensely amusing, satisfying and surprisingly educational.  They both think the other one has ASR, without realizing it for themselves.  I’m curious to see who would win a game of Jeopardy between the three of us.


[1] This explains why even as a seven year old I never found Adam Sandler to be even remotely funny.

[2] This should explain why I’ve stopped watching both MSN and Fox News.

[3] For further readings see Good Will Hunting

[4] We most certainly do!

[5] Presently, my assumption is that nobody does, and that leads me to believe that I’ve been doing something wrong with my life.

[6] Being able to speak Greek has also helped on occasion.

One thought on “Axl Rose Syndrome

  1. mrbrownstone says:

    Interesting screed that I just happenned upon. I actually found this because I was looking to see if there was any info on Axl’s IQ because I find some of his musical choices to be very impressive. I actually think it is genius compositionally the way he whistles that old civil war folk song at the beginning of “Civil War,” and lets not get started on his vocal ability. vLet me hear your ( or another singer’s) multi-tracked vocal stack and then let me decide for myself whether Axl is a genius relative to whomever. I may say he is a “genius” but you may have a higher IQ and speak more languages (and may be more personable). I would wage money that his vocal talent easily puts him in the top 5% of vocalists, and he is an impressive rock composer/lyricist as well. Doesn’t mean he knows jack about the price of tea in China. Doesn’t even mean I want to listen to G n R every week. That Is sort of the problem maybe, that we all throw that “genius” word around loosely, and as you point out its definitely a sliding scale for each various skill. I might be comfortable letting a neurosurgeon work on my brain, and even my car, but I might not neccessarily want to buy his painting.

    There is also the tradition of vocalists being “divas” which Axl is definitely portrayed as in the press, and that may distort our impression of his self image.

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