The Great Philadelphia Scandal - Pt. 1
by, 09-11-07 at 09:59 PM (816 Views)
Seems like every time something ridiculous happens in school that's pretty major, we come up with a name for it. There are really only three such things: The Cheese Spasm in eighth grade, The Geibel Dress Code Smackdown of '06-'07 in my senior year, & what I'm now dubbing The Great Philadelphia Scandal.
Years ago, Mr. McFarland, who we just call Mr. Mac, or the Mac Attack, started a Lenten movie night at my high school. Every Thursday in Lent, they'd watch a movie that was usually religious or had some meaning behind it & then discuss it. Anything from Jesus Christ Superstar to The Lord of the Rings. I'd always wanted to go but due to a complicated situation that left me with no easy way to or from school in the evening, short of staying all night, I never could. I went to one with Nolan my junior year, though, finally, & had a good time. We watched The Chronicles of Narnia, Terra & I nearly cried, we ordered a pizza, it was nice.
At some point, my good friend Steven suggested movie night be done year round, rather than just during Lent. So, at the beginning of my senior year, I became a regular attendant of movie night & loved it. I mean LOVED it. It was nearly entirely student run - we chose the movies, dates, & times, Mr. Mac approved them & guided us in discussion. The discussions were amazing, & though we were rarely a group of more than ten, some of the people that went were & still are some of my best friends. If we'd be nearly moved to tears, we'd all sit huddled together. We'd show up with mass amounts of food - I took a cake once - & it would all nearly be gone by the end of the 2-3 hours. We had an all out good time. On one occasion, during A Christmas Carol in a party scene, Steven & I got up, mid-movie, & did the polka across the room. Mr. Mac mentioned it to each of his classes the next day. Movie night did so much for us all in so many ways. We were always in amazing moods the next morning, we felt more connected to everything, more in touch with things. It was a great feeling, & now, in college, I miss it terribly, especially since tonight was their first movie night of the year.
Our first movie night of the New Year was supposed to be Philadelphia. For you unfamiliar, it stars Tom Hanks as a gay lawyer with AIDS who has been fired because of his illness & sues his firm, & Denzel Washington plays his lawyer. Amazing movie. It had already gotten postponed two or three times due to scheduling conflicts. Finally the day came, I was asked to lead discussion & was looking forward to it tremendously, when all of a sudden, during second period, our principal came over the PA & announced that the scheduled movie night had been canceled. Marion & I were immediately bummed & curious but assumed Mr. Mac was behind it & had his reasons. But at some point in the period, something made us both start to wonder. When I got upstairs to Mr. Mac's classroom before third period, I saw him already talking to Leah, one of my best movie night friends, with Bianca peeking out from behind a door across the hall. It was supposed to be Bianca's first movie night.
Mr. Mac had no idea why it was canceled, or that it was even going to be canceled. He found out with the announcement, too. We weren't happy. Here we were, with our favorite thing ever canceled with no given reason. We entertained the idea of talking to Mr. Mascia, but had to go to class for the time being.
I met up with Leah again at lunch, & by then she'd spoken to Mr. Mascia, who had apparently spoken to Mr. Mac in the meantime, & told Leah he knew what was going on. We figured he wouldn't give us a straight answer, but we felt we had a right to know, being the ones who organized & attended faithfully. We started theorizing. Was something going on after school? Was it the possibility of another snow storm? Was it the content of the movie? It couldn't be the content of the movie. All the girls had seen it - it's shown in our sophomore health class, it's only rated PG-13, & it was high school - it's nothing we couldn't handle. If someone didn't like it, they didn't have to go. We knew something was up & we were flat out PISSED, & by the middle of the afternoon were pretty much convinced the content of the movie was the problem, even though none of us saw it as that. Even Mr. Mac was visibly upset.
