Commentary: A Characterization of a None
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
John W. Ritenbaugh
Given 27-Jul-13; 14 minutes
Evelyn and I watched a movie Thursday evening presented on Turner Classic movies, and it turned out to be a sobering surprise because we were not expecting it to be so appropriate for understanding the cause of some things this nation is experiencing at this time. It was one of those films that, when it was over, I was mentally kicking myself that I did not grasp what I was witnessing until the movie was at least half over, and I began wishing I had paid more attention at the beginning.
The film was made in 1969, and the female lead won the best actress Oscar for her portrayal of the title character. The title of the film is, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. The film received high critical praise at the time, but I am unsure as to whether it made any money, and this is because though well-acted by the lady, it was not a popular theme, and in order to really grasp what was being presented, one had to pay a great deal of attention to the message.
I am not urging you to see it, but if it becomes available, I suggest you do so, but do it with a bit of understanding. It is most definitely not a movie one goes to see in order to be entertained by the likes of the Avengers, X-Men, Star Wars, Transformers, or Indiana Jones-types. But rather, one goes to witness some superb acting, and at the same time, to be taught some pretty serious stuff as we are now learning from our political and academic experiences over the past 40 years or so, because now the fruit of what the film displays is clearly borne.
The film is an English production and drawn from a book of the same name and authored by a Scot, one Muriel Spark. The story takes place in Edinburgh, Scotland, and begins in 1932 and quickly compresses some events that occurred over a period of seven years. Miss Brody is a history teacher, but apparently focuses on art history in an all-girls school, apparently having having a connection to the Presbyterian Church.
Her girl students are 10 as the story begins. Miss Brodie describes herself as being in her prime years. She believes that she was destined to teach from the time that she was born. It is her determination to lead her charges out of the suppressed normalcy of an English woman's life, and actually tie them emotionally to her. Her motto was—listen carefully to this—"Little girls, I am in the business of putting old heads on young shoulders, and all of my pupils are the creme de la creme. Give me a girl at an impressionable age and she is mine for life." The mention of old heads is a metaphor for maturity of a certain type: Miss Brodie's concept of maturity.
The education for Evelyn and I came in watching the display of the actress' and the directors' interpretations of how such a person would act. That she was portrayed as charming is beyond doubt, but she was also driven that everyone should hold the same point of view as her. I mean everyone, most especially, though "her" girls, as she called them.
If it suited her purpose, she was willing to engage in illicit sex and play one suitor against the other. In other words, she was personally morally corrupt. Remember, she's teaching young girls. She was personally morally corrupt. Not openly, but she discounted it as a problem for others, including the school's authorities, and so she bullied the school's authorities into not dismissing her through her tenure. Her behavior was clearly narcissistic, and regardless of where she was, whether in a small dinner party gathering or a function involving the entire school faculty and student body, eventually all activity focused on her. But despite her charm, she was in reality a hypocritical tyrant. Beautiful, though, but a tyrant.
One of her greatest hypocrisies is revealed a bit over halfway through the movie. In this bastion of Presbyterianism, she did not believe in God. There is a big one there. Do you know how that was revealed? She admitted she felt no guilt whatever regarding a sin she was caught in and clearly guilty of. Now her paramour—who also was a teacher—did feel guilty, admitted the sin, and was fired. She lied, bullied the authorities, and held her job.
At one point, she becomes responsible for the death of one of "her" girls. It made no impression on her whatever. See, here is a woman who does not worry about sin, and she does not worry how she is influencing others. She just believes she is right. She was totally oblivious of the psychological damage she was driving into the lives of "her" girls. Regardless, this liberal, progressive woman, exercising her powers of persuasion in a critical teaching position, was in every circumstance supremely right in every opinion, and thus, she plowed on in her determination to persuade others whose experience and knowledge she disdained and looked down upon.
To Evelyn and I, the critical revelation was that she had lost any fear of God she formerly may have had, and thus she had no link with absolute truth. She, brethren, was charged by one of "her" girls later on as becoming "providence." It was insightful.
Now, why was this portrayal so clear to us? Because even though the movie's producers never intended to do so, what we witnessed was a clear characterization of today's modern Nones. She was what the psychiatrist Lyle H. Rossiter calls in his book, The Liberal Mind, a "benign liberal." The term "benign" indicates these people who have bought into the liberal concept, but they are not in a position within the nation to do damage on a major scale, such as a radical liberal revolutionary is by virtue of his leadership position. Dr. Rossiter writes that modern liberalism is a form of insanity— that is, not founded on truth or the clear fruits of past practices of many nations. In other words, it is not based in reality, but on fantasy. And it can never work because the fruits show that by nature, political liberalism produces dependency.
In the liberals' desire to "look after others" and to "take care of the poor," they have turned to political and social liberalism. However, they do not have the wisdom to rightly control effects, and it has become only what it naturally will produce: It is a form of enslavement. See, they became dependent upon her.
What we saw, except for differences in historical circumstance, was a blueprint of a modern None. These people, who are sitting in places of power now, and they have no concept of God or right ethical standards, they become "providence."
In my research, I came across a movie review of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. That movie was produced in 1969. However, the man who wrote this review did not witness it until 2004. So, 30-some years of education have taken place since. Notice what he says. This is just an excerpt from the review. He works for Super Reviewer, a company that reviews movies. This is about The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie:
A tyrannical [this man was really insightful] but occasionally-charming teacher indoctrinates her students at a boarding school. This is a profoundly interesting film. The educator initially appears to be one of the "nurturing love" variety. But as we get to know Jean Brodie, we realize that her support of Mussolini and Franco is not just the absent mutterings of a naive teacher, but the cornerstone of her teaching. As my colleague explained, after we watch films like The Dead Poets Society, we think, "If only those stuffy administrators would leave the geniuses alone to geniusfy their students." But after we watch films like The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, we think, "For God's sake, do not leave teachers alone with their students." Maggie Smith's almost irresistible charm makes our introduction to Brody smooth, but her phenomenal characterization makes Brody more interesting, more tragic, and more frightening as we get to know her. If ever there was a performance that deserved an Oscar, this was it.
I hope you get the point. If you do not, talk to me later. These people are running the United States of America. People like her who think they are right on everything, including God's existence, God's ethical standards and whatever. And you wonder why things are going down.