Stories, Social Studies, and Another Film I Love
Posted by Xena
When my sister and I were in high school in the 60’s, we were required to read the book “Lord of the Flies” for social studies. Because she was 2 grades ahead of me, I always had the chance of helping her study and reading assigned books. I’m happy that I read Lord of the Flies before I had to read it. That is because when a character in book named Piggy died, it saddened me. I knew what to expect two years later when it was required reading for my social studies class.
Lord of the Flies is a novel written in 1954 by Nobel Prize winning English author William Golding. In the midst of a wartime evacuation, a British plane carrying school boys crashes on an uninhabited island. Only the boys survive. They make a disastrous attempt to govern themselves. Of the boys who tried to organize and form a democratic society and responsibility to help rescuers find them, only one survived to the end of the book. He is alone as the other boys descend into savagery.
The book has an allegorical level, such as the human conflict with having rules as opposed to becoming savages to survive and how each person has the potential of both within them.
By the 1980’s and with the creation of VHS, some high schools began showing the movie “The Gods Must Be Crazy” in their social studies class.
The Gods Must Be Crazy is a 1980 South African comedy film written and directed by Jamie Uys. The movie is about a Bushman tribe in Botswana who has no knowledge of the world beyond the area where they live. One day, a Coca-Cola bottle is thrown out of an airplane, and lands where a Bushman named Xi is walking. Believing the bottle to be a gift from the gods, he takes it to the tribe. They begin using the bottle for all sorts of things, and arguments begin among them because there is only one bottle that cannot be used by more than one person at a time.
The elders of the tribe decide that the bottle must be thrown off the edge of the earth. Xi agrees to make a pilgrimage to the edge of the world and dispose of the supposedly cursed thing. He walks out of the Kalahari Desert into the 20th Century, where he discovers that man fights and kills other men.
Xi somehow survives the chaos and wars and continuing his journey, he becomes hungry. He walks up on a corral where he sees goats. He shoots a goat with an arrow and is arrested.
A biologist negotiates with the jailers offering to employ Xi as a tracker for the rest of his jail term. When Xi completes the term, he goes off to complete his mission. Arriving at the top of a cliff with low-lying clouds that hide the landscape below, Xi believes he has reached the edge of the world and he throws the bottle off the cliff then returns to his tribe.
What Is Social Studies?
The Executive Summary for the National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies gives 10 themes. The sixth one is Power, Authority, and Governance. It is to teach understanding of the historical development and contemporary forms of power, authority, and governance.
Lord of the Flies and The Gods Must Be Crazy are good teaching tools for the sixth theme. Both stories address what is and isn’t a democratic process in government, but they are not political stories. Rather, they are stories about governing for the good of all, or governing for the good of only those who support the one taking over the governing. They ask about governing by punishment.
Then there is a third story. It’s the movie The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete. I was surfing the list of free movies On Demand one night when I came across it. Jennifer Hudson was among the cast. Who can go wrong with a movie with Jennifer Hudson, right? Of all American Idol contestants, and contestants that did not win, Jennifer is famous and successful not only as a singer, but also as an actress.
The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete was released in 2013. When I searched for a review that summarized the film, I looked at the one by Rotten Tomatoes. Whomever wrote that review apparently did not watch the film, or was distracted when watching it because their description is not totally correct. For instance, they describe the role of the mother named Gloria as irresponsible and unable to hold down a job. Gloria had a job — she was a prostitute and she prostituted because she was a heroin addict.
Her son, 13-year old Mister, knows that when mothers are arrested, that their children are taken to a state-run institution. He doesn’t want to go there and having previous experience that his mom usually gets out of jail and returns home in 2 weeks, he is patient when she is arrested leaving him in charge of 9-year old Pete, who is Korean, and whom Gloria takes in because Pete’s mom works for the same pimp.
What Mister does not know, and neither do viewers until the end of the movie, is that after Gloria got out of jail, she went into a rehab program. She was gone all summer, assuming that the boys were in the state-run home. The two boys assumed that Gloria had abandoned them.
When they run out of food, soap, toilet paper, and after the electricity is cut-off for non-payment of the bill, Mister has to devise ways to survive. Some of his actions included committing the crimes that he saw others commit.
The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete is not an urban movie about how hard things are for those living in the projects. Rather, it’s an urban movie about WHY people live the way they do. It’s about assumptions, even assumptions that the jobs of cops are never to help kids. It’s about assumptions by immigrant store owners that all kids who live in the projects steal. It’s about observing that the only people who are free are those who pimp, sell drugs, and burglarize apartments. They never seem to be arrested while those they use to make their money do.
It’s a movie about survival when there is no figure of authority in the household, and figures of authority outside of the household do not have the best interests of those in the community.
The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete should be the movie shown to all high school social studies classes. In my opinion, it can be discussed for a month and still only touch upon what it teaches about contemporary forms of power, authority, governance and survival.
Posted on 07/17/2017, in movies and tagged authority, governance, Lord of the Flies, social studies, The Gods Must Be Crazy, The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete. Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.