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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Discussions About Orson Scott Card » OSC and the History Boys.

   
Author Topic: OSC and the History Boys.
PrometheusBound
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I didn't know what to expect when I saw that he had reviewed the History Boys. I had hoped he might see that the film is not an apology for pederestry except in so much that it implies a middle-age man groping a ninteen-year old boy is no different, morally, from a middle-age man groping a nineteen-year old girl (as the headmaster does.)

Hector is a tragic figure, a beloved and brilliant man with a terrible flaw in charecter. At the end, Posner becomes a teacher and details his strugle not to molest his boys. But he doesn't succomb, neither does Irwin, who leaves teaching.

One thing OSC and many other critics seem to have missed, and which Alan Bennet was at pains to point out, is that all of Hectors students are, at nineteen, legaly adults. The film does not then, '[work] very hard to normalize and create sympathy for homosexual predators who have sex with underage boys."


In between the film has much to say that has nothing to do with sexuality.

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King of Men
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Eh. The man has axes, he grinds them. You just have to filter it out. Same as any other political writer, really.
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pooka
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A third party review I checked does not mention them being legally of age. The thing is, you will often have legal adults in the high school setting. Are they appropriate romantic targets for teachers? I don't think so, any more than psychiatrists might prey upon their patients' vulnerabilities for a "romantic" advantage.
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Will B
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So, Prometheus, was this a film showing how repulsive and awful it was for teachers to grope high school students? Are you saying it condemned heterosexual harrassment as well as homosexual harrassment, and OSC missed that the film rejected these as horrible acts?
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Hookt_Un_Fonix
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I am curious to see this History Boys now. I personally love movies and books that touch or dive into controversial issues. I may not agree with the view points but sometimes they can give valuable insight to how a particular sub group thinks. If nothing else seeing how an old man sexually advances on younger persons in a student teacher role, might help me teach my children to avoid such actions.
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pooka
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Yeah, that's why mom mom let me watch "Night Shift" when I was 13. "Just because you're a nice girl doesn't mean you can't wind up a prostitute, but if you do become a prostitute, stay out of the brothels."
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PrometheusBound
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quote:
Are you saying it condemned heterosexual harrassment as well as homosexual harrassment
Yes.

The film is tragic, not didactic. Hector is a sympathetic character with a tragic flaw.

I wouldn't call it a "film showing how repulsive and awful it was for teachers to grope high school students" as much as a film about the difficulty— and importance— of restraining one's desires.

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tern
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While the age issue might make the actions worse, we still have an individual who is in a place of power, abusing that power.

Would it have been okay if it was a male teacher taking female students on motorcycle rides and fondling them?

Can we truly say that the students fully consented, regardless of age, by going on these rides?

Regardless of the age of students, and the viewer's opinions on homosexual behavior, these actions should still be considered abhorrent in a civilized society.

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BlueWizard
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A few minor points -

First this isn't a film about all adults and all children. It is about this adult and these children. In this case, the adult teacher (Hector) may very well be a harmless dirty old codger, and his students may very well be as sexually active as they are sexually ambiguious.

Though I get OSC point. While this movie is about specific people and their actions, it is symbolic of society at large. I can't speak for the rest of the world, but here in the USA sex between students and teachers is near epidemic proportions.

In the past, you would here a report of student teacher sexual activity every 10 years or so, now it seems like there are several cases per year.

That is a clear indication that we have lost our moral compass. Further, these inappropriate teachers cast dark clouds of suspicion on our very best teachers. I know a few teachers, and they feel very threatened by even the slightest and most innocent physical contact with students. In some cases, students who are desperate for a comforting and innocent hug or a reassuring hand on the shoulder.

This is expecially bad because it is most often between female teachers in their late 20's and early 30's and boys in the range of 13 to 15; sophisicated teachers and extremely horny and unsophisticated boys.

Now, I'm sure nearly all these boys will say that they weren't harmed and that they wanted to do it. The problem is, is that they are measuring harm in the moment, and the problem is, years later, when we are really able to assess the true harm, it's far too late.

If you want to see a movie that brutally illustrates the harm that can be caused by these early sexual adventures, rent 'Mysterious Skin' with Joseph Gordon-Levit and Brady Corbet. They play two boys, one gay and willing, one straight and tricked. The movie follows the devestation that their early sexual adventures with adults cause them.

Brady (character-Brian) found the events so tramatic that he has repressed them, and convinced himself the gaps in his memory were caused by alien abductions. Joseph (character-Neil) is gay, eager, and willing to engage in these activities. Yet, his life too is warped. He continues to look for love and affirmation through cold raw sexual encounters with older men. Each encounter leaving him more empty and hungry for what he really truly wants, but doesn't know how to get.

The point is, you could say the Neil, the eager gay boy, was not harmed, and in that moment, I'm sure he would swear he was not harmed. But in many ways, later in life, it has left him horribly damaged and disfunctional.

This idea of a younger boy being introduced to the world of sexual experience by an older woman is a very old fantasy. In many cases, a fantasy fullfilled. But I really can't say, that even the most harmless appearing experience, truly does no harm.

I will qualify that by saying I think it is possible for individuals of somewhat diverse age to engage in some variety of sexual contact without true harm to either party. Yet, I must also say that while possible, it is an extremely rare and unlikely occurance. We must ask ourselves how many children are we willing to harm, just on the off chance that THIS child might be the one who isn't harmed?

So, I have mixed feelings about 'History Boys', I think it is a brilliant reflection of a time and place, and of specific individuals. Yet, it is also has the potential, as OSC implies, to 'normalize' a type of relationship that has real potential to harm individuals and society.

Not sure what it adds up to, but there it is.

