The upcoming film “Won’t Back Down” isn’t “Waiting for ‘Superman,’” but their similarities could help the former break out as a potent pro-school choice weapon in time for Election Day.
It's no wonder Democrats and teachers union sympathizers are eager to assault the film - even if they haven't seen it.
Both films were directed by liberal artists, and each takes on teachers unions in ways that suggest both across the aisle agreement and the notion that Hollywood is finally waking up to right-of-center arguments.
“’Superman,’” a documentary, still didn’t move the needle very far on the debate over school choice. “Won’t Back Down,” a narrative film inspired by true events, may be another story entirely.
The movie stars Oscar nominees Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis as two gritty women who try to take over a failing urban school. Oscar winner Holly Hunter plays a headstrong but compassionate union official fighting the women’s plans.
The film played to an appreciative crowd last week at the Republican National Conventional in Tampa, with many movie goers driven to tears before the end credits rolled. Democrats also got a peek at the film yesterday, courtesy of a screening held by Democrats for Education Reform.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, acknowledged the film’s power and “sense of urgency” but said the movie uses “the most blatant stereotypes and caricatures have ever seen – even worse than those in “Waiting for ‘Superman’” – the film affixes blame on the wrong culprit: America’s teachers unions.”
The film, in theaters Sept. 28, reflects a new reality, one which chips away at Hollywood’s liberal lock-step mentality as well as the progressive uniformity on the issue.
But it is hard to paint the school reform movement as a right-wing conspiracy. Support for taking on teachers' unions is growing in Democratic and liberal circles. The best example of this might be Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a former organizer with United Teachers Los Angeles who is in favor of greater school choice and teacher accountability.
Hollywood making pro-school choice movies? Liberal mayors acknowledging the need for changes within the school systems? The sturdy ties between the Democratic party and teachers unions showing signs of distress?
Seems like “Won’t Back Down” is hitting theaters at the right time, and pro-union forces have every right to be concerned.