Dead Poet’s

Society. Today I showed three quarters of Dead Poet’s Society three times. Right before the worst part of the movie. I don’t remember how many times I have seen this movie, either in parts or  the entirety. The hazards of being a substitute teacher is having to see first and second halves, rarely the who enchilada. If I had seen it’s 1989 debut, which I doubt, I was already pushing thirty. I’m not sure if my high school age would have been able to cope with the severity of the film, especially with the reality of Robin Williams’ suicide.

I polled today’s high school students as to how many had seen Dead Poet’s, and the majority nodded or raised their hands, some even groaned. I heard from several that they had seen it their Freshman and Sophomore years at this same school. I don’t recall hearing anyone aside from me say that it was a really good movie.

In asking myself how many times have I seen this movie, I searched my computer. It does help to write things down because I had forgotten that I had shown the movie last year, just a few days shy of the exact date. The date was so close I double-checked that today isn’t Tuesday, March 31, 2015. Tuesday is the only thing the same. I had e-mailed my friend John:

Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Watching Dead Poet’s Society. Only by accident did I see the end yesterday. I had turned the movie on to make sure everything was hooked up and forgot to hit pause. So, when class started an hour and some later, I didn’t realize I had started the movie most of the way in. I gave the most dramatic aspect of the movie away as they saw the suicide. Maybe they didn’t understand who or what had happened.
So, yesterday I watched half the movie in one class and three quarters of the movie in the next class. The last class of the day watched the movie, Mona Lisa Smiles. I think I saw this several years ago. Today, new classes, I get to watch Dead Poet’s three quarters through again. No movie for the last class; they get to do a quiz and do some reading.
I wonder if there was a Dead Poet’s Society in which Thoreau was a founder. Possible. I wonder if this movie was based on a book.
“Thomas H. Schulman (born October 20, 1950 in Nashville) is an American screenwriter best known for his semi-autobiographical screenplay for Dead Poets Society. The film won the Best Screenplay Academy Award for 1989, and was nominated for Best Picture and Best Director” (
I like the character development in Dead Poets. It saddens me that Robin Williams couldn’t think of another way to solve his mental torture.
A year has passed since I wrote that. Not one iota of memory has been jarred. How many memories don’t make it to the long-term parking? In many ways, I am doing my own social science experiment on me. There’s a good possibility that I have recorded every single time that I have watched Dead Poet’s Society since I was almost completely trained by 1984 or so. No, I have not read the book, but I’m thinking that I probably should. Maybe without even knowing it, I’m somehow paired with George Orwell. Or maybe not.
If I had written about seeing Dead Poets, I probably didn’t go too deep into the movie, looking at the movie and the characters. Character development doesn’t add much flavor. I didn’t realize that the movie was set in 1959. Nothing is coming to mind that would represent that era. Clothes, cars, poets, parents. The wild party that the was held at the rich football player’s home didn’t give me a ’59 flavor, but I wasn’t born until 1960, so what do I know?
I don’t hold onto names very well. I do a little better with the peopleI meet, but characters on the screen or in a book don’t stand much of a chance. In looking at Wikipedia, I am told:
“In 1959, shy Todd Anderson begins his senior year of high school at Welton Academy, an elite prep boarding school.
I never was sure where the school was located. I’m guessing New England. Fall. Birds flying South for the Winter. Snow. I don’t know how many states have a cave like the one the dead poet’s  met in. Thoreau probably studied in New England. I never got the impression that Todd was in his senior year. He was told he had big shoes to fill in that his older brother was the top of his class.
I did get the impression that Robert Lawrence Leonard AKA Robert Sean Leonard’s character, Neil Perry, was a good student, but not one that suggested he was Welton’s most promising of students.
I loved the way that Robin Williams’ character, Mr. Keating, Oh Captain My Captain, had the boys laughing and carrying on about poetry, and so quickly taking down their shields and defenses.
My favorite class to teach is Literature and film. I love the way the two forms of media fill in the gaps that each mode can’t offer. There’s extra dimensions. As I think about Dead Poet’s Society, I don’t think I would teach it to high schoolers. I’d worry that perhaps a wall or two would come down, which is great, but there’s be no structure or support for the other walls that are still standing.
What do you think?

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