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.
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