Thursday, March 11, 2010

Theater Thursday: Higher Learning

Time to reach into the dvd collection again. This time, Higher Learning. Higher Learning was a 1995 film starring Omar Epps, Kristy Swanson, and Micheal Rappaport (and Lawrence Fishburn playing one of the earliest examples of the Magical Negro trope I've seen) and directed by John Singleton that took place at the fictional Columbus University. A melting pot of race, gender, culture, and various walks of life and that melting is the subject matter of this movie.

It seems to me that the point of this movie was to show what happens when various walks of life clash in terms of race, gender, and culture mostly seen through the eyes of the three main characters.

Malik Williams (Omar Epps)- A young black man attending Columbus University on an athletic scholarship in track. Malik represents the black person who feels the entire world is stacked against him. Throughout the movie Malik is confronted by situations that require him to let go of his hatred at the world and begin to come to terms with the fact that world does not owe him as much as he thinks it does.

Kristen Connor (Kristy Swanson) - A white woman whose shyness shows in her apparent lack of a voice. She is portrayed as a woman that doesn't appear to have a voice of her own. After she is raped after a party Kristen starts to develop her own voice, explores her sexuality, and becomes a campus activist for rape awareness.

Remy (Michael Rapaport) - A white man desperate to discover his identity in a new environment. After failing to fit in with various walks of like he falls in with a group of racist skin heads. Seemingly unable to get along with anyone else Remy is easily seduced by the white supremacist rhetoric of the white power movement.

All in all while somewhat accurate for the times I would say that just like The Breakfast Club its material is extremely dated judging by the many walks of life that inhabit today's college campuses.

There is no mention of the GLBTIQ communities. The expectations and limitations imposed on each gender were only slightly touched on. No mention of those with disabilities. As far as race concerned it was pretty much limited to interactions of black and white people and we all know that the world is not simply black and white. And of course there is not a hint of the various activist segments that are active on today's college campuses (MRAs, feminists, anti-racists, etc....). As I said being closer to the real world than high school I would expect these types of people to have a more prominent presence. In fact given that college is so much closer to the real world and is so much more of a melting pot than high school I would imagine that there would be even more walks of life and much more clashing. So my question to you is pretty much what I asked about in my Breakfast Club post.

If Higher Learning were filmed today what walks of life would you throw into the Melting Pot of Columbus University.

Just like before this is not a matter of who but a matter of what and just like before the characters in said update (this is 15 years after the original) one will have to employ intersectionality in order to touch on as many things as possible.

What would you bring to campus at the beginning of the semester?