Discussion for Episode 6: the Substitute

General discussion about the nineteen episodes of "My So-Called Life". Note: Our episode guide can be found here.
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TomSpeed
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Post by TomSpeed » Feb 17th 2003, 2:05 pm

candygirl wrote:Rayanne comments, "Substitute, my ass. He is the real deal." How is Rayanne able to make such an assessment when all she knows of him is the Sock and Toothpick Report that Angela gave her and Vic's instructions to get out their notebooks?
Rayanne is a good judge of people. She is very astute. Vic has an air of authority your normal substitute does not possess. He simply says, "Get out your notebooks." He assumes his instruction will be followed. A normal substitute would be calling for order to settle the class down before starting class. He's not waiting around for them.

The truth is that being a substitute teacher is hard. There are some substitutes who can take command and some who cannot. The kids know you are only there for a day or two. In Vic's case, he probably has been told that he will sub for Miss Mayhew until a permanent replacement can be found. In effect, he is the new teacher. He is treating the class as his class. Rayanne recognizes this fact, even though he has only said a few words. He is "the real deal."
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Patty: If Rayanne's not seeing you, and we're not seeing you, who is seeing you?
Graham: And how much of you?
Angela: Dad!
Graham: Oh, I'm sorry! I asked a question about your life, didn't I? Woah, what came over me?
http://www.last.fm/user/TomSpeed/

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Post by TomSpeed » Feb 17th 2003, 3:10 pm

A Fable

Once upon a time there lived a girl. She slept in a lovely little cottage made of gingerbread and candy. She was always asleep. One morning she woke up, and the candy had mold on it. Her father blew her a kiss and the house fell down. She realized she was lost. She found herself walking down a crowded street. But the people were made of paper. Like paper dolls. She blew everyone a kiss good bye and watched as they blew away.

-- written by Angela

Haiku for Him

He peels off my clothes
like a starving man would
peel an orange.
His lips taste my juicy sweetness.
My legs tangle with his.
We become one being, a burning
furnace in the cold cement
basement of love.

-- written by Sharon

I couldn't help quoting these outstanding works of art. I definitely think Rickie realizes Angela wrote "A Fable." Angela has awoken. She is growing up.

I remember having my papers read in high school and college in class. It can be a thrilling, embarrassing, and humbling experience. Here is another example of Angela not wanting attention, yet she craves attention. She has to tell Vic that she wrote "A Fable." She wants his attention and his approval.
TomSpeed

Patty: If Rayanne's not seeing you, and we're not seeing you, who is seeing you?
Graham: And how much of you?
Angela: Dad!
Graham: Oh, I'm sorry! I asked a question about your life, didn't I? Woah, what came over me?
http://www.last.fm/user/TomSpeed/

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Post by Megs » Feb 17th 2003, 3:47 pm

I like watching Graham and Patty's reaction to Angela talking about censorship and Vic at the dinner table. When she says that she finally has an adult she can look up to, the look on Patty and Graham's face and their reply to Angela's, "What?" ("Nothing."), is classic.

When Graham is waiting to go see Mr. Foster, Jordan comes out of his office, and Graham, presumanly noticing him from the day he saw him with Vic, watches him walk away. Do you think Graham has realized that this is Jordan? What was Jordan doing in Mr. Foster's office?

I also like the scene when Brian says that line about Vic (" All that talk about truth and honesty. He didn't even teach.") and Jordan reacts by shouting that he was the best teacher he ever had.
"I have all these dreams where I know exactly what to say. And you tell me, you know, that you forgive me."

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Post by TomSpeed » Feb 17th 2003, 4:34 pm

The scene with the Chases at dinner discussing the banning of the Lit is a great scene, Megs. I love how excited Angela is as she is talking about how it was confiscated and how Vic told them they should have a mock book burning to protest Foster's actions. Kudos to Claire for her acting in this scene. It's also neat how Angela's mentioning of Nazis echoes The Diary of Anne Frank.

