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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Natasha (candygirl)
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Post by Natasha (candygirl) » Feb 19th 2003, 2:08 am

TomSpeed wrote: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.
I had a teacher like that in high school - at my high school, we were supposed to receive detention if we were late for class. Instead of assigning detention, our teacher would let us slide by if we would do what he asked - like singing the Star Spangled Banner a capella. He had a fat piece of thick wetsuit material that was about 18 inches long and three or four inches thick. If anyone fell asleep, he would keep lecturing, pick up his "kid beater," and slam it on the lab table right next to the sleeping person's head - we had a few people who almost peed their pants from being woken up like that.

Sometimes after a test, he would give extra credit to kids who really REALLY needed it by letting them entertain us. One kid swallowed a frozen baby mouse (he said freezing mice was the most humane way to kill them before feeding them to the classroom snake). Another kid had to stand on the lab table and sing "I'm a Little Tea Pot" (with the arm gestures and everything) for the whole class. The extra credit was to make up for the fact that he never gave us a multiple choice book test - he was one of the hardest teachers and his tests were killer.

He also whacked kids with the kid beater, but it didn't hurt - it was more of a funny way to discipline the problem kids. At the end of each school year, he would give the kid beater to whoever he hit the most that year. My freshman year, there were two kids in my class who received the honor :D
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Natasha (candygirl)
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Post by Natasha (candygirl) » Feb 19th 2003, 2:10 am

As far as Angela correcting Vic when he called her "Amanda," it reminded me of Angela telling Jordan, "I spell my name with TWO L's." That same annoyed, exasperated, on the verge of rolling the eyes kind of attitude.

:D
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Post by Nostradamus » Feb 19th 2003, 8:32 am

candygirl wrote: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.
Some alternate possibilities regarding Vic's family:

Perhaps his wife is financially well off and has no need for child support; she may be hounding him with the subpoena out of spite.

Author Harry Browne has this advice for a parent who wishes to give up their children to the care of their spouse or to foster parents, but feels guilty about their responsibilty to the children:
Harry Browne wrote:Children belong where they're really wanted, not where they're a burden. You don't do anyone a favor when you give up your happiness for him; that can lead too easily to a load of guilt for the beneficiary. You can't hide your sacrifice forever, and it can have very bad consequences when it's discovered.

Let the child be raised by someone who wants him dearly and who can give him genuine love and affection. Such things are vital to a child and they can't be faked.
As for whether Vic's wife is better off with or without him, Harry Browne's personal experience provides an interesting perspective:
Harry Browne wrote:My own experience illustrates the impossibility of knowing what's good for others.

I tolerated an unhappy marriage for eight years. During the last few years of it, I knew I was dissatisfied but I wouldn't consider a divorce. My wife appeared to be physically and mentally helpless without me. I even feared that she might commit suicide if I left her.

When I decided to make the break, she resisted at first--but with much better control of herself than I'd ever seen before. And within two weeks she became a self-sufficient woman--doing many things neither of us had thought she could do.

I'd stayed with her for years, thinking it would be "unfair" for me to leave when she had so many problems. But guess what her problem was! As soon as I left, there were no more problems.

...One of the most meaningful compliments I've ever received came years later when my wife thanked me for making her freedom possible.
(Emphasis in the original. Both quotes from "How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World" by Harry Browne.)

...Of course, it's also possible that Vic was simply a sleazy, smooth-talking bastard. :wink:
candygirl wrote: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.
Good call! The little kid was so excited when he got that autograph! :lol:
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Post by TomSpeed » Feb 19th 2003, 12:44 pm

Thanks for your post, Nostradamus. I agree that there COULD be more to Vic than meets the eye. As people often say, it takes two to Tango.
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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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angela changes

Post by christoff2003 » Feb 28th 2003, 12:00 am

i just finished watching this epiosde, and I think that Angela has changed her personality dramatically. I guess she truly has "woken up"...she seems to be more vibrant, and less "trancy" all the time
anyone else notice this, or this something obvious everyone knows about???

