Loving to hate the ‘bad teacher’

“Bad” teachers are hot, writes Dana Goldstein. “The bad teacher has also become an overhyped target for our national anxiety about public education.”

In Alissa Nutting’s new novel, Tampa, a Florida middle-school teacher lures two eighth-grade boys into sexual relationships.

(Celeste) Price is a coldhearted nymphomaniac who, after feeding her sexual needs, wishes for the deaths of her victims. She is based on Debra Lafave, a real-life Tampa pedophiliac teacher — and former high school classmate of Nutting’s — who avoided jail time after her lawyer argued that she was too beautiful to get locked up.

. . . Though the writing in Tampa is pedestrian in comparison with Nabokov’s Lolita, the great classic on which it is based, it certainly represents a gutsy attempt by a young, female author to embody a wholly unsympathetic female narrator and probe the question of whether society lets women essentially get away with crimes for which men are excoriated.

Sexually abusive teachers exist, but they’re very rare, Goldstein points out.

Price, who’s depicted as a lousy teacher, has one ally, “an obese, ‘joyless’ woman who seems to hate children and eventually loses her job after cursing out students and throwing a chair,” Goldstein observes. Although most of the action takes place in a school, Tampa portrays no competent teachers.

The Cameron Diaz movie, Bad Teacher, will become a TV series about a “former trophy wife who masquerades as a teacher” to find a new sugar daddy.  (Who looks for a wealthy husband in a school?)  It’s a “vote of no confidence” in teachers, writes Lisa Suhay on Christian Science Monitor.

The premise, which plays to every possible negative stereotype of educators and women, may make the grade with network executives, but it will set up middle- and high-school teachers for failure in the eyes of students who watch the show.

The movie teachers that “being a narcissistic, sadistic, incompetent teacher is cool” and “bullying is funny,” writes Suhay. Also, “competent teachers are socially inept, overweight, clueless, and timid.”

A sequel to the movie, Bad Teacher 2, is in the works.

About Joanne


  1. Richard Aubrey says:

    A novel nobody ever heard of and a crappy movie do not a movement make.
    OTOH, it’s been reported that teacher/kid sex activity is higher per capita than the Catholic Church. If only half as bad, it ought to be more on the news.
    But the RCs are one of the last respectable prejudices and teachers are long-suffering heroes. Not to mention who belong to unions.

    • Maybe the crappy movie was by the movement made.

      A reprehensible, self-involved individual is motivated to excellence by self-interest discovering, to her surprise, that excellence is a worthy motivation in itself. An epiphany birthed by avarice, producing enlightenment.

      Kinda gets ya right here.

  2. Mike in Texas says:

    The premise, which plays to every possible negative stereotype of educators and women

    But here is Joanne hawking the anti-teacher, anti-woman stereotypes. Shame, shame.

    • I think you meant to say “But here is Joanne reporting on the anti-teacher, anti-woman stereotypes as reported in Time, a national magazine that many say has fallen into disrepute.”

  3. Mike in Texas says:

    I’m going to take your word on that, Norm, as I haven’t read time for years.

    However, Joanne did link to it AND post a clip from it. It also carries the message, as I have heard since I’ve never watched it, that teachers are motivated by greed. She doesn’t give a crap until merit pay enters the picture.

    • I linked to a story attacking CBS for turning Bad Teacher into a TV show.

      In the movie, the “bad teacher” is supposed to be funny because she’s the exact opposite of the image of the dedicated teacher. She’s not supposed to be typical. She is motivated to do her job solely by a merit bonus, which she cheats to get. I wouldn’t call this an endorsement of merit pay.

    • Oh settle down Mike. You didn’t see the movie and no one told you squat about it. You’re just jumping to convenient conclusions because your prejudices are inherently correct and you enjoy the rush of righteous indignation that accompanies belaboring anyone who doesn’t pray at the Alter of the Saintly Teacher.

      About the only thing the movie’s got going for it, other then Cameron Diaz’ legs, is the subversive notion that teachers are ordinary people who respond to ordinary motivations among which, but not limited to, is greed.

  4. Ted Craig says:

    Wow, a comedy that pokes fun at an authority figure. What’s next? Making fun of the military or the clergy? Of course, what can you expect from misogynistic Hollywood, which only depicts fathers as intelligent and ultra competent.