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February 1993


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Sun, 28 Feb 1993 11:22:45 EST
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JNEALON's comments about the "classic" status of HIGH SCHOOL evoked a thought
that is more-or-less new to me.  One of the reasons, I now think,
that many people admire HIGH SCHOOL is that the prejudices of the film
conform to their own prejudices.  That the film is dishonest matters rather
less than playing to audience prejudices.  The word for this is "pandering."
How dishonest?  Two examples:  Northeast High School in Philadelphia
is on a large (ten acres or more) plot of land.  As one drives by the
school on a major traffic artery the school looks to be just what it is:
a suburban high school of classic architecture.  One can see its mates
all over the country.  On a stroll around the perimeter of the school
one can see a baseball field and a football field.
And one thing more:
There is one-and-only-one angle from which to get the "classic" factory-looking
shot which opens the film.  It is the back loading dock cum parking lot.
In the film it is vacant.  When I was there in the middle of the day it was
crowded with high school age people grabbing a smoke and generally hanging out.
I suggest that despite his claims, Wiseman came to town with his mind made up
and was looking for someplace to play out his version of the world.
I've often wondered why he didn't write a film script and stage the whole
thing rather than use unsuspecting individuals to display his fantasies.
One more example of Wiseman's dishonesty:
In another "classic" scene a middle-aged dean of boys berates a student along
the lines of "you're no good; why are you always messing-up?"  This scene has
been much commented upon for the harsh treatment of the student.  But, this
scene is less than complete.  According to a former student of mine:  "I know
that boy; he was a bully; he even beat me up in junior high school.  And that
dean of boy: he was the student's only friend."
This crucial piece of information which was or should have been known to
Wiseman places the exchange between student and teacher in a completely
different light.
I don't begrudge Wiseman's or JNealon's right to have an opinion.  I only
ask that people not be expoited for purposes not their own.  If one has
an opinion about the world -- fine.  That's what fiction and semi-fiction
is for.  Don't exploit the individuals in the film or the audience by
pretending that this is the way things >really< are.
I guess I'm advocating a "truth-in-advertising" stance along with some
other things.
Cal Pryluck, Radio-Television-Film, Temple University, Philadelphia
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