Angela's statement that she has finally found an adult she can look up to is like a dagger through her parents. What can they say? Children do not usually appreciate the wisdom of their parents until after they are grown.
TomSpeed

Patty: If Rayanne's not seeing you, and we're not seeing you, who is seeing you?
Graham: And how much of you?
Angela: Dad!
Graham: Oh, I'm sorry! I asked a question about your life, didn't I? Woah, what came over me?
http://www.last.fm/user/TomSpeed/

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Post by TomSpeed » Feb 17th 2003, 4:43 pm

candygirl wrote:We see the Lit delivered and left on a bench in the office. A guy in a varsity jacket grabs a handful and starts passing them out in the hallway. Doesn't it seem weird that no one signed for them and there was no official distribution? I mean, what if that guy hadn't been sitting right there when they were delivered?
I always thought this scene was strange, too. The delivery man, whom I guess works for Patty's printing shop, drops off one box. You'd think the school would need 2 or 3 boxes for one printing of the Lit. One box would not be enough if the school is as big as I think it is. Plus, he just leaves the box in the office without telling anyone. He might not have to have someone sign for it, but he should at least tell someone the box is there. Maybe the producers didn't want to pay the actor who delivered the box for a speaking role?
TomSpeed

Patty: If Rayanne's not seeing you, and we're not seeing you, who is seeing you?
Graham: And how much of you?
Angela: Dad!
Graham: Oh, I'm sorry! I asked a question about your life, didn't I? Woah, what came over me?
http://www.last.fm/user/TomSpeed/

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Post by TomSpeed » Feb 17th 2003, 5:08 pm

candygirl wrote:When Foster sees a copy of the Lit, he tells his secretary that he wants to see Vic after the final bell. I assumed that meant after the last bell of the entire day, as in after school. Later that day Angela bursts into the bathroom (interrupting Sharon & Rayanne's haiku pact - I will add here that the girl who tells Sharon to take a muscle relaxer went to my high school) and says that Principal Foster has confiscated all copies of the Lit. That evening, Angela goes on and on at dinner about what Vic had to say about the whole situation, which means that Vic knew that Foster confiscated the Lit and then Vic discussed it with Angela's English class. Does that mean that Foster confiscated the Lit during school hours without speaking to Vic, leaving Vic free to rile up the class one more time? If Foster was THAT concerned, why wouldn't he have yanked Vic into his office immediately? And how did he confiscate copies of the Lit? I remember the underground newspapers that were distributed at my high school - the administration claimed that they would confiscate copies, but short of inspecting every locker and backpack in school there wasn't really any way to confiscate them once they had been handed out.
The timeline does seem inconsistent in these scenes. Does English class occur in the morning or afternoon? Would Foster confiscate the Lit without speaking to Vic first? How would the students find out about it being banned if Foster hasn't talked to Vic yet? You are right. The writing seems a little imprecise here.

I thought of the same thing -- how does one ban something that is already distributed? Do the teachers announce in class that everyone must surrender his copy of the journal? What if someone refuses to give it up or just lies and says he doesn't have one. The only thing Foster could do would be to impound the remaining issues that haven't been distributed and take action if more copies are produced.

The fact that Foster does not suspend Angela for reproducing and distributing copies of the Lit when she is caught red handed is surprising, too. Doesn't this act of mercy undermine his authority? He does the right thing by calling Angela's parents. He should have called Brian's parents in "Guns and Gossip."

As for Graham and Patty, I don't think they ever comprehend how important Angela's actions are to her. She acts on something she totally believes in. Would most parents be so myopic as to focus only on their child's permanent record? If my daughter wanted to be suspended for doing something she strongly belived in, an important issue like censorship, I'd let her get suspended. I'd thank God that my child could think and act on convictions. Maybe I'm saying that because it is easy since I don't have any children. But, I don't think so.

Angela's VO at the end of the episode is telling. She repeats some lines from "A Fable." Her parents don't know who she is. She's alone because she has outgrown them in some way. She has awakened.
TomSpeed

Patty: If Rayanne's not seeing you, and we're not seeing you, who is seeing you?
Graham: And how much of you?
Angela: Dad!
Graham: Oh, I'm sorry! I asked a question about your life, didn't I? Woah, what came over me?
http://www.last.fm/user/TomSpeed/

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Post by TomSpeed » Feb 17th 2003, 5:34 pm

Jeez. I have other stuff I need to do today. But, I'll make one more post.

