Popular Culture Review Vol. 24, No. 2, Summer 2013 - Page 73

The Good, the Bad, the Ugly 69 The first two films are comedies, and Shackles is a gritty prison drama not for the faint o f heart. In all three films, teaching English becomes a joum ey o f self-discovery for the teachers. Renaissance Man offers a compelling example o f how these characters discover themselves and a talent for teaching they didn’t realize they had. Rago does not think o f him self as a teacher, let alone an English teacher. W hen he is told about the job, his first reaction is to emphasize that he’s never taught before. “I can’t do this,” he teils the clerk. But as far as the Michigan Unemployment Office is concemed, a m aster’s degree from Princeton is all that he needs to be a teacher. When he arrives at his new post, he finds him self teaching a small d ass o f recruits who are performing poorly in their regulär training program. Their drill sergeants have concluded that the recruits are un-teachable because they “have sawdust for brains.” However, a special program has been implemented by the base’s commanding officer, who believes that if the recruits can be helped “in the brain department,” i.e., if they leam to think better, they will perform better in their training. Rago’s job, his immediate superior teils him, is to “get’em to think a little better on their feet.” This is their last chance for a Stint in the army: if they cannot complete the course successfully, they will be discharged. When he first conffonts his d ass, Rago, as is typical o f the protagonists in these films, has no idea what to do. W hen the lone female Student in the d a ss asks him what he intends to teach them, Rago replies, “That’s a good question. Anybody got any ideas?” At this point, he does not really care about his students, a rowdy bunch that cannot sit quietly. W hen a fight almost breaks out moments afiter the d a ss begins, he stemly teils them: “You don’t wanna to be here and I don’t wanna to be here, so let’s just make the best o f this, okay?” But he has difficulty following his own advice. After a couple o f days he tries to get out o f his new job by calling a former advertising colleague and vows that he will do anything, even write school papers for his friend’s children, to escape. Rago fumbles around for a few days, and it is not long before he figures, as the Army does, that the students in his d a ss are too dense to leam anything. But he suddenly has a small success. He gives them an in-class reading assignment after which they are to talk about what they have read. One o f them is reading a comic book. While they are reading, he reads Hamlet, and when they ask him about what he’s reading, he sees an opportunity to reel them in with reverse psychology. He pretends to be reluctant to discuss the play with the