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Post by TomSpeed » Feb 28th 2003, 12:12 am

You are right. Angela does seem more aware in "The Substitute." In a minor way, I found "Why Jordan Can't Read," which is the next episode, somewhat disappointing because Angela's awareness doesn't seem to carry through. I still love "Why Jordan Can't Read" a great deal. Of course, a series can't maintain all of the themes from each episode to subsequent episodes.
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 christoff2003 » Feb 28th 2003, 12:42 am

yeah, i haven't seen any episodes past The Subsitute, i have just recently discovered this wonderful series!! Tell me, how are the ones following, do they get better and better??

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Post by TomSpeed » Feb 28th 2003, 12:52 am

All of them are really good. 'Course, I might be a little biased.

Man, when I got the DVDs, I spent a whole day watching the entire series. I think I've watched the whole series a few times through since then. I try to watch the current episode under discussion one, two, or three times if I can during each week. Either I have too much free time or I need to get cable.
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 christoff2003 » Feb 28th 2003, 12:56 am

yeah, i just happened to stumble upon the dvd set in my basement, and i still have no clue as who they belong to...i guess it was my destiny! I had never seen a full episode before just a few days ago, i wish i was old enough to connect back in 1994 during its hayday...

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Post by NIGHTJESSI » Mar 3rd 2003, 7:13 am

I know I'm pretty late on commenting on this episode, but RL has kept me from this board for the past couple of weeks. Thankfully, I finally found some time to catch up with this discussion.

Candygirl, although it appeared that a ton of people were reading the Lit, the jock only took several to pass out. Meanwhile, perhaps someone in the office opened up the box and started reading it and that started the chain reaction of ladies reading the Lit. In any case, Mr. Foster confiscated the boxful that was left. And there was an announcement asking those who did get copies of the Lit to return them. Granted, most wouldn't but it's just the kind of thing the school would ask of its students.

As for Vic being at school after Mr. Foster took over his class, I'm with likelife in thinking that Vic wasn't presented with the child support notice until the next day. Otherwise, Vic returned to school to pick up a few things because he likely stormed out of Foster's office after their meeting. And he also probably wanted to make a dramatic exit when all the students could be riled up.

When it comes to Rayanne keeping Sharon's secret from even Rickie and Angela, it doesn't surprise me because Rayanne can be quite selfish. As IYBT pointed out, she knows it will hurt her reputation. Yes, she knows Angela and Rickie wouldn't spill the beans, but she doesn't want to look bad even in their eyes. Although she acts like she doesn't have a care in the world, she most certainly cares about what people close to her think of her, especially Angela. Besides, admitting the secret would mean Rayanne would have to admit that she and Sharon connected in the bathroom, and obviously she wants to play that role of being annoyed with Sharon since Angela and Sharon really aren't friends anymore.

TomSpeed, in addition to Brian standing up to Mr. Foster in Guns and Gossip, I think part of the reason his classmates don't really give Brian a hard time about letting Vic know about the Lit submissions is because they were actually looking forward to the Lit being printed. Obviously their work really hadn't been critiqued before, but they wanted to see their names in print. And with the absense of their teacher indefinitely, they probably thought that project would never get off the ground. When the copies do finally arrive, I'm thinking that maybe the delivery person was bringing one of many boxes. Usually delivery people have a cart of some sort to carry a heavy load, but maybe this delivery person was just running and back and forth.

Although I understood why Brian was so taken aback by Vic's teaching style, I was surprised at Brian's defiance. He tends to be overly obsessed with grades and doing what colleges want. Wasn't he worried that Vic would flunk him for not participating in the class's activities, or did he just figure that Vic would be temporary so he could ride out the storm until he could get his grades back up in that class? My guess on him bristling at Vic's methods is they were for the common student, not the gifted. Brian is booksmart and does well on exams and standardized tests. But when class involves thinking outside the box, as likelife mentioned, that's when Brian gets confused. He really didn't know how to handle Vic so he decided not to handle him at all.

