Paul Tough

Writer & Speaker

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

“Superman” revisited

From the Nashville Scene, another thoughtful review of “Waiting for ‘Superman,'” this one with some intriguing academic footnotes:

In a broader sense, Waiting for “Superman” may contain the seeds of its own ineffectuality. Academics such as Louis Althusser, writing on Marxism in the 1970s, conceived of a critical theory of popular culture in which the ruling class, in order to stave off revolution, creates pop-culture objects — books, music, movies — which allow revolutionary impulses to be expressed and expended. Viewing scenes of overthrow and revolt in the cinema, the people would experience release, and fail to feel the need to revolt in real life.

That is the fear with Waiting for “Superman.” Though the frustration and indignation at the plight of these children is intense, the film may serve as a sort of catharsis through outrage — leaving the viewer feeling subconsciously satisfied, despite the message.

That would be a tragedy — to see and not act. Despite his clear ideology and simplistic solutions, Guggenheim does have one thing absolutely right: Our education system is failing hundreds of thousands of students and families every day. We must act, but the solutions lie in dedicated hard work, not the waving of a magic wand (or the writing of a magic contract).

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