Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

September 26, 2012

Liza Featherstone on “Won’t Back Down”

Filed under: Education,Film — louisproyect @ 4:36 pm


“Empowerment” Against Democracy: Tinseltown and the Teachers’ Unions
Liza Featherstone – September 26, 2012

“You know those mothers who lift one-ton trucks off their babies?” says Jamie Fitzpatrick, a working-class mom (played Maggie Gyllenhall), in a confrontation with a corrupt union rep in Daniel Barnz’s edu-drama, Won’t Back Down. “They’re nothing compared to me.”

It’s a “you-go-girl” moment. But real moms can’t lift trucks. And just about everything in this movie is as wildly fantastical as that image.

Fed up with her daughter’s horrible public school, Jamie learns about a law that allows parents and teachers to “take over” a failing school. Against the odds, she organizes the powerless and wins over the naysayers. The movie is inspired by real-life “parent trigger” laws, which are pushed by right-wing groups like ALEC, but backed with equal enthusiasm by progressive urban mayors nationwide. The laws allow a charter takeover if 50 percent of the parents agree to it. Charter schools are mostly non-union, and democratically elected officials have little control over them.

Won’t Back Down is liberal Hollywood’s second blast of gas on what was once a bugbear of the Right: the badness of public schools and teachers’ unions, and the magic bullet of hope offered by privatization. The first was Davis Guggenheim’s documentary Waiting for Superman. Barnz’s movie, featuring great actresses Viola Davis and Gyllenhall, is far more watchable than Guggenheim’s, but the fantasy world it inhabits is exactly the same. Its release, just on the heels of the Chicago teachers’ strike, feels eerily timely, as its anti-union talking points are just the same as those of Rahm Emanuel and the monied interests of Chicago.

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  1. Even in this economy there are job openings in the urban public schools because qualified people don’t want to teach there. It’s too damn hard. It’s so much easier to make movies and cluck the tongue. Siphoning off the so called talented tenth is the charter school movements solution.

    Comment by purple — September 26, 2012 @ 9:50 pm

  2. This is a sickening anti-worker, anti-union piece of propaganda which The Left and trade unions need to demonstrate against like there’s no tomorrow. Films like this are treacherous. The many progressive people in the arts, film industry, Hollywood, need to be recruited in this struggle to undermine the success of this movie. Ms. Featherstone is a wonderful writer. I applaud her.

    As a photographer and partisan in the struggle against fascism, I hope that all progressives can rally our forces, marshal our forces, defeat them in this battle.

    Comment by Hugh B. — September 26, 2012 @ 11:01 pm

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