Today, I finally got around to watching a movie with my eighth graders. I usually manage to squeeze in a movie in the last lesson before the holidays, but due to the testing schedule there was no time before the Easter holidays, so I promised the kids we’d watch a movie after the holidays.
Now some classes are perfectly happy with watching episodes of Doctor Who, Chuck, Demons, the Vampire Diaries or the Sarah Jane Adventures. Those classes are easy to satisfy, because you never have to think about what to watch with them, you simply put on the next episode and maybe skip one that’s problematic or too difficult to understand.
However, my eighth graders never really took to any of my stash of TV shows. They go for humor, preferably physical and potty, and for big dumb special effects movies. Big ships, big spaceships, big monsters, big explosions, as long as it’s big, it’s good. And of course, there should be no hint of childishness in the film – the film should be as adult as we can go without actually crossing over into 16 certificate territory. The kids were never happier than when we watched Jurassic Park before the Christmas break. The only problem is that I don’t have a lot of big dumb effects movies and slapstick comedy in my DVD collection.
Sometimes, I let the kids pick a movie, as long as it’s originally in English (we once ended up with a very silly comedy that turned out to be in Dutch) and doesn’t have anything higher than a 12 certificate. But since school has only just started again, I doubt any of them thought to bring a DVD.
So I went through my DVD stash and picked out Paul, Attack the Block and 2012, which is of course the perfect big, dumb special effects movie (I picked up the DVD for five Euros). Almost as an afterthought, I also threw in Shark Attack III: Megalodon. I picked it up from a bargain bin for 1.99 Euros years ago, because it is something of a cult movie renown for its utter awfulness. Besides, it stars John Barrowman of Torchwood and Doctor Who fame, two shows I liked a whole lot at the time. I didn’t really expect that anybody would want to watch it – they’d probably pick 2012 or Paul – but why not offer an additional choice?
So the first student, a girl, comes into the classroom and declares that she’ll watch anything as long as it isn’t a documentary. “Don’t worry, we won’t watch documentaries until ninth grade”, I tell her (Bowling for Columbine is on the curriculum in ninth grade).
The next student, a boy, shows up and immediately begins to peruse my DVD stack. He’s already seen 2012, he declares, and isn’t sure what to make of Paul or Attack the Block. Then he finds Shark Attack III and his eyes light up. He wants to watch that one, he says, since sharks are cool and gigantic prehistoric sharks are even cooler. And can we put it on right away.
We have to wait for the others and take a vote, I said. Meanwhile, the girl with the dislike for documentaries looks idly through the DVD stack and doesn’t seem impressed by any of them (not surprising – the poor girl is permanently glum). She finds the Shark Attack DVD, turns it over to look at the back. Then she points at the stills on the back. “Hey, isn’t that Captain Jack?”
My ears peak up. “Yes, it’s the same actor. How do you know him? You weren’t in this class when we watched Doctor Who last year.” [Never mind that we never got to the Jack episodes]
The girl gives me a blank look. “No, I mean Captain Jack from Torchwood.” Now Torchwood was on German TV in a late night slot some time ago, but I don’t think any of my students noticed, let alone watched.
Me: “You watched Torchwood?”
The girl assures me how much she loved Torchwood and how cool Captain Jack is. So I chat a bit about Torchwood with a 14-year-old, trying to swallow my reservations about 14-year-olds watching Torchwood, which has plenty of themes that are not suitable for young viewers. Though Torchwood does portray GLBT relationships as perfectly normal, which is a good thing, particularly considering how often I have to tell my students that “gay” is not to be used as a slur. The girl chatters on and I find that it is rather disturbing to fancy the same guys as my 14-year-old students (mostly the girls go for the Robert Pattison types who do nothing for me). Then I wonder if she’s found fanfiction and hope that she hasn’t.
At any rate, the girl is now as determined as the boy to watch Shark Attack III. Other students come in and both the boy and the girl set about convincing them to vote for Shark Attack III.
“It’s got blood and gore and monster sharks”, says the boy.
“It’s got this really hot actor”, says the girl.
So we ended up watching Shark Attack III in spite of my warnings that the film itself was made with very little money and is not very good.
The kids enjoyed it, though someone quickly noted that most of the people in the film are idiots, which is why they get eaten, and someone else noted that some special effects looked fake (If you’ve ever seen Shark Attack III, “fake looking” is a very polite description for some of the effects). So we got a good movie snarking session going, while the girls swooned over John Barrowman.