There are a myriad of weird moments in Behind the Curve, the flat Earther-focused documentary that’s been gaining attention on Netflix. There’s the fact that halfway through the doc, the movie turns into a will-they, won’t-they love story between two of the top YouTube personalities in this “field.” There are the many flat Earth crafts, which range from custom made interactive maps to motorcycles for some reason. There is the flat Earth gang sign that inexplicably appears during random moments.
But without a doubt, the most insane part of this insane documentary is that the flat Earthers at its center prove — through their own experiments — that the Earth is round. Twice.
Once the film gets past its natural inclination to side-eye its subjects, it explains exactly why this growing contingent of people believe our world is flat. The government lies to us in order to control us, so the thinking goes. This applies to the curvature of the Earth because… I dunno, someone at NASA was bored one day? It’s a basic “wake up, sheeple” argument.
But what sets the flat Earthers in Behind the Curve apart from your typical UFO or JFK assassination conspiracy theorists is that they’re actually willing to put in the work. Over the course of the movie, they run not one but two tests to determine whether or not the Earth is round.
And they’re both pretty smart. The first involves a gyroscope purchased by popular flat Earth YouTuber Bob Knobel for $20,000. After Knobel first turned on the gyroscope he found that it was picking up a 15 miles per hour drift. Or put into layman’s terms, a scientific instrument designed to measure momentum and balance behaved just like how you would expect it to if it existed on a rotating planet.
That wasn’t a definite enough answer for Knobel and his followers, which is a trend in all things flat Earth. To block out radiation and whatnot they then placed the gyro in a zero gauss casing where it displayed… the same result. The Earth was still rotating. By the time Behind the Curve ends, Knobel pledges to invest in a highly expensive bismuth casing to further conceal the instrument. When that too inevitably fails to give him the result he wants, he’ll probably claim the device was faulty all along.
However, the most infuriating moment comes at the very end of the documentary. All throughout Behind the Curve YouTuber Jeran Campanella tries to prove the Earth is flat through a little homemade experiment of his own. Repeatedly, Campanella attempts to shine a light at two points the same distance off the ground. If a spot in the middle of these points displays a different measurement, then that proves the land between the laser pointer is curved. Ergo, the Earth is round.
Campanella tries and fails multiple times to get his experiment right. His light isn’t fine enough, the weather gets too rough, the cops come. It’s a whole thing. But finally at the very end of Behind the Curve, he gets his answer. In a new experiment, he tries to shine a light through two points 17 feet off the ground. If the Earth is flat, he would only have to hold the light 17 feet in the air. Instead he has to hold it 23 feet.
What does Campanella say to proof conducted through his own experiment that the Earth is indeed round? “Interesting. That’s interesting.” We then cut to black.
That’s the death knoll that is Behind the Curve. In the beginning, the documentary wants you to think that it’s about a rising group of misinformed people desperately clinging to one specific conspiracy theory. But as the documentary goes on, it becomes more and more clear that it isn’t about a group of people who want answers to their scientific questions. It’s about a community that has formed around one patently wrong answer, truth and their own science be damned. Just look at Mark Sargent’s many “I Am Mark Sargent” shirts. This is about achieving fame in a niche community.
A lot of the time when someone self owns it’s a glorious, hilarious thing. In the case of Behind the Curve, it’s enough to want to punt a globe at your screen.