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"Dead Poets Society" and the White Male Coming-of-Age Narrative

So, I watched Dead Poets Society last night. Let me first say that it’s obviously a fantastic movie, funny and poignant, and Robin Williams truly shines. When he cries at the end I also cry (even more heartbreaking in light of how he died). But it got me thinking…

An all white boy’s boarding school in the 1960s is a perfectly reasonable setting for a coming-of-age film. It also provides convenient internal logic for a coming-of-age movie without girls or people of color. But can any of you think of a similar movie about girls coming-of-age? That isn’t rhetorical, please let me know in the comments! A movie that teaches girls about seizing the day and celebrating poetry, that ends with the acquisition of important life lessons and not just the acquisition of a coveted love interest? How about boys of color? There are other movies that involve an inspirational teacher helping teenagers follow their dreams, but these are typically tinged with the “white savior complex” trope, and tend to focus on the role of intercity violence and poverty. Which are valid issues. But Dead Poets Society is an intense and meaningful film without a teen pregnancy, or gang violence, or sexual assault. Again, I’m not saying those things aren’t relevant and important. But I think Dead Poets Society gets at something universal about adolescence that is often lost in films that target other demographics. It’s high time we reevaluate how coming of age narratives are told, how they privilege the white-straight-male experience as default, as the most meaningful. I remember reading Tom Sawyer a few years ago and thinking, “I kind of wish I could have experienced being a 12 year old boy.” I had internalized the primary narrative, you see. And when Keating tells the boys that they can do anything they want with their lives, a part of me thought, “Of course they can…they’re white boys at a prestigious boarding school. This isn’t a huge revelation.” But of course it IS meaningful, for any teenager to know that they can become whoever they want, not what society has prescribed them to be. This theme does often appear in films that concern black youth, but I feel like more than often in films about teenage girls, they become exactly what society expects them to.

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favourite tropes + SETTING UPDATE

Adaptations of old stories will frequently move them closer to the production in time and/or space, even if the original is only a couple of decades old.

Distinct from Recycled IN SPACE in that the purpose is to make the story more familiar and accessible, whereas that trope is often based around transplanting a story into a less familiar setting. Also, by its nature, a Setting Update is typically made long after the original, whereas a Recycled Premise is usually a Me Too made to cash in on hot demand. Sometimes, especially with the more radical changes, it can be a genuinely clever analogy.

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do you ever realize that there was a moment when your mom or dad put you down as a baby and never picked you up again


this fucked me up

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"I’m a writer. I have to have an open mind." -August

Hook: What the hell are you doing? You’re depriving me of a dashing rescue.

Emma: Sorry. The only one who saves me is me.

—    Once Upon a Time (via atragicmiscalculation)

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I want Regina to push Robin away but he’ll still come back to her anyway for several reasons. But mainly so haters can’t say Regina was the one to break up Robin’s family. They can hate Robin, say Regina deserves someone like him. Because all they’ll see is a man that turned his back on the idea…

(Source: evilswan, via evilswan)

“ I will bruise your lips, and scar your knees and love you too hard. I will destroy you in the most beautiful way possible. And when I leave, you will finally understand why storms are named after people. ”

—    M.K. Katrina (via oraseratta)