TUESDAY’S LETTERS: Bush’s ‘Flight From Reality,’ ‘History Boys’ Abuse, Pundits Prosper on Iraq War

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By: E&P Staff

Today’s letter include an opinion on abuse in the new film “History Boys” and a reader’s speculation that the live presidential address last week may not have been live.


Critics Ignore Abuse in ‘History Boys’

I too was offended by the perv plot, and if you look up my review, which ran in the Contra Costa Times, Mercury News and I believe the Oakland Tribune, you’ll see another opinion more in keeping with yours (and Roeper’s). I gave the movie a C+, and that had a lot to do with the distaste I felt for the main character. Interesting to see your column, because after all the raves for “The History Boys,” I ended up feeling a bit of a prude for taking the
movie to task.

Mary Pols

Interesting column. Not to jump on the me-too bandwagon, but my review — which ran in the Star-Ledger, and I believe other Newhouse papers — pointed out that the teacher’s perversion was being treated as a mild eccentricity. I heard from readers who were glad to see that point raised, but it was a lonely one.

Interestingly, the abuse in “Notes on a Scandal” — which, by the way, is a fine film — seems to have gotten even less attention, perhaps because the sexual offender in that case was female (and attractive). Movies that look at the situation from that distaff side (“The Good Girl,” “Tadpole”) not only are more forgiving, they often edge into outright comedy.

Stephen Whitty

Good God, man, the media inundates us with so much of this stuff that we’re too worn down to protest anymore. There’s the real stories — the teachers who are having sex with their students that emerge from the Courtroom — and then there’s the TV fictional stuff to the reality shows ranging from “Queer Eye” to Rosie and Ellen DeGeneris.

It’s really “Goodbye Mr. Chips,” and hello “History Boys.” I think it’s 50 years since “Mr. Chips” and the theater is just depicting the broader themes of our society, and for that you can blame the media. It is one reason I don’t read newspapers anymore. I am sick of someone else’s morals being forced down our throats.

Edward Allen

My (ex) girlfriend was in a similar state of moral confusion after we saw the “History Boys” in the cinema, and as I was trying to explain why, we were accosted by another couple, who heard my Anglo-Irish accent. The guy, who was English, said, “wasn’t that spot on?” To which I replied, “it was.”

The fact is that before the 1990s, Irish and British boys attending single-sex schools in their respective countries encountered a low hum of homoerotic behavior among certain teachers. It was, for the most part, neither an occupational hazard nor seen through the prism of abuse, even though similar behavior in a girls’ school would have been seen as unacceptable. And as there was no discourse to tell us that this was wrong, we never really got outraged about it or felt abused (the same went for physical violence, which was rather more prevalent).

Teachers who made school interesting were cut a lot of leeway, hence, in my school, we sort of jokingly accepted, circa 1987, being whacked with a leather strop (known as the “bum burner”) for blunders in Gaelic grammar. That all changed, of course, with the clerical abuse scandals of the 1990s. But the fact is the “History Boys” was set in Britain in the eighties; whether you like the underlying pedagogical subtext or not, it was “spot on”; the boys, however, were too precocious to be entirely believable.

Trevor Butterworth

I agree that the beloved teacher’s groping of his students [in “History Boys”] has been oddly passed over by reviewers. When I saw (and enjoyed) this smart, entertaining play on Broadway, I was surprised that such a significant plot point had barely been alluded to in the reviews. When you add in the younger teacher’s more serious infatuation with a student, you end up with two out of three of the teacher characters being gay men with active designs on the students. (the third teacher, a middleaged woman, does take a disapproving stance.)

This homoerotic hum (as one of your English readers has termed it) may well have been common in English schools as recently as the 1980s, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be acknowledged and discussed as an important part of the play in 2007 (just as heterosexual teachers’ preying on the kids would have to be noted and discussed). …

As author, Alan Bennett is entitled to his own views, and the less simplistic the play, the better. What is surprising is how many cultural journalists have left all of this out of their discussion.

Judith Coyne


Bush Speech Prerecorded?

Bush’s speech/propaganda really “live”? I’ll bet it wasn’t. I tell you, the press/msm had best start growing a pair with this administration – we are already well on the way to a soviet Russia style “government”.

Gary Van Ess
Green Bay, Wis.


Pundits Prosper on the Iraq War

Thanks for a great piece. (Although I was surprised to see no mention of the neocon prince William Kristol, just rewarded with a column in Time magazine.)

The way things work in big media are baffling.

I just heard the astute Mr. Brooks on the radio saying that only the White House has come up with a “fully formed” plan to resolve the catastrophe in Iraq. Note that, just like the president, he did not explain what that plan is.

Thanks for paying attention, E&P.

D. Barker
New York, N.Y.


RE: Bush Has Support of Wife and Dog on Iraq — But How Many Others?

Get a reporter in there to talk to the dog!

Brad Spencer


Re: More Troops for Iraq: Bush’s Next ‘Flight from Reality’

That’s the ?late-great President Harry S. Truman,” and I’m sure the old son-of-a-horse-trader would have said “horse shit,” not “horse manure.”

Just kidding. Enjoyed your article immensely and having just read the Pulitzer Prize winning biography “Truman” I felt compelled to reply.

Your points are well taken and moving. It is truly a travesty what is happening to our good soldiers in Iraq, and President Bush is indeed unfit for command.

Keep up the good writing and the good fight.

John Cutaia

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