Popular Culture Review Vol. 24, No. 2, Summer 2013 - Page 79

The Good, the Bad, the Ugly 75 makes to deal with these problems is to try to discuss them with parents on Parents Night. It never occurs to these two teachers to insert themselves into the personal lives o f their students; the classroom is a boundary line. A new theme emerges in this film. Miss Barrett wants to rescue her potential dropouts from the life she believes they will lead if they don’t eam their diploma, “me” from loneliness, and the juvenile delinquent from the streets. Thus this film marks the beginning o f a theme that has come to dominate most later films that have high school English teachers as protagonists: the English teacher as rescuer. The rescue theme becomes more explicit in Dead Poets Society. This film is about an English teacher working at an exclusive New England prep school in the late 1950s. The school, an all-boys school named Welton, is rigidly traditional and expects the protagonist, Mr. Keating, to prepare his students for College entrance exams and university English courses. But Mr. Keating, the only protagonist in these films with some teaching experience, believes this educational objective endangers his students, so he tries to rescue them from the demands and expectations o f the privileged lives they were bom into that he believes will stifle their individuality to the extent that it will impair the quality o f their lives. He holds up W alt Whitman and the Romantic poets as examples o f how life should be lived. He successfully encourages several boys to act on their desires, but the school’s headmaster interprets their independence as rebellion. W hile Keating does not directly insert him self into the personal lives o f his students, he does try to help one Student cope with a domineering father who wants his son focused only on his studies. The Situation ends in tragedy when the Student, in utter despair o f ever being free fforn parental demands, commits suicide. Mr. Keating is held responsible and fired. We are supposed to see him as a victim o f education’s tradition. By 1995, however, good English teachers have moved beyond being merely rescuers; they have become saviors who “offer salvation to students lost in a culture o f poverty and despair” (Bulman 257). This change is evident in two relatively recent films, Dangerous Minds and Freedom Writers. In these films, the extraordinary English teachers are willing to make whatever personal sacrifices are necessary to save their students from the personal problems and social ills that threaten to destroy their fiitures. In these classrooms, the students’ problems are also the teacher’s problems, and the classroom has become a Staging area rather than a boundary. These two films have essentially the same dramatic structure as