Steve/BlueWizard

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PrometheusBound
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Is it possible to enjoy and analyse a piece of art and not be moralistic?
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Dagonee
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quote:
Is it possible to enjoy and analyse a piece of art and not be moralistic?
Not when art makes a point of making moral commentary.
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pooka
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Well, the problem I see is that he is repulsed by "History Boys" but then taunts "Little Miss Sunshine" for it's lack of edge. What is edge? Are we just on an unavoidable slippery slope toward snuff movies or is there something more to it?
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Will B
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I'm sure that OSC wasn't suggesting that Little Miss Sunshine needed to be more offensive. I think he was suggesting that shocking the middle class is passe by now -- the middle class are used to it.

--

About sex relations between students and teachers being at epidemic proportions -- do we have stats on this? I doubt it's true. I think it's a change in news coverage. I know that awareness of school violence (and a belief that it was at epidemic proportions) came after a significant drop in school violence thru the 80's and 90's. It used to not be news.

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Verily the Younger
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Yeah, I really didn't get the impression that he was saying Little Miss Sunshine should have been edgier. I think he was criticizing it for the way its makers thought they were being edgy when really they were just being mainstream and cliched. I don't think his message was "Be more edgy", but rather, "Stop pretending you're so edgy when everyone else in Hollywood is doing the same stuff you are."
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PrometheusBound
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"Not when art makes a point of making moral commentary."

Which most artists are at pains to avoid doing.

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Dagonee
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Really?

Guernica.

The Execution of the Defenders of Madrid.

The Crucible.

Dr. Strangelove.

Clockwork Orange.

The Wasteland.

Paradise Lost.

The Inferno.

Strange Fruit.

Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Heck, even the X-men comics have intentionally incorporated themes of prejudice and discrimination.

Plus music: Blowin' in the Wind. Give Peace a Chance. War, What is it Good for?

Your contention that "most artists are at pains to avoid" making moral commentary isn't tenable.

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Synesthesia
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I'm trying not to say anything, but here goes-
Older men having sex with teenage boys, especially when they are teachers has nothing to do with gay marriage.

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Will B
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Then why bring it up? Unless you're responding to a post that has since been deleted?

You *know* what happens when that issue pops up in a thread. :duck and cover:

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PrometheusBound
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What commentary does the Wasteland impart?


Expressing tragedy and/or alienation is not the same as moralizing.

Guernica is certainly anti-Nationalist, but is it pro-Republican?

"Plus music: Blowin' in the Wind. Give Peace a Chance. War, What is it Good for?"

Not exactly the peak of the art, are they? Music for Prague Spring might have been a better choice. [Smile]

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Synesthesia
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Probably because it was just driving me crazy, but forget I said it, but it was just driving me up a tree.
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Dagonee
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So PB, you've got nothing to actually say in response to my examples except one minor quibble with the Wasteland and actually acknowledging that Guernica was making moral commentary against something?

quote:
Not exactly the peak of the art, are they? Music for Prague Spring might have been a better choice.
This thread is about moral commentary and a B movie. Height of the art doesn't seem to apply.

I could name a hundred other works of arts that make moral commentary without doing research, although I'd probably mess up some of the names. I could list thousands with research. Can you support your contention that most artists take pains to avoid making moral commentary at all? With any evidence whatsoever?

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PrometheusBound
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'"This thread is about moral commentary and a B movie."

The script and actors of the History Boys have won numerous prestigious awards, including a record number of Tonies.

I was imprecise in my wording. Most Artists are at pains to avoid surporting any political or moralistic cause in their work. They may oppose others.

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Dagonee
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quote:
Most Artists are at pains to avoid surporting any political or moralistic cause in their work. They may oppose others.
All right, I don't buy that, but if that's the case, then evaluating such works of arts will involve evaluating the moral statements being made.
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PrometheusBound
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But art is seldom primarily moralistic. Would you not agree that most artists would pefer their work to considered primarily from an aesthetic viewpoint. I often loose patients with film critics. Enough with the summery, tell me about the cammera-work!

Why are film critics so different from theatre critics? The two media are so closely related.

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Dagonee
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quote:
But art is seldom primarily moralistic.
So? It's part of it, and deserves to be evaluated as much as any other part.

quote:
Would you not agree that most artists would pefer their work to considered primarily from an aesthetic viewpoint.
I don't agree with that, but I also don't care at all what artists prefer. If their going to moralize at me, I'm going to evaluate their work morally.
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Liz B
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I think that embedded in the aesthetic of art is often moral commentary, or at least a moral point of view.

I hope that artists want the viewer, reader, etc. to think and respond, not just say, "ooooooo, pretty." Or "eeeewwwwww, disgusting."

"The words of the dead are modified in the guts of the living." Art isn't just "out there;" it's processed and in a sense changed by viewers/ readers as they come to their own understandings. Part of that interaction involves the morals of the artist and the morals of the viewer.

Visual art isn't my area of expertise, poetry is. I'm having a hard time thinking of a poem I love that doesn't present issues of ethics/morality, either personal or societal.

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PrometheusBound
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I guess what I am trying to convey is that the truth of art is an aestheticly conveyed truth. It must be analysed as it is created, with roots in aesthetics.

Too few critics think about how a work (a text to use the peculiar idiom of critical theorists) is created. Art is rooted in creation: to understand a work is to understand the processes in which it was created.

I am also starting to question whether Dag has seen this particular film. OSC seems not have, but to have at least read the script.

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Dagonee
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quote:
I am also starting to question whether Dag has seen this particular film.
You don't need to question it: I haven't, and I haven't ventured one single comment about the film other than to call it a B movie. Even if you want to elevate it to "arthouse indie" it doesn't change the fact that your attempt to question my comparison based on the height of some of my examples was irrelevant.
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