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Murray Pomerance observes:
 
 
> Now, GOOD WILL HUNTING is not, to me, mediocre-and-therefore-discrdable;
> it's meaningful.  And Will's problem with that History grad student in
> the bar suggests a widening and, for me, terrifying division between town
> and gown, between the official "thinkers" and people's attempts to
> think.  He's a kid, after all, a bright one, and so is Matt Damon, so he
> surely knew how to write Will Hunting.  He's not Plato, he's a kid, and
> I'm wondering how that grad student suddenly stopped being a kid when
> he's clearly not much older.  In fact, Will shows that he can read the
> same texts, even more of them, and more deeply.  But he doesn't have the
> pretence and the arrogance, and what bothers me is the sense I have very
> often that the pretence and arrogance really do constitute academic
> life.
>
> Obviously I don't have this sense always.  But sometimes, and it's
> disturbing.  And this idea, that one can have such a sensation and it can
> be disturbing, and that academic life can be this way, is surely worth
> thinking about, and this film is surely worth taking seriously if it
> raises this issue to the foreground.
 
There is certainly plenty of that--and has been for quite a while.
Look at the many films and books that deal with such pretence and
arrogance: Fred Gwynne's engagingly smug department chair in SO FINE,
Elliot Gould's rebellion at his MA defense in GETTING STRAIGHT (a
favorite of grad students everywhere) or Abel Ferrarra's THE ADDICTION,
in which Lilli Taylor plays a vampire who throws a dissertation defense
party to die for.  (Two recent books that play hob with academe include
Jane Smiley's MOO and PUBLISH OR PERISH: THREE TALES OF TENURE AND
TERROR--but I forget the author's name).  See also the way Oxford gets
raked over the coals routinely in the INSPECTOR MORSE series on MYSTERY.
 
On the other hand, there are more sympathetic versions of mediocrity in
academe in such things as THE BROWNING VERSION and even GOODBYE, MR.
CHIPS.
 
But, of course, the Mock-Turtle explained it all to Alice over a
century ago:
 
"I only took the regular course."
"What was that?" enquired Alice.
"Reeling and Writhing, of course, to begin with," the Mock-Turtle
replied; "and then the different branches of Arithmetic--Ambition,
Distraction, Uglifcation, and Derision."
--Lewis Carroll, ALICE IN WONDERLAND
 
 
Sort of sums it up, I think.
 
Don Larsson
 
 
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Donald Larsson, Mankato State U (MN)
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