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The Hollywood Curriculum

Teachers in the Movies – Third Revised Edition


Mary M. Dalton

The third edition of this book analyzes over 165 films distributed throughout the United States over the last 80 years to construct a theory of curriculum in the movies that is grounded in cultural studies and critical pedagogy. The portrayal of teachers in popular motion pictures is based on individual efforts rather than collective action and relies on codes established by stock characters and predictable plots, which precludes meaningful struggle. These conventions ensure the ultimate outcome of the screen narratives and almost always leave the educational institutions – which represent the larger status quo – intact and dominant. To interrogate "the Hollywood curriculum" is to ask what it means as a culture to be responsive to films at both social and personal levels and to engage these films as both entertaining and potentially transforming.

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Chapter 3: The Aesthetic-Ethical-Political Value Frameworks of Good Teachers in the Movies


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In Chapter 1, I described the Hollywood curriculum in Huebner’s terms as broadly aesthetic-ethical-political, and in Chapter 2, I established The Hollywood Model as a standard construction of good teachers in the movies. In this chapter, good teachers are analyzed in the context of Huebner’s applicable value frameworks with special attention accorded to the way Huebner’s clearly delineated metaphors can be employed in reading these film texts alternately as narratives of social conformity or narratives of opposition. It is the “leaky boundaries” (Fiske 1989, 126) of these popular texts, coupled with the absence of boundaries between our lives and the viewing of these texts, that make such intertextual interpretation not only possible but also necessary for making connections between ideas and experiences that allow us access to the richest interpretations of these texts. Teachers and students in the movies move around onscreen before us in a social context that is identifiable as neither modernist nor postmodernist, despite the fact that these films play a pivotal role in creating our collective cultural subjective.1 In these movies there is usually a social vacuum outside the schools and an ambiguous (though not specifically postmodern) social context inside the schools. The movies I am writing about are mostly mainstream, Hollywood fare as opposed ← 43 | 44 → to European art films, independent productions, documentaries, or experimental films. Their narrative structures are generally linear and hero-centered....

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