As for Mr. Foster not suspending Angela, I think this was a bit of a side effect of the school's reaction to how Mr. Foster handled the gun situation in Guns and Gossip. He wanted to be firm, but at the same time, he didn't want to drag out the Lit issue much further. The fact that Angela didn't have previous blemishes on her record likely played a big part in Foster just letting her go. I suppose he did away with the suspension because he knew the damage was done and suspending Angela would just make more people want to fight for her cause. By leaving her in school, the mystery of what's in the Lit wouldn't be as compelling.

The choice of Graham telling Angela the truth about Vic likely stemmed from Angela's interactions with her parents lately. Of the two, Angela is still more accepting of what Graham says because he's less confrontational. Also, it was Graham who found out the information so it made more sense for the story to come from him, rather than Patty recounting what Graham heard. If Patty had passed along the information, then Angela might have discounted it as Patty not knowing the whole story.

Regarding grocery unloading, I live in a first-floor apartment, the betrothed and I do a similar unloading system. I pull up to the walkway, and he goes in to put our cats in the bathroom to prevent them from running out. He also props open our door and the back door to our building. Meanwhile, I bring the groceries from the trunk to right outside the building. I can carry less than him, but the system works because he can bring the bags in quicker and I can unload the vehicle quicker. When we would both take bags from the car directly into the apartment, it took longer. Sure, this isn't really what Graham and Patty are doing with their groceries, but maybe it was just easier for them to unload the vehicle first and then worry about getting everything to the house.

Meg, it cracks me up that Graham sees Jordan but doesn't know it's him more than once. Here, both Patty and Graham are wondering who this boy is that Angela has a crush on, and he's right in front of Graham. Talk about classic! I don't think that Graham makes the connection, though, that it is indeed Jordan. As for why Jordan's at the principal's office, I'm sure it could be myriad things. Jordan just strikes me as the type of student who is often in the principal's office for cutting class, talking back, etc.

Likelife, Angela does learn a great deal in this episode, namely that she can stand on her own and do what she feels instead of just following the pack or waiting for others to do something. I think she was surprised to learn that she had so much emotion to share with others, even if it was through an anonymous poem. Also, she sees that even those who seem amazing are human just like her.

And ITA that Vic is initially mesmerizing but would have ultimately failed in the long run. Perhaps he figured he was a substitute and only needed to make a flashy impression since he wouldn't be at Liberty that long. Still, if his first few days on the job, he was throwing papers out the window and holding a candlelight writing, where would he go from there? To sustain that level in a classroom would be nearly impossible. And I do think most of the students would have become bored after a while. Vic strikes me as the type of person who has lofty ideals but unfortunately only starts things without worrying about the finish.

The submissions for the Lit didn't strike me as worthy of censorship, but I'm biased and quite anticensorship. I'm with TomSpeed on Sharon's poem being possibly worthy of censorship in the context of this episode and what Foster was trying to do. He made a bad call by confiscating the Lit, when he could have pulled Sharon's poem for decency standards. If it was a college publication, the issue of sex wouldn't have been as controversial, but having a piece like that at his public high school, I'm sure it made Foster quite nervous.
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Post by Nothingman » Mar 3rd 2003, 3:50 pm

I've read through all the postings so far and i'm surprised that no one has mentioned the opening sequence of the episode.
Maybe teachers have a hidden life. Where they're
actually___like human. Where they have, I don't know,
dignity.___Or maybe not.
This is one of my favorite openings where it flashes from teacher to teacher fumbling about their classrooms. I love the perspective of teachers having no dignity. I remember how when you're 15 you can't understand how teachers can act the way they do in public sometimes, and how they ignore these rules of behavior and conformity that most every high school student tries to follow religiously. Be an individual, but god help you if you go beyond the realm of acceptability set by your peers. When your 15 you think the whole world is set on the strict rules of conduct that high school life is based on, you can't even fathom a world where you might not be judged or persecuted for every little abnormal behavior. I think that "waking up" theme from "the fable" is the begining of Angela's realization that real world exists beyond the boundaries of high school behavior rules set forth by peers and teachers. I just think this is an excellent beginning (IMHO).

Anybody else have any comments on it?

