better than this.” This demonstrates Ms. Norbury’s genuine interest not
only in fostering Cady’s academic potential but in helping her navigate
the difficulties of high school cliques and the status-driven social scene.
Therefore, not only does Ms. Norbury fit the tutor category, but she
also fits that of the mentor because of her dedication to sharing her
wisdom and life experience with a struggling student. Finally, it is
important to note that when examining similar films featuring the
academically superlative student and the good teacher model that often
times, as is the case with Cady, the student who excels in school often
seems to struggle socially, which demonstrates a negative correlation
between these traits.
One of the most important teacher relationships that often
develops within the realm of academically superlative students is the
teacher as a mentor, as demonstrated in Mean Girls and a number of
other female-driven comedies released recently. In their analysis within
Images of Schoolteachers in America Fischer and Kiefer conceptualize the
teacher as a role model as someone who, “has a sense of continuity in
life, is aware of the changes, growth, and development; the journey
humans take; and the cultural values they hold. She has experience the
joys and pains of life and shares her insights of the lived life with her
students” (107). In addition, the authors also note that teachers who act
as mentors are often elders in the sense that they embody and share a
lifetime of accumulated knowledge in addition to holding sound
standards of morality (107). Similar to the relationship Cady has with
Ms. Norbury, the relationship shared in the hit 2001 comedy Legally
Blonde between law student Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) and her
professor and boss Professor Callahan (Victor Garber) also embodies
(at first) the teacher as a mentor model. While Callahan has malicious
intentions when choosing Elle to be on his elite legal team, he
nonetheless taught her invaluable, first-hand lessons not just about the
law but also about the triumphs and risks that come with being a woman
in the legal field. He shares life experience and wisdom to help an
academically superlative student grow and succeed in her particular
discipline, which places him in the teacher as a mentor category.
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