Still image of the Spotlight team in the film. (Photo from The Independent)
Lindsay Antaya, GBP Student
When GBP students walked into class last week to see the projector set up and a DVD on the desk, excitement filled the room. Everybody knew that we were watching a movie, and to high school students, this is the ultimate sign to kick back and relax. However, no one expected that this movie day would actually have a profound impact on the way we looked at Boston, and how much it related to the curriculum of GBP.
It’s not every day when a high school students have the opportunity to watch an Oscar Best-Picture award winner in class, and can then have a genuine, meaningful conversation about it. On Wednesday, GBP watched Spotlight, a film about the Spotlight team at the Boston Globe and how they uncovered the child molestation scandal in the Catholic Church. The movie deals with extremely heavy topics that hit very close to home, taking place in Boston, however the class handled it in a mature and sensitive way.
Sacha Pfeiffer was a member of the Spotlight team that had a huge impact on the story. Played by Rachel McAdams, Pfeiffer uncovered detailed and graphic information from victims about their experiences and the effects that the molestations had on their life. Many victims expressed how they felt unable to report the priests that abused them because they were embarrassed and ashamed. Furthermore, many priests targeted vulnerable youth from at-risk neighborhoods, so the children relied on the Catholic Church for hope and stability. When the people that children admired so whole-heartedly acted in the most sinful way, many children did not know how to react and still were driven by a loyalty to the church to not report.
This loyalty is similar to the loyalty seen in the novel All Souls, that prevented neighbors from reporting each other’s crimes. As we read and discussed in class, “ratting out” your friends was not accepted, because no one wanted to portray Southie in a negative light to the outside world. Similarly, in Spotlight, viewers see how many Boston residents did not want to report the molestations because they did not want to disrespect the Catholic Church or draw attention to such a scandal. The Spotlight team was met with huge pushback from the community as they investigated. Citizens who were considered moral, good-hearted people did not want to participate in, or even hear about, the investigation because their loyalty to the church was unwavering. The movie also highlighted the role that priests had in impoverished neighborhoods, where many households had only one parent and children often had little hope. People looked up to priests and saw them as role models, and often as father-figures as well. Some victims from the film said that reporting a priest, or going against him in any way, was “like disobeying God.” For that reason, most of the molestations occurred in poor neighborhoods, where the Church was most present.
It was very interesting to watch Spotlight and see this crisis unravel in our home town. The film showed students that no city is immune to tragedy, and everyone goes through things that they do not share. The final scene of the film takes place after the Boston Globe story of the scandal is published, and hundreds of victims call into the Spotlight office sharing their stories. This scene proved that one person or group talking about an issue and raising awareness can open the door for many more victims to come forward and seek justice.
Maddi Terry, GBP Student
There are only a handful of books that resonate with individuals regardless of the time period, content, or genre. These famous works of art are seen to outlast shifts in culture and societal norms, changes the composition of our nature as humans, and even what we value as a community of human beings. Often times the author of the book is the source of the fame and success, but sometimes the book is so well written, so diverse in nature, that it is able to resonate with individuals over a wide span of time. From Moby Dick to The Great Gatsby, from Hamlet to The Odyssey, these works span a wide range of genres.
(Image from Black History 101.)
Among this great collection of books is Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a story written in the 1850s about slavery in the South and Stowe’s perception of the slave industry. Unlike the majority of people of her time, Stowe was against slavery and the ideas that it stood for and was willing to publicly share her opinion. Being a woman in a time when women were financially and socially powerless under men, it was unusual for Stowe to publish a book, nevertheless go against one of the most prosperous industries in our nation’s history.
As we read and discuss the book as a class, we have begun to uncover the many controversial topics that make this book so well known. One aspect of the novel that stood out to the class was the way Stowe narrates the story by interweaving third person and second person voice. For example, when the author is writing about a slave named Eliza having her child taken away from her Stowe relates this idea to the reader by saying: “...such tears, woman, as you shed when you heard the cries of your dying babe. For, sir, he was a man,—and you are but another man. And, woman, though dressed in silk and jewels, you are but a woman, and, in life's great straits and mighty griefs, ye feel but one sorrow!” (Stowe 103). The use of second person creates a bond between the reader and the slave characters that was not found in any other published book at the time.
Another major idea that we have identified throughout the book is that Stowe uses Christianity and faith in God to connect the reader and the characters, similarly to how she uses second person. The significance in this connection between the two communities is that it merges the gap between the white and the black people in the story and puts the white slave masters in the slaves’ shoes. For example, the character Eva stands as a icon for an angel that sees the good in people despite their race. When talking about a slave to her aunt Eva says, “But, mamma, isn't God her father, as much as ours? Isn't Jesus her Saviour?” (Stowe 773). During our group discussions we were able to come to the conclusion that Stowe purposefully uses a young, white character to be able to relate more to the readers. By having the white child say that the two races share the same God it relates to the reader while challenging the general opinion of slavery.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin has helped us to understand the views of white people at the time of slavery, and has showed us how the beginning of the end of the slave industry was sparked.
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