(1) For this assignment, you will need to select one movie. “Dead Poets Society”
Even if it is a movie you have seen before, you need to re-watch the movie with a critical eye towards the social construction of reality and illustrations of other sociological/cultural concepts.
(2) Analyze the movie: After watching the movie, you will write a 4-6 page review, consisting of:
a) intro paragraph noting the relevance of the movie to the course
b) one page description/summary of the contents of the film
Dead Poets Society
I have selected the movie “Dead Poets Society” that had portrayed teaching as a noble vocation in the backdrop of an English prep school in 1989 and watching this movie is somewhat a visceral experience for the viewer. The film was not only loved by the viewers but had won several accolades that include Oscar awards, BAFTA awards and had been the 10th highest earner in box office among the contemporary movies. The plot revolves round a charismatic teacher of English literature John Keating (played by Robin Williams) who is a new recruit in the Welton Academy, an elite prep school in New England. Soon the students, of impressionable tender age, of his class are under the influence of his enigmatic personality go aboard on a voyage of self discovery by dint of poetry as their guiding light. But the unconventional method of teaching that Keating had resorted to began to shake the foundation of discipline and academic structure of the school and soon the school authorities are compelled to voice their objection to such process of teaching. Since Keating refuses to mend his methods, the authority decides to fire Keating and hence is the onset of tragedy which after much melodrama ends in a heartwarming note with adolescent students daring to defy the school authority and standing on their desk pay homage to Keating saying, ‘O Captain1 my Captain!” and the audience is equally flooded with sentiment.
The movie actually appeals to the finer intellectuality and emotions of the audience but it should be pondered over if the movie has at all any relation to education and teaching. John Keating is, nevertheless, a phenomenal teacher who suggests that his students should not consider what the author thinks while reading a poem rather they should manipulate their own heart to make their own understanding of the poetic piece. Here, he poses as a pedagogical messiah who instructs the students to study in the most unprogressive mode but he does this at the cost of discipline and integrity because teenage is an absolute impressionable age and if at such a tender age a disciple is channelized towards non conformity towards parents and authority and choose imagination by over-ruling self-restraint, then the primary purpose of coming to a school is threatened. John Keating does not have any lesson plan ready for the day and although Keating is continuously talking in the class that consists of about a score of disciples, it seems he is not talking to the students rather he is talking at them. The phrase‘O Captain! My Captain!’ is voiced out by Keating in a manner that he acts as the great American leader Abraham Lincoln, and in the very introductory class, he was more focused on making his presence in the class more palatable to the students than letting the students get engaged in mutual class discussion and gradually learn the poetic piece. This way he invokes among the students that mimicry of great figures is a normal behavior and soon this wrong message gets boomeranged to him as one of the students of his class Charlie Dalton plays practical joke that directly challenges the hierarchy of the school. Then again, Keating inspires the boys to form a secret society in an ancient cave for the purpose of enjoying poetry with pipes and drums. Although the movie earned huge and the phrases like ‘carpe diem’ and ‘O captain! My captain!’ has become the fasteners of the popular or pop culture vernacular till date, yet the message Keating conveyed to the students was, nevertheless, degenerating. An adolescent young pupil being taught to resort to falsehood and lie to the parents and teachers and take assistance of tobacco in order to enjoy poetry and that too in a secret place about which their family members are not aware of, is undoubtedly indicated the vicious intention of Keating to create a group of followers who he would lead at his own fancy and not direct these young hearts to the path of a successful career or education. Keating is in the process of creating secret rebels by the creation of the secret society, secretly because if he opens up, his job might be at stake. He is successful in creating rebels ant that also out of a prankster, that is Charlie Dalton who dares to say that the poetic society should be brought to surface so that people might know about it and this is perhaps the word of a rebel because what Keating was doing was fulfilling own fancy at the cost of the young minds. His audacious fancy is somewhere responsible for the suicide of Neil Perry who had been taking part in a drama ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ in a local production house against his father’s will. Apparently, the situation is entirely a family dispute issue but Keating was the person who had supported Neil Perry to act in the drama and show his father that he is capable.
The situation could be handled otherwise like having interactive session with his father because afterall the father is the primary guardian of a minor child. Hence Perry decided to continue with his rehearsals without his father’s consent because he was assured that his performance would definitely compel his father to change his decision but the fact was something else because destiny had worked otherwise. Soon his father discovered the secret mission his son was involved in and declared that he would transfer his son to a military school. Choices and passions might differ between parents and children and in this regard the true duty of a teacher was to inspire Perry to clear the air with his father and even if he failed to participate in that particular drama, his modest persuasion could have changed his father’s mind in future but what Keating initiated proved to be fatal to Neil Perry as he felt that he would never be able to pursue his dream and hence, committed suicide. Proper guidance from the teacher is extremely essential and a teacher and a parent should work mutually to shape the future of the pupil but in case of Keating, he was more interested in embossing his charismatic persona among the tender hearts than shape their life and future. Keating is an enigmatic but flawed teacher that brings down the tragedy. Hence, the sense of ambiguity is aroused among the audience regarding the ability of Keating and lack of faith on the pop culture that does not teach an youth to endure with the problems of life rather give in to frustration and retire from life at the very first hurdle of life. The teacher must teach the students to overcome the difficulties of life with courage and hope but Keating himself is not a brave heart and hence suggests the students to build a poetic society away from the eye of the human society (Berkson, 2017).
Another movie can be discussed in regards to pop culture that has much similarity with this movie is Bill & Ted’s Excellent adventure in which a couple of teenage boys belonging to the small town of San Dumas, experience a dream of starting their own rock band (IMDb.com, 2018). Ted and Bill would name the band as “Wyld Stallyns” but they are in trouble as they are in their high school where they would have to submit a history report failing which they would be thrown out of their school. In Dead Poets Society, the young students are also influenced by the pop culture and play the drums and music in their cave. Again Neil Perry’s father had decided to send him to military school to have Neil’s head stripped off the drama passion in Dead Poets Society and in the other Ted’s father fad decided to send him to the military school if he failed in the history report. At the contemporary age, pop culture was considered by the parents as something harmful for growing minds and it brings degeneration. Hence, most parents wanted their children to grow in a military discipline. Pop culture involved addiction of tobacco and alcohol among youth and the love for poetry and music, signature of pop culture, would diminish character and future of the youth was the basic psychology of the parents.
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Berkson D.(2017), Dead Poets Society: The Pedagogy of Sentimentality and Uncritical Thinking, Retrieved February 13, 2018 from thepigeonpress.org/dead-poets-society-pedagogy-sentimentality-uncritical-thinking/
IMDb (2018). Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989). Retrieved February 13, 2018, from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0096928/