Alex Blaze

You just can't show Brokeback Mountain to kids anymore

Filed By Alex Blaze | May 14, 2007 2:02 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Brokeback Mountain, Kenneth and LaVerne Richardson

ABC reports:

A girl and her grandparents have sued the Chicago Board of Education, alleging that a substitute teacher showed the R-rated film "Brokeback Mountain" in class. [...]

Turner and her grandparents, Kenneth and LaVerne Richardson, are seeking around $500,000 in damages.

This strange story is already making its way around the blogosphere. Sure, a teacher shouldn't be showing an R-rated movie to eighth-graders, but the reasons it's R-rated aren't all that profound. There's some breast, a few light sex scenes (mostly heterosexual anyway, even though some people got carried away with the one gay scene), a naked shot from a hundred feet away, some swearing, and two small fight scenes. It was all necessary in the context of the film, so it's hard to notice if you're mature about it. Still, I think that such references aren't professional and a school that shows it should have some responsibility to make sure that it's part of a larger educational program, like anything else.

But before I rush to judgment of this in any way, we should just wait for the facts on this one. Neither the school nor the substitute teacher alleged to have shown the movie have commented. And there are a few things that make this whole thing just seem like a sham, and that's after the jump.

First, the grandparents are asking for half a million dollars because:

Richardson said his granddaughter was traumatized by the movie and had to undergo psychological treatment and counseling.
Really? She was really that traumatized?

I'm not going to jump in on the "frivolous lawsuit" narrative on this one because lawsuits with large dollar amounts are often necessary to get anyone to do anything in this country. It just seems like a 13-year-old watching a film wouldn't really need psychological help afterwards. And not half a million dollars worth. Kinda makes it seem like this suit is about the money or over-reacting grandparents.

Then there's this:

The substitute asked a student to shut the classroom door at the West Side school, saying: "What happens in Ms. Buford's class stays in Ms. Buford's class," according to the lawsuit.
It pretty unbelievable that a teacher would say something like that and it also sounds like it came straight out of one of those religious-right propagandizing pamphlets about public schools. It might be necessary to prove bad faith to put something like that in a lawsuit, but honestly I just don't believe it. I could be wrong, though.

But here's the stickler:

In 2005, Richardson complained to school administrators about reading material that he said included curse words.

"This was the last straw," he said. "I feel the lawsuit was necessary because of the warning I had already given them on the literature they were giving out to children to read. I told them it was against our faith."

I'm not going to accuse them of lying, but it seems to me that the sort of people who would get up in arms about something with swear words (I had to read The Catcher in the Rye at that age, as well as a few other stories that had some nasty language) and issue warnings to the school that they think chould automatically become school policy would be the same sort of people to let their imagination run wild on other issues.

They might be telling the truth here. I'm just saying that we should be skeptical before we get all the facts in.

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Even as a high school English teacher who teaches seniors (17 and 18 years old), I have to get parental permission before showing an 'R' rated film. I don't understand the context in which the teacher was showing this film, but it's probably not a film that any school district would approve for an 8th grade class!