"There's this page on Facebook that's perfect for you." Thus I am greeted by Sneering Boy on my return to school. It's my first class for the week and I'm a bit under the weather. I've had a couple of days off; a rare occurrence. He laughs loudly, mirthlessly. I attempt to ignore the jibe, whatever it means, and wheel my data projector trolley to its usual position.
I'm about to show the kids On The Waterfront. Most haven't yet seen the film.
I didn't preempt the film too much. Told them to consider the film's production in the context of when it was made, hoping they wouldn't laugh when the dummy Joey Doyle is hurled off the roof. Explained that Kazan deliberately shot the film in black and white. Look at everything in the shot, I said, not just the central focus. If Johnny Friendly is washing his hands, for example, it probably signifies something, or why would Kazan bother?
We watched about half the film in the time we had left that session, leaving the rest for the next day. For them, and me, it was an easy session. I suppose I wanted them to engage with the plot and characters, much as I had done on my initial viewing one Saturday night, back in the '70s when I was sixteen.
Didn't give Sneering Boy's Facebook page a thought really. But that night I noticed one of my Facebook friends, another English teacher, had 'liked' this page. Out of curiosity I clicked on it. A minute ago, 19,758 people had 'liked' it. I didn't. Didn't even raise a chuckle.
Perhaps some teachers read too much between the lines and into films. Most of us study, research and attend Professional Development to develop our understanding and ensure we don't sell our students short when it comes to SAC and exam time.
And it's all there on the screen or page and is open to interpretation. I doubt whether Kazan intended to position his 2011 audience to view his film from a feminist perspective, but there it is for a modern viewer. The brave woman, knowing the truth and unafraid to speak it is silenced and side-lined by Joey Doyle's father. Terry tells Edie to do as she's told a couple of times - get back to the sisters; guard Charlie's body; do as I tell you. Another nondescript woman hurries across the background in a bar scene. It's there.
The offending Facebook page is really a testament to the zeitgeist, I suppose. Lots of poor spelling and punctuation and lots of that special combination of ignorance and arrogance - the secret of a happy life. Careless students, for the most part, engage with the social media and casually malign their teachers in the process. I concede that some of us are better or worse than others, but up at the year 12 end we're all working our bums off for our students regardless.
But being an Engliah teacher, I'm probably reading too much into it. Kudos to Sacha, the seventeen year old student who engaged in some of the discourse on the page and had the temerity to defend his teachers.
FYI, if you haven't caught up with it, the page is called Understanding a book more than the author because you're an English teacher.