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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Post by TomSpeed » Feb 18th 2003, 12:40 pm

Megs wrote:I disagree. I really don't think that he knew her name.
Well, since both of Angela's parents came to see him at school, he taught her for two weeks or so, and he knows Rayanne and Jordan's names, I really think he must know Angela's name. Not that it's terribly important if he does or does not. The overall impression Vic gives doesn't change much either way. Or, does it?
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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?
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Post by TomSpeed » Feb 18th 2003, 2:24 pm

I wonder what, if anything, Vic and Angela talk about when he drives her home. Does he say anything that could help explain the riddle that is Vic? Does he peel away his outrageous exterior? Does he tell Angela where he is going? Would he tell her anything truthful?
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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?
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Post by likelife » Feb 18th 2003, 8:58 pm

tomspeed - i have to say that i still agree with megs about angela's name and whether or not vic knew it. i think that he probably had enough short-term memory to get through a whole day at liberty remembering everyone's name, but i think it was a true mistake when he called her angela. maybe it was because he was not "on his toes" the way he was at school, in his element. also, his forgetting her name is indication that he is abandoning his post as her teacher. he already has one foot out the door so he does not need to make the effort anymore.
i think his manipulative charisma is what makes him interact with patty and graham the way he does. in both cases he makes them feel like he knows them better than they know themselves. he also implies that he knows their daughter well (which he does not). it is his way of making them feel special, and getting them to be clay in his hands.... i realize i am making him out to be so evil; i do not mean it that way!

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Post by TomSpeed » Feb 18th 2003, 9:05 pm

I've been trying to figure out why Brian dislikes Vic so much. I read Angela's World and the posts here, but I can't put my finger on it. Does Brian dislike Vic because he represents the counter-culture? Are Vic's teaching methods so unorthodox that they are useless in Brian's eyes? Or, is Brian simply used to being the top dog brain wise? In Vic's class, the hierachy he loves is out of the window. I'm a little concerned about Brian's reaction because Vic will seem tame to some of college professors Brian will have in college, which is only 2-3 years away for Brian. His reaction signals an inability to adjust to new rules and settings. Any thoughts?
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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 likelife » Feb 18th 2003, 9:14 pm

a question for everyone:

is the LIT worthy of confiscation? like i said in an earlier post,we were allowed to publish that sort of stuff at our high school. i do not think that the haiku was that graphic.... at least not any more graphic than some of the novels that are part of the english canon! (don't take this the wrong way -- i love those novels!). if the kids are to read books in school about war and death and dying, why is reading something about sex so awful? the "carpe diem" poets mentioned in "dead poets society," you know, the "gather ye rosebuds while ye may..."?, their poems were all about trying to have sex with virgins asap. yeah, yeah, and seizing the day, but often seizing the day meant having sex.
what i am trying to eloquate is that i really believe that what foster did was wrong. he not only squelched one r-rated poem, but a bunch of others that were heart-felt and worth reading. from the scene at the end of the ep., we get the impression that none of those pieces made it to the next teacher. how sad is that?
i realize that this is part of the lesson that angela learns...i.e. that adults do not always make the right decisions, and that even her parents who think that they themselves are idealists, often fall short of the mark. but i guess what stands out for me is that patty and graham are truly disappointing in this episode. their daughter has a gift and an interest and they are too concerned with her possibly budding sexuality that they fail to address it at all.

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Post by likelife » Feb 18th 2003, 9:35 pm

good question, tomspeed. i think that brian is a very smart kid, and i think that he'll eventually find coping skills to deal with profs who do not suit him, but for the time being....
vic represents creative thought, marginal thought, always different and sometimes not so safe. i think that brian has gotten by in the current system. true, foster almost screwed him over big time in guns and gossip, but for the most part, school and brian are a good match. he gets A's. his teachers think he's smart, pupils think he is smart. if he's a little bit socially challenged, at least he has his brain and his rep. as a smart kid to back him up. i think vic challenges brian because he asks the class to think outside of the box. he wants them to try new things and to tread ground that they have not stepped on before. brian is afraid that is he tries something new, something without boundaries and without rules, he may mess up. he may disappoint everyone. he is terrified of that.
i also think that he senses vic's insincerity.... but i think that part of his resentment is not about the insincerity.... it's about his jealousy of vic's charm and social ease.

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Post by likelife » Feb 18th 2003, 9:36 pm

conversely, jordan likes vic because vic GIVES him the chance to appraoch school differently.

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Post by TomSpeed » Feb 18th 2003, 9:52 pm

I'm trying to remember if "Haiku for Him" would have been published at my high school. This would be about 1982-1986, several years before the present at Liberty (approx. 1994). Honestly, from what I remember, it would have been pulled not only by the principal and the faculty adviser; the student committee would have also pulled it. Would that have been the right thing to do? The answer is probably no. However, it would not have been published. Like it or not, a high school publication does need to have certain standards. Not everything students write, or anyone else for that matter, is suitable for publication. Granted my high school was in the Deep South, which was, and still is, fairly conservative. However, I think Foster is correct to object to the poem. Should he pull the entire issue? If that is the only objectionable piece, a new issue could be reissued without the poem.

