Earlier this week we watched Eating Out on DVD. I had been hesitant to watch it because it is a story of a straight guy playing gay to get a girl and the ensuing comedy of errors. The movie was mildly enjoyable to watch, mostly just because of the shirtless guys. But I also found the straight guy character to be very adorable because he wasn’t all macho and callous and stupid. Instead, he was kind and thoughtful (except for the pretending to be gay part) and seemed like a genuinely nice character someone would want to befriend. What ended up being more troubling than the premise that straight guys are more attractive to gay men and gay men are more attractive to straight women was the fag hag character who was utterably unlikable in every way. Seriously, I couldn’t understand how anyone could stand her as a friend or girlfriend. She was like all the worst aspects of the Grace character on Will and Grace but worse. Manipulative, neurotic, angry, self-serving, self-centered…. (One review for the sequel Eating Out 2: Sloppy Seconds, now in theaters, describes the movie as the soft-core gay porn version of Will and Grace.)
Then last night we watched Accepted, a comedy in the college/party genre. What I found most fascinating about this story of high school graduates who create their own college after being rejected from all the schools to which they applied is the possibility for critiquing the system of higher education in the US as well as the more pervasive, difficult to define cultural understanding of the value of a college education. In the movie, what these misfits realize is that they must be the masters of their own learning and that the staid, boring stuff of accredited college institutions does not suit them. I agree that most people should not go to college (shoot me).
This is my cynical side, and I already ranted to a couple people today about why I think most college students would be better off doing something different. The more productive aspect of this analysis is that I really think the problem lies elsewhere (rather than in “unmotivated students,” per se). What we lack are diverse sites for learning at the adult level. In part, this is also because people understand education or learning as something that you do only in schools rather than something that should be weaved throughout every aspect of our lives. And as an extension of that model of institutionalized education is a lack of public spaces where people produce critical knowledge. I don’t know how we might even begin to change some of these things, but I hope something happens. I see a slow demise for institutions of higher education that are increasingly being seen in instrumental terms, either as places solely of technical training or as places that merely give you a degree that is a basic requirement for many professional careers today. (Part of the problem, too, is the devaluing of tech schools that can train people for many careers they want to pursue better than a liberal arts college major can.)
To be clear, I love what college educations can provide people. And I would love for colleges to thrive well into the distant future. But I think the idea that everyone (in the middle classes) needs a bachelor’s degree to even start off in life has horribly corrupted what we do. (As a side note, I think in contrast to counseling middle-class students to avoid college, people coming from families with little background in higher education should be encouraged and given resources to go to college. And I say this even as there are possibly disturbing echoes of the DuBois-Washington debate over the kind of education people need.)
Anyways, to get back to the point of this post, which is just to list the movies I’ve watched recently, we also caught most of Babe, the movie about the pig on a farm, on tv this afternoon. I love the part where the sheepdogs and the sheep have such an antagonistic relationship, and then it becomes clear that such a relationship developed through an inability to communicate across species, layered with treating each other as simpletons. (I’m not saying I believe this is “really” the truth about sheep-dog relations but that the idea is thoughtful as an explanation for other cross-group antagonisms.) And there was a trailer for the forthcoming live-action movie Charlotte’s Web. Whee!
Before Babe, we caught some of the National Dog Show (I forget the official name) taped in Philadelphia. Dogs! And the sponsor kept showing commercials for petcentric.com. We’re going to enter Giles in the competition for cutest dog.
We’ve also got rented Underworld: Evolution, which promises to be the craptastic sequel to a so-so movie about warring clans of werewolves and vampires. And I also picked up Ducastel-Martineau’s Cote d’Azur. (Ducastel and Martineau are the directors of The Adventures of Felix, one of my favorite movies that tracks a character’s interactions with strangers as models of worldmaking behavior rather than destructive mistrust.)
Oh yes, and happy turkeys to all yous out there. We’re spending the day vegging out on the couch and in front of our computers. We also made chili for dinner (still cooking away in the crock pot). I was Mr. Frog’s sous chef as he orchestrated the meal preparation. I’m definitely glad there is no travel involved in our holidays this year, especially air travel. (Well, there is travel involved in December — my brother is coming to visit for Christmas! And after Christmas I have to go to the MLA conference in Philadelphia. But that’s not really vacation anyways.)