“The tragic and the comic are the same inasmuch as both are contradiction, but the tragic is suffering contradiction, and the comic is painless contradiction.” -Kierkegaard CUPPF 1:514
An odd way to start an review of what is supposed to be a comedy, but it was the first thing that came to mind as I was walking away from Teacher of the Year. The movie is enjoyable and highly amusing, especially for people who have worked at a high school or are young enough to remember high school (aka most TU students).
We’ve all had teachers like those portrayed in Teacher of the Year. I couldn’t help thinking, “yep had him” and “there’s Mr. Burns.” It’s all very real, which is what makes the movie funny.
Truman High, the setting for this film, isn’t some Saved by the Bell nostalgia filled caricature or the two dimensional setting for this week’s feel good after-school special.
Rather, it’s close enough to the real deal that we can start filling in the gaps from our own memory. It may be fiction, but we can supply enough to make it real on our own.
And it’s always funny to see people that we “know” acting in their strange way on the big screen.
But even as the well crafted simulacrum is amusing, it’s also the reason it all seems kind of tragic.
No, our high school didn’t have Keegan-Michael Key playing a principle with the last name Douche (pronounced Doo-chay)—we may wish that we had Keegan-Michael Key as our principle because that man can play angry and flustered like Federer plays tennis—but too many of us have had over degreed, under-skilled, incompetent administrators who were only working hard for the next promotion.
It doesn’t take an English major to realize the movie comes with a message; it’s about as hard to spot as the sun on a cloudless day.
And while no one actually preaches it in the movie, you still walk away thinking “I just got preached at.”
But it’s a film worth going to and a sermon worth hearing. Election season is coming up and you can bet education is going to be a hot button issue.
Lots of people are going to put the blame on “government standards” or “mandated tests.” But as Teacher so clearly puts, there are deeper problems; teaching can hard, draining and few people are really qualified for the job.
And when the rare person who is really good at teaching and loves it with all their heart appears, they are quickly lured away by higher paying, less stressful, more respected jobs.
Go see Teacher. It’s showing at Circle Cinema in their cozy little screening room at a reduced price. Go see it for the humor of seeing “those” teachers again. Go see it to hear its tragic message.