I also think any legal challenge Foster might have faced for suspending Angela for using school supplies to reproduce and distribute the Lit would have been upheld in court, or even been dismissed by the judge. Theft is theft. If she goes to Kinkos instead, it would be a different story.
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?
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Post by TomSpeed » Feb 18th 2003, 10:06 pm

I'd also like to add that the courts have held in many cases that all of the rights we hold dear as Americans do not necessarily apply to America's schools. The right of privacy immediately comes to mind in regards to searching lockers and such. Currently, there are many cases pending in the courts regarding the drug testing of students (Can some students be tested or must all be tested?). I think it might be interesting to follow how these cases develop. Also, if anyone has an update on any school freedom of speech cases, like the ones that were mentioned earlier, I'd like to know how they turned out.
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 19th 2003, 12:39 am

likelife wrote:tomspeed - i have to say that i still agree with megs about angela's name and whether or not vic knew it. i think that he probably had enough short-term memory to get through a whole day at liberty remembering everyone's name, but i think it was a true mistake when he called her angela. maybe it was because he was not "on his toes" the way he was at school, in his element. also, his forgetting her name is indication that he is abandoning his post as her teacher. he already has one foot out the door so he does not need to make the effort anymore.
i think his manipulative charisma is what makes him interact with patty and graham the way he does. in both cases he makes them feel like he knows them better than they know themselves. he also implies that he knows their daughter well (which he does not). it is his way of making them feel special, and getting them to be clay in his hands.... i realize i am making him out to be so evil; i do not mean it that way!
I keep calling on my experience as a teacher. It might be getting old, but I'll do it again. If any parents came to see me about their children, I'd remember their children's names. Many teachers view parents as possible threats. Nothing can get a teacher in hotter water than a persistent and upset parent. Even if the parent is totally wrong, a teacher has to spend a lot of time and energy dealing with a situation involving a parent. Keeping track of the children of parents who pay visits is like a defensive reflex.

I'll agree that he probably has a lot on his mind when Angela visits him. He's moving out. He has left his job. He has a court order to deal with or not deal with. Her name might have slipped his mind or he might have got it mixed up with his wife's name, which is a stretch because we don't know her name. However, I don't think he didn't know her.

Of course, Angela corrects him. She is right to do so.

Vic deals with Graham and Patty pretty much the way a teacher usually deals with parents. He is friendly, flattering, and speaks intelligently. He also teaches and persuades. The only thing I don't like is that he speaks to Graham about Jordan's reading problem. A teacher should not talk about a specific student with another student's parent. Such information should be kept confidential.

I don't get the impression that Vic tries to tell Patty and Graham that he knows Angela better than they know her. In a way, he does. He knows she did not write "Haiku for Him." Supposedly, Graham and Patty have read all of the submissions (unless they stopped reading when they got to the one about sex). They don't guess Angela wrote "A Fable." Vic guesses that Angela wrote it before she tells him.

I guess I'm trying to defend Vic. I'm not really sure why.
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 19th 2003, 1:12 am

likelife wrote:good question, tomspeed. i think that brian is a very smart kid, and i think that he'll eventually find coping skills to deal with profs who do not suit him, but for the time being....
vic represents creative thought, marginal thought, always different and sometimes not so safe. i think that brian has gotten by in the current system. true, foster almost screwed him over big time in guns and gossip, but for the most part, school and brian are a good match. he gets A's. his teachers think he's smart, pupils think he is smart. if he's a little bit socially challenged, at least he has his brain and his rep. as a smart kid to back him up. i think vic challenges brian because he asks the class to think outside of the box. he wants them to try new things and to tread ground that they have not stepped on before. brian is afraid that is he tries something new, something without boundaries and without rules, he may mess up. he may disappoint everyone. he is terrified of that.
i also think that he senses vic's insincerity.... but i think that part of his resentment is not about the insincerity.... it's about his jealousy of vic's charm and social ease.
I agree that Brian is probably put off by Vic's different approach. towards teaching than what he is used to from other teachers. Things that are unknown are often frightening or threatening. Also, the fact that Vic seems to have no boundaries probably troubles Brian as well. However, if Vic stayed for a long length of time, Brian would surely be putting his grade in English in jeopardy by refusing to participate in class.

I love to speculate about stuff. Wouldn't it be interesting if Anglea and Brian talk about Vic on the bus or outside of school. I think Angela would not be able to contain her admiration of Vic before he leaves. Brian might see Vic as a contestant for Angela's affection. Of course, he would be jealous and more resolute in his desire not to participate in class. I could also see Angela developing a crush on Vic. She does seem to be passionate about him and his beliefs.
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 Natasha (candygirl) » Feb 19th 2003, 1:24 am

