North Farmington parents: High school production of 'Carrie' musical must not go on by Aileen Wingblad (Gannett Michigan), Detroit Free Press, March 8, 2014, p.4A.
'Carrie' not music to parents' ears at North Farmington by Tom Greenwood, The Detroit News, March 8, 2014, p. 1A.)
The upcoming production of a play based on Stephen King's novel "Carrie" at North Farmington High School in Farmington Hills, Michigan brings to mind a few eternal questions:
I think most people would agree that movies and plays for teens should not encourage smoking, drinking, drug abuse, rudeness, bullying or casual sex. You might have a few temptations along those lines, but you don't need to have those temptations amplified by movies, plays, books, etc. It is a complicated situation. You draw some lines yourself, some lines get drawn by your parents, some by the Motion Picture Association of America (they assign the movie ratings G, PG-13, R and so on). Some lines get drawn by your school.
The authorities at North Farmington High School have done a terrible job of line drawing.
I read the book "Carrie" back in the 1980s. Not a bad book, not a great book. Maybe a bit ahead of its time. Feminine hygiene had not yet become a motif in popular horror fiction. I've never seen either of the movies. I just don't want to watch that kind of bullying vividly portrayed on the screen. I'm a sensitive guy. That sort of thing would really upset me.
The Detroit News quotes North Farmington principal Joe Greene:
The musical 'Carrie' provides us a fantastical lens through which to examine and spur thought about the origin and impact of bullying, the impact of mental illness and the choices we make about how we treat each other.That is the language of a person who is totally full of himself!
Suppose there was a play called "Barrie" about a 16 year old boy being raised by two lesbians. They think he is really transgendered and in order to help him come to terms with that, they make him wear girl's underwear, even to school. One morning, the moms are too busy writing letters to the editor to notice he is going to school without his belt. So after home room, his jeans fall down in the main hallway and everyone notices his dainty underfrillies. After a few months, the teasing has mostly subsided and he actually develops a friendship with a sympathetic female classmate. He asks her to the prom. Everything is fine until he discovers he has been elected Queen of the Prom. In a rage, he goes out to his car and retrieves from the trunk his fully automatic AK-47 with a 50 round magazine that he bought at a gun show when he was 12. He goes back into the prom and shoots everyone except his girlfriend. In the final scene, while weeping in his arms, she says, "There was no need to kill people. You should have gotten help!" Would Principal Greene call that a "fantastical lens" into the issues of gun violence and transgendered individuals? No, he would not allow such a play, for obvious reasons. If I were principal, I would not allow it either.
Another example. Suppose we have a play called "Massacre at Fort Hood." The main character is an Army psychiatrist who is also a fanatical Muslim. His superiors get hints from time to time that the guy is unhinged, but they never seriously check they guy out because that would be, you know, contrary to the Spirit of Diversity and Inclusiveness, or whatever. So finally he acts out his jihadist fantasies and manages to kill 35 people because he was the only one packing heat. Would Principal Greene call this play a "fantastical lens" into the issues of radical Islam and national defense? No, again, even though the Massacre at Fort Hood really happened, more or less as I have described it. That does not make it suitable for a high school play.
Make up your own examples. Joe Greene and the smugly stilted Vince Paul ("a theatrical articulation of the larger message about bullying," he says) like the play "Carrie" because it has a huge emotional impact and because it conforms to their own prejudices. Their pseudo-intellectual clap-trap is meaningless.
Susan H. Zurvalec, Superintendent of Farmington Schools, said this in defense of "Carrie": "It's the professionals involved who should be making the decision." (Detroit Free Press) Right. Isn't that what Hillary Clinton said back in the 1990s -- it takes a small group of professionals to raise your child? No, she said it takes a village -- that was the title of her book.
Of course, there are many significant areas of life and society where professionals make most of the decisions. But they are not infallible. If they were, every Hollywood movie would make money. Every CD released by a major label would make money. Every candidate for public office would win.
The professionals of Farmington Schools need to get in touch with their own limitations. They need to confront their own prejudices. They need to listen to the village.
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