discussion thread from Salon review of the movie "187"

    Alright ..damn it..I am really troubled by 187 and you?

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The scariest aliens on the screen
this summer are our teenage


PaulCross - 08:11am Aug 2, 1997 PST
I'm just not myself today...Hey, maybe I'm YOU.."

Man, great cinematography but what a depressing movie. What do ya'll think?

PaulCross - 06:46am Aug 3, 1997 PST (#1 of 14)
I'm just not myself today...Hey, maybe I'm YOU.."

Anyone else seen it yet?

Gary Kaufman - 12:59pm Aug 5, 1997 PST (#2 of 14)
Salon Magazine copy chief

In her review of "187," Nell Bernstein writes that teenagers are the scariest aliens on the screen this summer. She says the "Dangerous Minds" worldview has been kicked over by abject fear of kids.

NOTE: The above link will work after 6 p.m. PDT on Tuesday, Aug. 5.

PaulCross - 03:20pm Aug 5, 1997 PST (#3 of 14)
I'm just not myself today...Hey, maybe I'm YOU.."

To me...the kids were not that scary. It was that a teacher wrote the script.

Chrispy Page - 09:17pm Aug 5, 1997 PST (#4 of 14)
every day I write the book.

It does seem that adults are fearing kids more than trying to care for them. I watched a news story on some L.A. channel about how 35 kids in a Southern California town were delivered court orders to not do certain things: carry pagers, flash gang signs, walk down the street, wear certain clothes, etc.

It was all an attempt to thwart gang activity in the neighborhood. By denying these kids (who weren't actually convicted gang members, just ones the local police thought were alleged gang members) some basic rights of all people.

Aren't we giving kids the wrong message here? Your community shouldn't be trying to "prevent" crime by taking away your rights as a human being ...

Things definately don't sound good for the youth of America.

Richard Geib - 10:38pm Aug 5, 1997 PST (#5 of 14)
I'm sorry. Did I say that out loud?

I used to teach near downtown LA and not more than a few minutes into the film I could tell that the person who wrote the film had taught for the illustrious LAUSD. I thought the movie too "in your face" and nearly hysterical. Yet if it was meant as a warning, it should be taken effectively as so - every teacher who has taught in the inner-city would see more than a few truths in that movie. Throwing text books out the window, blatant disrespect, threats to sue, etc. - that is not such a big deal to teachers today. And it is not only this way in the inner-city.

I certainly faulted that movie for many reasons, but when I hear people say that they cannot believe a teacher wrote that movie, I want to tell them: "Don't say that until you walked in that person's footsteps." Don't just go volunteer to spend some time with "high risk" kids, but go in there every day with the good, the bad, and the ugly in a school which cannot choose which students to admit and which to reject.

There is an element of wishful thinking which makes people reject this flawed movie "187" which speaks to the naturally optimistic (naive?) in us Americans. If we cannot accept the movie because its premise is unacceptable, does that say more about the situation in inner-city schools or about our inability to face certain arguable propositions: That the good does not always win out over the evil, and the power of Gresham's law where the bad in a certain dynamic eventually drives out the good as things get worse and worse. After all, how many individuals with a gun and a "mad dog" attitude does it take to make a neighborhood or classroom unlivable?

I found "187" to be a perspective about gangs and gangmembers which often borders on caricature. However, there is a lot of truth to it also and that is good since we get so many "feel good" movies these days which try not to "offend" or "stigmatize" anyone (ie. "Dangerous Minds" - a pretty shallow movie). Take "187" and blend it with "Stand and Deliver" and maybe you will get an approximation of the truth worthy of such a complex and weighty issue. If you left the movie theater feeling very ill at ease, good. The issue is that serious, and liberal "we just need to understand their pain and give them a hug" ideas won't cut it. There does exist evil in this world which is not a mere result of circumstance and error. That is what my years of hanging around LA in a variety of different capacities has taught me. Jackson's character taught his most important lessons to his nemesis there at the end playing Russian roulette, and probably no other method would have proved efficacious. There was a strange power in that final scene which struck at the teacher's heart in me, as the earlier rediculousness of killing his students did not.