you know how you said that vic is a smoker, tomspeed? he OBVIOUSLY has an oral fixation and he is very hyperactive and jumpy all of the time. what if his real problem is that he;s a drug addict of sorts? i am not saying this because of the heroine line specifically, so do not think i am just being literal. think about it. he's smart and quick but can't seem to hold a job. he;s left his family because he's sure that they are better without him. he's irritable, jumpy, and secretive. if he truly believes that his wife and kids are better off without him, he'd still be trying to help support them unless something else was going on. he left to spare them from his addiction, but he can't pull it together enough to earn any money to send home. what do you all think? i am only sort of serious about this...
Something has caused Vic to exhibit obsessive-compulsive behavior. As a smoker, I'm probably projecting myself a little bit. Plus, I've observed friends who have quit smoking. Usually, an ex-smoker chews gum or eats a lot of snacks to replace cigarettes. One woman I knew ate a lot of apples. So, toothpicks make sense to me. Vic appears to be a recovering drug addict (nicotine is a drug after all). Could it be heroine? Maybe.
The whole oral fixation thing reminded me of Rayanne's pending lollipop thing. Knowing that it is coming has made me a lot more aware of whenever she eats - for example, she has an apple at the beginning of the Zit and then hands one to Angela. I know a lot of this food stuff is covered in the food thread, as well as in Angela's World, but I thought that the food/oral fixation connection was worth mentioning.

In Vic's defense, many people who do not have addictions are orally fixated, so it's possible that he was always a nail biter, gum chewer, etc. I think everyone in my sixth grade class was either a nail biter or a gum chewer or both. The toothpicks may be his grown-up version of either habit.

As far as Vic's warning to "veer away from heroin" (which I love), I thought of it as similar to when Tom Hanks autographed the baseball in A League of Their Own: "Avoid the clap - Jimmy Dugan." Both bits of advice are funny but well worth heeding.

I don't know that Vic truly believes his family is better off without him - it seems like he says it to seem noble for deserting his family. The way he phrases his excuse ("I got out. I escaped. I broke out of a prison of my own making, and many, many people want to punish me for that.") makes it sound like he thinks HE is the victim and expects Angela to sympathize with his predicament. He does not want to take responsibility for the things he has set in motion - the life of his child, the furor over Sharon's poem, etc. As idealistic as he seems, he is very self-centered and immature. As demanding as he was with his students, he obviously has much lower standards for his own behavior.
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Post by Natasha (candygirl) » Feb 19th 2003, 1:36 am

TomSpeed wrote:I am surprised that Foster says he will suspend students when he probably knows suspending students wouldn't solve the problem. Confiscate the remaining copies. That's acceptable. He will still probably get sued. Showing his teeth and refusing to bite isn't a good idea. He should not have shown his teeth in the first place. Maybe he was just angry and made a mistake?
I think that the reason Foster declared that students distributing the Lit would be suspended was the same reason behind why he threatened Brian in Guns and Gossip - he knows that middle class sophomores are easy to scare. They are still at the age where they obey their parents - even Rayanne who seems to be a rebel at school is relatively obedient in terms of following Amber's rules. Often kids who begin rebelling against their parents still follow basic school rules (not smoking in the classrooms, for example). They know that a high school diploma is the first necessary step into their real lives. Many of them, like Sharon and Brian, realize that they must function within the parameters set by the school in order to go to college, which is why many students will give in to the school's demands in order to avoid getting in trouble. It takes a student with convictions to defy a principal's threats.

Just as Foster's threats to Brian failed to produce the results he wanted, his threats to suspend Lit distributors failed to produce the results he wanted. If anything, his threat only served to further fuel Angela's resolve to distribute it. She wants to be punished for doing so (note how quickly she volunteers that she cut bio), perhaps because, similar to her lament in Guns and Gossip that her parents knew where they were when Kennedy was shot, she wants to believe in something as much as her parents believed in the civil rights movement. She realizes that although the Lit isn't quite on the scale of an anti-war protest, she believes that distributing the Lit is the right thing to do.
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Post by Natasha (candygirl) » Feb 19th 2003, 1:55 am

JPP13 wrote:Not that this is either right or good, but in real life if the school or the principal had suspended a student for something such as the Lit, there would be an immediate lawsuit.

Here's one example, of many:

December 19, 2001

MINNESOTA -- Five eighth-grade students who were punished for creating an underground 'zine are planning to file a lawsuit against Ogilvie Public Schools.
I think that there are some important things to keep in mind:

Foster did not say he would suspend the person who wrote the haiku. That would definitely be illegal because it violates the first amendment's protection freedom of speech.

What Foster actually said is that he would suspend anyone caught distributing the Lit because the administration found some of the material "unacceptable" because he has a responsibility to "hold school-authorized publications to certain standards of decency." This is pretty standard in most schools, which is why school-authorized publications usually have a faculty advisor (another interesting point is that substitute teachers generally do not have the power to determine what is going to be printed in the school literary magazine). Most schools' policy regarding unauthorized school publications is that they are not allowed to be distributed on campus. The outcome of most lawsuits where students claimed that their freedom of speech was violated because their work in the school paper was censored is the same - the school has the right to decide what is appropriate and what is printed.
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Post by Natasha (candygirl) » Feb 19th 2003, 1:59 am

JPP13 wrote: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. :)
I didn't take your comments negatively - thank you so much for the kind words. And I don't think it's true that you have nothing to add - you have great comments!

:D
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