Tuesday, January 11, 2005

So today, I saw Coach Carter. Spoilers follow. Today was a sneak peak viewing, so everyone was in a good mood. We all had gotten free tickets, and we got free CDs with the single Hope on it. The good mood contributed to the great crowd. People laughed at the right places, people said "sit your fat ass down" to particularly annoying characters trying to obstruct Carter,etc. Also, the movie was very well crafted.

There was a good mix of comedy, drama and sap. The character Worm was the best producer of comedy- one of the best moments is when Coach Carter, annoyed after the team has snuck out after the championship to a party, says to him: I had to go on a roadtrip to suburbia, and you're here on top of daddy's little princess. To which Worm replies "Actually I was on bottom".

The drama was mostly produced in a series of dramatic walk aways caused by Carter's demands . Cruz had the most and the most dramatic, and I like how they weaved in his life on the streets meanwhile. They slipped in his drug dealing ways without hitting people over the head with it, and it was suitably dramatic when his cousin was shot. His big piece after that was memorizing a whole poem that starts like this "Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure".

There's also a uplifting subplot about teen pregnancy involving Kenyon, which is resolved neatly by an abortion. I like how they didn't have the girl crying her eyes out, and being like oh my god, I killed our baby! She seemed kinda relieved, and happy when Kenyon said he wanted her to go with him- I feel that her fate being left out in the ending was a annoying omission.


Overall it was a good movie- characters were well drawn, the plot progressed logically, and the sap levels were not allowed to become overbearing. A solid addition to the canon of sappy feel good movies.

Although one thing that bothered me was that because of the constraints of being a movie, it had a lot of one good teacher fights against the school system, and everyone has a little gumption and everything is fine flavor to it. For people who actually care about education in real life, this doesn't really matter. We know it's just a movie.

Some people don't know that. They seriously think if we get a few guys to come in, and say "pull up your grades and pull up your pants" that all the problems of our educational system will be fixed. The problem here is that it is a system. There have been many Coach Carters in reality, many teachers and many coaches and many principals have lifted a few students up. But the thing is that there are limits to what individuals can do, even if it's with gumption. We can try our hardest, but we have to keep educating ourselves and seeing what the real problems are.

We may say "That's simple- it's lazy students, complacent parents and stupid teachers", but those may just be symptoms of the underlying problem- symptoms you can't attack with gumption and a feel good soundtrack.

Another problem is that many people will risk thinking that only minorities think sports are more important than school. In the movie, a white man, a relative of Lyle, one of the white players does say things that indicate that he too considers basketball more important than books. Of course that'll be ignored by the ignorant commentators we will most likely see. Our whole culture glorifies sports out of proportion, and student athletes of all colors are let slide. This is a systematic problem- blaming only a small section for the sins of the whole- that way responsibility can be avoided. If we all said "Hey, maybe wasting money on stadiums for sports teams should be halted til we put money into education", that would actually take work. Can you imagine it?

The message of the movie is that education is important. I think we need to broaden our definition of education. I think of course that people should get degrees and diplomas, but education is more than just that. It's opening your mind to ways of living and thinking that actually work- that are life affirming, and empowering- not in a buzz word feel good about yourself sense- but in that it gives you the power to create a positive change in the world.

That's why I liked Coach Carter so much. He's portrayed as an educator- he opens people's minds and hearts. Of course, easier to watch than do.

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