Freakonomics film still

‘Freakonomics’, Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady, Alex Gibney, Seth Gordon, Eugene Jarecki and Morgan Spurlock, USA, 2010

As part of the Melbourne Writers Festival, ACMI is showing a lively adaptation of the bestselling book, Freakonomics. Getting back to the source, we take a look at the book that started it all.

Freakonomics, in a word, is controversial. In two, it is cynical. Human beings are incentive-driven, this best-seller claims, and it’s not short of examples. In accessible, easy-to-follow, break-down logic, Freakonomics explains how the legalisation of abortion is related to the decrease of crime rates and why real estate agents will never bother to get you ‘the best deal’. This is freakonomics, the measurement of how things really are, rather than what we have previously accepted as ‘common knowledge’.

Freakonomics asks the important questions in life, like ‘What do schoolteachers and sumo wrestlers have in common?’, ‘How is the Ku Klux Klan similar to a group of real estate agents?’, and ‘Why do drug dealers still live with their mums?’.  The book reveals the answer to these questions and more, as it strips back the layers of folk-lore to reveal the sometimes uncomfortable truth.

Sumo Wrestler

‘Freakonomics’, Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady, Alex Gibney, Seth Gordon, Eugene Jarecki and Morgan Spurlock, USA, 2010

Some Freakonomics facts:

  • Teachers can cheat too if the incentives are right.
  • You can make a decent living out of selling bagels.
  • People didn’t care so much about bad breath until Listerine came onto the scene.
  • A gang organisational chart is not so different to that of McDonald’s.


The film adaptation of Freakonomics shows at ACMI as part of the Melbourne Writers Festival from 25-30 August. See the ACMI website for session details.

For your chance to win your own copy of the books Freakonomics and Superfreakonomics, leave a comment with your favourite urban myth or old wives tale. Both books are available for purchase from the ACMI Store.

Want to read more Freakonomics stuff? Check out the Freakonomics blog.

Tags: , , , ,

11 Responses to “Freakonomics”

  1. Anthony Ciavarella 26. Aug, 2011 at 10:45 am #

    Strange one: Jamie Lee Curtis Is a Hermaphrodite :)

  2. Tim 26. Aug, 2011 at 10:47 am #

    Needing to drink 8 glasses of water a day is my favourite urban myth. It’s the bogus health tip that never dies.

  3. malathy hahn 26. Aug, 2011 at 10:54 am #

    Doing more online surveys will maximise your rewards.

  4. John Nguyen 26. Aug, 2011 at 11:43 am #

    My favorite old wives tale is that if i swallow gum, then it’ll stay in me for seven years!

  5. Sarah 26. Aug, 2011 at 1:17 pm #

    That JFK said “I am a jelly doughnut” accidentally while making a speech in German near the Berlin wall in 1963

  6. Michael 26. Aug, 2011 at 2:02 pm #

    That the Great Wall of China is the only manmade opbject viewable from space. Even at a young age I saw the flaw in this. If this were so then all 4-lane highways would also be seen.

  7. Cian O'Reilly 26. Aug, 2011 at 4:25 pm #

    Eating Carrots improves your Vision, which was just war propaganda from the second world war when rumors were spread that the British airmen had excellent night vision due to eating carrots when in-fact they had radar to help them!

  8. Lachlan 26. Aug, 2011 at 4:45 pm #

    ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away’, I have heard that came from a marketing department during the American Liquor Prohibition. People were only using apples for Hard Cider, which was less profitable for the growers.

  9. Alex 29. Aug, 2011 at 12:01 pm #

    ‘That sperm count is lowered by hot baths’ – this is TRUE. University of San Francisco researchers asked lots of men, who preferred to taker baths usually, to have showers instead, with the astonishing outcome that 50% of those tested showed an increase in sperm counts s of as much as 500%.The spermatozoa, apparently, are much happier in cooler conditions. Forget counting your cycle ladies, just keep your fella away from the tub!

  10. Lil 30. Aug, 2011 at 10:57 pm #

    What about all that talk of eating spiders in your sleep. I for one would not like to have ingested 8 creepy crawlies anytime ever!

  11. ACMI 01. Sep, 2011 at 12:30 pm #

    And the winner is…. Michael! With the old ‘Great Wall of China visible from space’ myth. (Wish I’d been savvy enough to pick a hole in that one as a child).

    Thanks everyone for contributing your urban myths/old wives tales. Michael, your copies of Freakonomics and Super Freakonomics are on their way.

Leave a Reply