Beware of movies bearing messages of teenage gangsters as one dimensional monsters, but be equally vigilant of specious and condescending images of gangsters as simply misunderstood wayward youth who just need a little love. It is not so simple as all that. The saga of Pico-Union and other sections of Los Angeles (and other cities) most likely will not have a happy ending, and that is a concept which too many movie reviewers reared on Walt Disney fluff find "unacceptable" even as it palpably stares them in the face. Oh what a lightweight country we have become! Delete Message

Richard Geib - 10:52pm Aug 5, 1997 PST (#6 of 14)
I'm sorry. Did I say that out loud?

By the way: Check out my above link, as I drew some of the same conclusions as "187" from my own experience but tried to paint a much more complex reality; and all this took place in exactly that neighborhood in the news (Pico-Union) because of the judicial injunction which is completely dominated by street gangs where life is all too often "nasty, brutish and short." And it is going to take a lot more than simply a judge's signature on a piece of paper to clean up that area, trust me. The residents know that, and hence you have the usual suspicion and cynicism (which I learned there and share). Delete Message
PaulCross - 06:49am Aug 6, 1997 PST (#7 of 14)
I'm just not myself today...Hey, maybe I'm YOU.."

Dear Richard, It probably wasn't apparent when I started this thread that I am a teacher. I was more troubled by the one dimensional, simplistic view the film seemed to take about an educational system that is broken. I was going to point out to you that all schools are not like that each has its unique problems. I teach in a small, rural high school that has a very low minority population. We too have problems with gangs,drugs, teen pregnency, teen suicide, lack of respect for teachers...I could go on but after reading your links I can see that its not neccessary. Thank you for sharing your story with the links. I have them bookmarked to share with some of our teachers.

The problems are multifacted and simple answers are just that, simplistic. Having said all that, a week from tomorrow they will be back in those desks and I will be back in class. Taking it one day at a time, one class period at a time, because its what I do. I'm a teacher.

PaulCross - 07:01am Aug 6, 1997 PST (#8 of 14)
I'm just not myself today...Hey, maybe I'm YOU.."

Oh yeah Richard BTW stop by the teacher's lounge thread in Imagination..right now its pretty much just sharing and venting..but there is a bulletin board over by the candy machine there for serious conversations about teaching...you have to wade through some goofy, flotsam and jetsam of teachers just hangin' out there hiding and trying to get over the shell shock of another school year ending and one begining...but we are friendly and would love to hear your story too. Paul

David Seppa - 02:16pm Aug 6, 1997 PST (#9 of 14)

"there's a crack in everything/that's how the light gets in" __leonard cohen (that's for paul)

say, i hope we're not countring on american movies to depict the complexities of growing up in this country right now -- anymore than we expect them to offer probing treatments of any issue of substance. the raison d'etre of nearly all our films is to offer escape from tough questions & disquieting ambiguity.

yeah, some of our kids are capable of brutal crimes. hmmm, i wonder how they got that way. having taught elementary age students for twelve years in boulder, boston & denver, i will testify to the fact that precious few of them appeared to be born psychopaths. frankly, i'm disgusted by this current demonization of children, as if they were some alien spawn who haven't been living in our homes & sucking up our influences. i don't suppose that the violence & materialism & pragmatism (read: ethical opportunism) of our own cultural conduct could be giving them the wrong messages about life. it seems to me that the quick condemnation of our own kids only underlines another dimension of human conduct that we refuse to take responsiblity for.

got a society riddled w/ crime? we don't have to figure out why if we just turn every other building into a prison. our screwed-up children are murdering each other -- &, more alarming, sometimes us? we'll try ten-year-olds as adults in court, that'll teach them.

PaulCross - 02:48pm Aug 6, 1997 PST (#10 of 14)
I'm just not myself today...Hey, maybe I'm YOU.."

Thanks for the L.C. lyric David...

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