Leah & I & fellow movie night goer & friend Tessa all had Mr. Mac the last period of the day. As usual, Leah, our friend Ashley, & Mr. Mac were the only ones in there when I got there, & as usual I set my books down & went over to Leah's desk. I looked at her & laughed & said, "Leah, the look on your face..." & we both just sat there, looking angry, upset, frustrated, & downright beaten. Mr. Mac looked up at us & just said, "I'm sorry, girls, I tried." I asked Leah why it was canceled, & all she said was, "Content" & my immediate response was, "That's dumb." As soon as Tessa came in & found out, she slammed her books down on her desk & yelled, "This is ridiculous!" All I could say to her was, "I know, I know" & at one point said I couldn't even say anything else because I was so angry. Tessa wanted to go talk to Mr. Mascia & I totally backed her on it, but Mr. Mac asked us not to, & really that's the only reason we didn't. He asked us to drop it & said that he was in enough trouble already, & he'd really appreciate it if we let it go & moved on. So we tried. We talked about, we joked & vented, & Mr. Mac even made snide comments about the situation to us. At one point, he said that his teaching objective with the movie would've been tolerance. I left class not even being angry, but feeling totally disgusted. I'd never seen Mr. Mac look like that. I'd never seen Tessa that mad. I don't think I'd ever seen anyone in our group that mad. I was fine, until I told Steven & Bianca & others who either were planning on going or simply wanted to know what happened. By the time I told everyone who wanted to know, I was absolutely furious. Mr. Mac was going to discuss tolerance with us, & administration didn't want the movie to be shown. It's a PG-13 movie. It was high school. 2007. The events & situations in that movie aren't much different from things that can be encountered now in the real world, so why be sheltered from it? It would've been a fucking fantastic discussion. It would've been our best one. We were looking so forward to it, & Mr. Mascia canceled it without even informing Mr. Mac of the decision or discussing it with him at all.
Steven, Bianca, & I had musical practice, so we set our things out in the hall. I paced, Steven kicked the walls, & I don't even know what Bianca did. We decided to go talk to Mr. Mac, take a walk, waste time, blow off steam, anything. Bianca stopped to talk to someone & I told Steven I had to take a walk. I needed to blow off steam. So we walked. In the end, we decided to go up to Mr. Mac's room to try to cheer him up. It started off as just the three of us. We joked a bit, but every so often the subject went back to movie night. I told Mr. Mac about Mrs. Hillen's class, which was news to him. He asked if they had to have permission slips signed, & they didn't. At one point, Mr. Mac said that he was going to leave the building twenty minutes prior, but then said, "But hey, it's not like I have to be back here or anything" & tossed his pencil across the desk. He said that everything happens for a reason & he kept telling himself that. Eventually, Leah & Tessa came up. At one point, we all agreed that if anything happened where Mr. Mac would get fired, we as a group would totally back him. We'd fight for him. The whole thing was complete bullshit. We were there for a good half hour & left only because we had musical. Emotions were high. I felt bad - we all did - because it was the movie we picked & because of us that Mr. Mac was in shit.
By the end of the night, I was completely exhausted. It was like I was completely emotionally drained. I don't know the last time I was that angry, over anything. That same night, Leah was talking to Bianca & sent her all these things that Bianca put into paragraph form & printed for us the next day. It said all sorts of things, about tolerance & about how it's what the school promotes & strives for, & yet we can't show a movie about it. It mentions fear & hatred of what we don't know, & it takes an angry tone up until about the end, where it talks about how standing up for what you believe in is beautiful, life is beautiful, gathering to discuss & learn is beautiful, & finally, in all caps, MOVIE NIGHT IS BEAUTIFUL. I loved it. We all decided to mount it in our lockers, & we all agreed, except Leah, that we should give one to Mr. Mac, so we gave him one without her knowing. Steven told him it was an anonymous note, & he loved it & nearly cried when he read it. Leah eventually found out, & we knew she would. I don't think he ever found out she wrote it, but he did say he was touched & told Leah & I specifically that it couldn't get out to anyone else, in case it stirred up trouble. Haha. I still have my original paper, it's sitting on this very desk, about to get mounted above my bed.
At the end of that day, Steven wanted to talk to Mr. Mac about unrelated things, but movie night did came up one final time, when Leah & I both admitted to be more angry than we've ever been in a long time, & Mr. Mac admitted to losing sleep & being really upset. He said that he just kept telling himself that everything happens for a reason.
And with that, our movie night was taken away. It would be weeks before we had another one, but that's for Part 2.