I think it is interesting that Graham volunteers to tell Angela the truth about Vic. You would think that giving bad news would be Patty's job. Graham and Angela seem to have mended fences a bit. Plus, Graham is sholdering more parental responsibility. I would have liked to see the talk Graham has with Angela. MSCL is neat in that important events take place off camera, like real life. Everything doesn't need to be shown. The viewers have things left up to their imaginations.

Patty and Graham know that Angela is going to talk to Vic on a Saturday. They probably talked about it with her. I guess Angela walks to see him. Even if he lives far away, Angela will walk if she has to because talking with him is important.

I like how Angela seems to be more alert and adult when she talks to Vic. She can see his faults now. This is a good scene.

OK. I'm done for now.
TomSpeed

Patty: If Rayanne's not seeing you, and we're not seeing you, who is seeing you?
Graham: And how much of you?
Angela: Dad!
Graham: Oh, I'm sorry! I asked a question about your life, didn't I? Woah, what came over me?
http://www.last.fm/user/TomSpeed/

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Post by JPP13 » Feb 17th 2003, 8:29 pm

I don't want my comments regarding candygirl to be misunderstood. They were a tongue-in-cheek reflection of the fact that I could never analyze an episode as intelligently and articulately. I'm more of a gut-instinct guy; in my case I can speak of my emotions after viewing the ep. But candy brings things to light that were at best in my darkened recesses. Trust me, I'm very impressed, and appreciative we have someone who can delve into a scene the way she can, and make me think about it different ways. My only complaint is that there is nothing I could add. :)

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Post by TomSpeed » Feb 17th 2003, 9:05 pm

The funniest scene in the show occurs when Angela returns home from seeing Vic. Brian is riding his bike around her house, as usual. Here is part of their exchange:

Brian: Shut up. I mean, he's old. He's a teacher.
Angela: What? You think I, like, did something with him?
Brian: I don't know. How do I know?
Angela: Are you demented? Do you just view everything in terms of sex?
Brian: Not everything.
Angela: I had things to say to him. We talked. He drove me home.
Gawd.

Given the facts that Brian's 15 years old and he's talking to Angela, there is probably very little he thinks about that isn't in terms of sex.
TomSpeed

Patty: If Rayanne's not seeing you, and we're not seeing you, who is seeing you?
Graham: And how much of you?
Angela: Dad!
Graham: Oh, I'm sorry! I asked a question about your life, didn't I? Woah, what came over me?
http://www.last.fm/user/TomSpeed/

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Post by likelife » Feb 17th 2003, 10:12 pm

lots of great stuff has been said already. i hope i do not sound redundant!

rickie and vic's socks
i agree, tomspeed. i think rickie notices the socks because he is noticing someone who drives outside of the lines, however slightly. i remember purposely wearing mis-matched socks in high school and college. i never trusted my friends who thought i was "too weird" because of it (get over yourselves!, i'd think). i also think rickie is in awe of vic because he can TAKE a style risk without seeming to worry what people are thinking.

why "of mice and men"?
i think that when vic first sees jordan he sees a younger version of himself: a "pretty" guy who gets by on his charm and occasional cute comment. he probably thinks that jordan is TOTALLY BORED in school and that is why he is not excelling and instead playing dumb (this is a common thing in middle school and high school males). i think he picks OMAM because it's a story that he thinks guys can relate to. it's moving but not sentimental, it's descriptive without being flowery and excessive. also, it's a book about one's goals and aspirations and the choices and responsibilities that they make along the way.
when vic realizes that jordan is having trouble reading, he is disturbed because he can see himself in jordan and he feels personally insulted by how badly jordan has been overlooked by the school system. h estill wants jordan to read OMAM because it's really not that hard a read, and he hopes that it will be the book that "hooks" jordan and motivates him to learn.
yes, i think "the chapter" he tells jordan to read is part of steinbeck.