Oh, and as far as Brian not participating in Vic's activities. I think Brian has a certain formula worked out in his head on how school is suppose to work and how it should be taught. They teach like this, I learn like this, tests are formatted like this, I get A's by doing this. This is all Brian knows, he's a product of the system. And he refuses to believe that the system should work any other way. He therefor dismisses Vic's methods because they do not conform with the system he is a product of. I think he rationlizes his lack of participation by believing Vic won't last long enough to affect his grade, and that he can argue his case to any conforming replacement to undo any damage done. Only in the end of the episode does Brian begin to realise that Vic might have a point, but still dismisses Vic as complete degenerate. Seems that Brian has an ever so small awakening himself.
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Post by likelife » Mar 3rd 2003, 4:55 pm

nothingman and nightjessi -
great posts!

i agree that the opening sequence is terrific. it's funny, and true to life, and also a perfect segue into what exactly it is that angela learns in this episode. teachers ARE a link into the outside world in that they are adults who are not part of her family and close friends. thus, it's reasonably easy to see how they have a lot to bring to one's maturing process -- and not all of it is strictly academic. angela first learns in this episode that teachers are whole people with interesting thoughts and ideas and that they can be role models and heros. she also learns that they, too, have their failures and that you can still learn something from someone with serious imperfections. she has this distance from her teachers that she cannot have from her parents, or, say, camille and andy. in a few episodes angela will start wondering about her teachers and their sex lives... i've always liked that beginning sequence as well.

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Post by nkatsa » Mar 24th 2003, 3:40 am

one thing i absolutely love about this episode is when they're anonymously reading some of the lit entries. "when i'm a mother i'll get revenge. I'll ask questions that miss the entire point.... I'll smile when you want to kill me. I'll throw away your favorite skirt and never admit it." it's so subtly GOOD and clever that you know it's done by these brilliant writers, but at the same time it's so cute and simple that it totally seems like it could be coming from disgruntled high schoolers finally saying what they really think.

and the "I can forgive you. But I wanna kill your dog" one is simply PRICELESS! :lol:

And this is one of those episodes where Graham and Patty were continually cracking me up. "You know what we need? A wife." "Maybe he's not a substitute. Maybe he's a narc." "Maybe you're a narc." "You don't suppose she wrote the one where they kill the dog!" "My juicy sweetness?" "It's the end. of. the world." "Oh, God, I hate being called to the principal." :lol:

And one of my favorite lines ever that I've just been dying to use in real life...
Brian: So, is there, like, anyone's car you won't get into?
Angela: Right. I live my life to annoy you, Krakow. You're, like, my world.
:lol: Too cute.


as for the Vic debate... the whole Vic issue is really fascinating to me, because i remember watching it years ago and being SO disappointed in this incredibly charismatic guy and kept wondering why they had to pull out this thing that he had abandoned his family instead of just letting us keep liking him and be inspired by him. But then when i kept thinking about it, i realized the complications are so much of what's so brilliant and real about MSCL. it would be too easy to give us a hero that we could put on a pedestal and adore and think "wow, he's the greatest guy ever, how amazing that he came into their lives," but the real world doesn't have straight heroes. and i thought that was a really interesting thing to explore; learning to seperate the person and the mistakes they might have made from the ideas they represent that might still have validity that you agree with.

i remember Oliver Stone once presenting in an interview the question of whether America would be ready for a film about Martin Luthor King, Jr that still showed him for all his amazing accomplishments, but also admit that in his personal life he was cheating on his wife. he didn't know if that was something America wanted to know, or if the country at large would be okay with seeing their heroes being complicated. (and ultimately, apparently the government didn't let him make it) Anyway, I just thought it was a fascinating idea to grapple with.
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Post by svenkid » Sep 12th 2006, 12:23 am

great episode, I really like how vic stirs up the students so much that other students come and sit in on the class, I guess the classes that they were suposed to be in werent that important :washer1:
the episode so-called angels, does it to me every time!

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Post by MSCL Fan » Sep 13th 2006, 8:41 pm

I wish I had a teacher like Vic (they even get to call him by his first name 8)). Do you think he had like some type of diesease or something because he kept clenching his stomach. Sorry if this is a stupid question, I haven't seen this episode in awhile.

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