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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 7: Power, Passion, and Teachers: Blurring the Line, Crossing the Line, Is There a Difference?


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Blurring the Line, Crossing the Line, Is There a Difference?

The story is not a new one – philosophers have debated such behavior at least since ancient Greece – but our penchant for “ripped from the headlines” cultural narratives in contemporary life puts a new twist on stories about teachers who engage in sexual relationships with their students. This essay explores links among those making arguments about the ethics of adults having sexual relationships with adolescents, the real-life stories of teachers who either face charges or marry their former students when the relationship is discovered, and movies that tell compelling stories about how such relationships may originate and unfold. Although other films will be referenced in the essay, the primary focus will be on two recent films: Palo Alto (2013) in which the “class virgin” is torn between her interest in a classmate and a flirtation with her soccer coach; and, The Skeleton Twins (2014) in which a man who has recently attempted suicide returns to his hometown and resumes an affair he had with one of his high school teachers. The surprising thing, perhaps, about the films, at least when compared with most of the news coverage of actual relationships between students and teachers, is how nuanced and emotionally complex the films tend to be. These teachers in the movies are not cut from a single cloth, and neither are the students who become involved with them....

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