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Post by likelife » Feb 17th 2003, 10:29 pm

how did no one notice jordan's disability?
refer to my following post. i think jordan has gotten by on his good looks and charm and apparent indifference. people (including vic, at first) assume that jordan is too smart for his own good, and THAT'S why he is so lazy.
and to digress for a second: jordan is a talented lad. he sings and plays guitar and obviously can write poetry (lyrics! hello!) even if he cannot write them down. he is not left-brained, that's for sure, and he might never break 1100 on his SAT's, but he's not a complete dud. i'll come back to this later.... (end of digression).
so teachers see him nodding off and assume that he's been out late last night; they never imagine that he has his head down so that they do not call on him. and we've all realized that seemingly every teacher in the school LETS brian answer instead of calling on someone else. my teachers would refuse to call on the brian in the class after a while. we never even see sharon (the eager "square" at times) answer a question in class!

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Post by TomSpeed » Feb 17th 2003, 10:36 pm

We don't see them (Rayanne does), but Vic appears to be wearing matching socks in one of the later class sessions. Why does he switch to matching socks? Is it because he already has his foot in the door? The students are now comfortable with him. And, he doesn't have to act any longer.
Last edited by TomSpeed on Feb 17th 2003, 10:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
TomSpeed

Patty: If Rayanne's not seeing you, and we're not seeing you, who is seeing you?
Graham: And how much of you?
Angela: Dad!
Graham: Oh, I'm sorry! I asked a question about your life, didn't I? Woah, what came over me?
http://www.last.fm/user/TomSpeed/

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Post by likelife » Feb 17th 2003, 10:37 pm

why vic leaves a day later

vic quits a different day than the distribution/confiscation of the lit because it's not the lit that makes vic leave. foster is probably HOPING that something comes up that he can use against vic, but he would never fire a teacher for trying to get the kids to express themselves (he has, on the other hand, no problem with censoring those expressions!).
i always assumed that when vic comes in the next morning, foster presents him with the child support notice, and that what makes vic leave. am i wrong about this possible chronology?

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Post by TomSpeed » Feb 17th 2003, 10:52 pm

likelife wrote:and we've all realized that seemingly every teacher in the school LETS brian answer instead of calling on someone else. my teachers would refuse to call on the brian in the class after a while. we never even see sharon (the eager "square" at times) answer a question in class!
I don't think the teachers mean to only call on Brian. He's the only one who raises his hand to answer questions. We don't see other students participating in class to a large extent until this episode. Also, seeing Brian pull back and refusing to participate is significant. I'm not sure if Brian's brain intimidates the other students. If they wanted to answer questions, they could.

I can remember many classes in high school when only one or two students tried to participate in discussions each day. I had some teachers who did not ask for volunteers to answer questions. They called on the students by name, sometimes going up and down the rows of students in zig-zag order. Heaven forbid if you didn't read your assignment and couldn't answer a question in one teacher's class. He had a dunce cap that he would actually put on a student's head. And, this was a public school. He also had a little dumb looking statue he would put on students' desks if they got a question wrong. Plus, he had a yard stick he would slam on a person's desk if he was sleeping in class. The funny thing was that he was one of the most popular teachers in school. Seeing "The Substitute" and writing about it today made me think of him. I found out a couple of years ago that he had died. It made me really sad. If any teacher woke me up, it was him.
TomSpeed

Patty: If Rayanne's not seeing you, and we're not seeing you, who is seeing you?
Graham: And how much of you?
Angela: Dad!
Graham: Oh, I'm sorry! I asked a question about your life, didn't I? Woah, what came over me?
http://www.last.fm/user/TomSpeed/

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Post by likelife » Feb 17th 2003, 11:00 pm

what's vic's deal anyway?

vic is a really important character in the series. i agree with all of you who have mentioned that BF did the right thing by making him flawed instead of making him this god-like teacher who would do no wrong.
he is the catalyst that makes angela begin to question her surroundings and her "world" in a way that she never did before. he also challenges the education that the students that liberty are being given, and makes at least some of them rethink what they've been "fed" thus far. he gets the creative juices flowing and encourages everyone to express themselves, thus bringing potentially marginal voices to the forefront.

vic strikes me as a really extreme person. he shows us some great qualities and some awful ones. he has great ideas and yet he is seriously flawed. does angela need to see both of these extremes in order to learn the lessons that she learns in this episode and to grow as she does?
and what is it exactly that she learns? i have my ideas, but i'm interested in hearing what you all have to say.

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