Perfect People and a Sense of Humor

So yesterday we finished watching the movie Nine Queens in the two sections of my language course. One of the sections enjoyed the film. People laughed, one student clapped, another student made enthusiastic “woo-hoo” noises, everything went great.

In the other section, however, as the credits started to roll, I perceived a gathering tension.

“What could possibly be wrong now?” I wondered. “There is no sex, no nudity, no politics, and there’s a happy ending. Why are the students uncomfortable?”

“So did you like the movie?” I asked.

“Nah. . .”, was the response.

“Why didn’t you like it?”

“We thought Juan was a good person but he turned out to be dishonest.”

“Well, the only person he tricked was a con man who had hurt a lot of people,” I tried to argue.

“But he lied,” the students drawled.

“He only wanted to restore to a young woman and her teenage brother the inheritance that was rightfully theirs.”

“But he lied.”

“And he was desperate to help his elderly father,” I persevered.

“BUT HE LIED!” the students chanted.

So now I’m looking for a movie where fully clothed angelical human beings go around being perfect all the time. Any suggestions?

P.S. No, I’m not inventing these stories. If I had that kind of imagination, I’d already be a bestselling author.

22 thoughts on “Perfect People and a Sense of Humor”

  1. So now I’m looking for a movie where fully clothed angelical human beings go around being perfect all the time. Any suggestions?

    Show them Bad Lieutenant.

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  2. Where on earth are you teaching? I don’t know anyone who thinks like that anywhere I’ve lived. In fact, I’ve always perceived the opposite problem: people are just fine with a character in movies lying as long as it’s the cute protagonist. In fact, most movie comedy plots, especially rom-coms, have “lie(s) that get(s) the hero/heroine in trouble” as a major linchpin.

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    1. I’m in Illinois.

      I understand making a resolution never to lie in one’s own life. But when it starts to prevent one from enjoying a very innocent comedy, I say we’ve gone too far.

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      1. Agreed. I find your students’ responses especially weird, though, because they obviously enjoyed the movie, and then for some reason when it was ended decided to “recant” and say they didn’t. It’s almost like they fear that they were being overheard and had to make a public statement disavowing their enjoyment in order to stave off some sort of punishment. They’re acting like people who live in a totalitarian country where you have to hide your true thoughts and feelings and behave in a restricted way. I don’t get it. Do people behave this way outside your classroom? I’ve never been to the Midwest. (For the record, these are the US states I’ve visited and/or lived in: Florida (born and raised, moved out in 2009), Virginia (where I live now), Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, New York (the city only), Kentucky, West Virginia (mostly driven through), California.

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        1. ” (For the record, these are the US states I’ve visited and/or lived in: Florida (born and raised, moved out in 2009), Virginia (where I live now), Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, New York (the city only), Kentucky, West Virginia (mostly driven through), California.”

          – Wow, that’s a lot of moving around. I find it really broadens one’s horizons.

          I hope that the students are just performing for each other’s and my benefit. They have got to be normal kids who watch normal movies, party and have fun outsideof the classroom, right?

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      2. Most of it was trips and visits. (My grandparents had a summer cabin in Highlands, North Carolina, so we’d visit when school was out.) I actually want to live in more different places — After living in Florida almost my whole life moving to Virginia, which has four real seasons, was quite an adjustment. Now I’m thinking that the next place I’d like to try living would be some place out west — I’ve never been to the southwest deserts, and have always wanted to go to Arizona and New Mexico. And oddly enough, I really enjoyed my brief visit to Los Angeles (that’s the only part of California I’ve been to), and would like to try living there for a while, or at least go on a longer visit.

        By the way, I went to Europe when I was eighteen, most of the visit being to England and Scotland, though we (my mother and I) did take the ferry over to the Continent and visited parts of Belgium, West Germany (this was in 1981), Austria, France, Switzerland, and we took a day trip by bus to Liechtenstein because I’d always been fascinated by it. (No trains went there at the time, it was so small.) One day I’d like to visit some of the countries I couldn’t back then because they were behind the Iron Curtain. The only problem is, I hate hate hate hate flying.

        Re the students: I certainly hope they were pulling your leg!

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    1. Violence? You want to get me fired? 🙂

      I already showed a movie with domestic violence because I wanted to discuss this issue but there was a huge outcry against me showing depressing movies.

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  3. It’s cognitive dissonance – what you’re seeing is people who have so flat a world view that they are unable to cope with any reminder that actually, the world doesn’t work they way they think/have been taught it ought to work.

    Them enjoying the movie and being able to relate to the flawed protagonist actually makes the dissonance worse, because it personalises it.

    I have no answers except perhaps to keep chipping away at the worldview?

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    1. OK, now I understand more about cognitive dissonance. I had a long discussion this week with half of one class, after seeing a movie the other half had been excused from due to mild nudity. The most interesting comment was: people are trained from early on to believe that if they see any skin, or anything else “bad” (e.g. lying), they will go straight to Hell.

      But, that comment actually parallels your more abstract one on cognitive dissonance.

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  4. Could it be that there is a dominant personality in the class – one which the other students would look to for the ‘appropriate’ reaction – thus, if one individual doesn’t like the movie, it infects the whole class.

    This is, of course a different problem, but then at least you could console yourself that there is only one idiot hick in the class, rather than the entire bunch.

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    1. “Could it be that there is a dominant personality in the class – one which the other students would look to for the ‘appropriate’ reaction – thus, if one individual doesn’t like the movie, it infects the whole class.”

      – Absolutely. 🙂 You get group dynamics really well. There is a very powerful young lady in there who sets the tone. Before reacting in any way, everybody automatically looks at her to check her reaction first.

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      1. So were these answers from her and her nearest friends and the others were quiet? If so, they maybe had no problem with this, but just didn’t want to drag her attention to themselves…

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        1. Nobody disagreed with the idea that the movie was not enjoyable. Nobody looked like they enjoyed it. I think it’s just a few people setting the tone, but everybody else supported it.

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    1. “Good thing we still have a 12 year old so we can watch Disney stuff.”

      I guess you haven’t seen Bambis Mother being shot dead yet?

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      1. Bambi’s mom gets shot off screen – so you don’t actually have to experience it. (BTW – nice trivia: Bambi is the only Disney movie where you never actually see the villains!)

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  5. The guy who lied kept the old lady ring he had stolen and gave it to his girlfreid, right?

    I saw El secreto en sus ojos yesterday, and against all odds I liked it. But you cannot show it to your students.

    Really,,, the only Argentinian movie you can show these stduents is El hijo de la novia. Brrrrrr…

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    1. No, it was his own ring!!! He lied to his companion and said it was from the old lady. It was the domination tactic because he was so sure of himself that he knew he’d win it back.

      He is “un tipo honesto”, remember?

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