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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 9: Drama Is Conflict: The Roles of Administrators in Hollywood Movies


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The Roles of Administrators in Hollywood Movies


While guidance counselors are generally presented as marginal characters who are out of touch1 and school board members and union representatives are routinely characterized as uncaring or even corrupt, the school principal – and sometimes the assistant principal as surrogate – stands alone in Hollywood movies as the force most vested in establishing or maintaining control in the school. Sometimes that control is related to raising standards, a euphemism for improving standardized test scores; more often, the principal is charged with maintaining order by exercising disciplinary action on an unruly student population. Of course, once order is established, raising test scores will not be far behind as the primary goal for celluloid constructions, or, for that matter, in today’s culture for administrators made of flesh and blood. Chapter 1 discussed the cultural importance of Hollywood representations of teachers and the “leaky boundaries” between popular culture narratives and actual lived experience. It follows that the same is true of mass media portrayals of principals: our perceptions of real principals are informed by our experiences with their fictive counterparts in movies. ← 177 | 178 →

Standards and Practices

If we regard the school as a factory, an assembly line model leading to credentialing that is common in the movies, then some of the problems that confront both real and movie administrators become apparent. As Linda M. McNeil points out:...

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