Berkman (Jeff Daniels) from The Squid and the Whale and Grady Tripp
(Michael Douglas) from Wonder Boys are both dealing with failed
marriages when they decide to engage in sexual relationships with their
students. Deresiewicsz makes the connection between professors’
bruised egos and their sexual misconduct by stating, “Hence his vanity,
pomposity, and selfishness; his self-pity, passivity, and resentment.
Hence his ambition and failure. And thence his lechery, for sleeping
with his students is a sign not of virility but of impotence: he can only
hit the easy targets; he feeds on his students’ vitality” (38). When an
intrinsically unhappy and self-pitying individual is placed into the
previously explained role of authority, it makes sense that they would
“feed on” the ardent admiration from their students. In these instances,
the professor’s choice to engage in a sexual relationship with his student
does not necessarily originate from a place of complete malevolence but
rather his addiction to his student’s unconditional love and admiration.
It is this addiction that results from their self-deprecating unhappiness.
It is also interesting to note Hollywood plays into the
professor’s addiction by choosing to dramatize the “easy targets” that
Deresiewicsz refers to in his essay. Taking its misogynistic tendencies
even further, the students with whom professors in movies choose to
engage in sexual relationships with are typically female and reeking of
innocence. According to Carens, “female students play the role of
heroines who are smart, assertive, and sexually adventurous but also, in
a recurring paradox, wide-eyed and innocent” (13). It makes sense that
a smart and assertive student would be likely to try and create a close
relationship with her professor because he is the “pedagogical
authority” and resource for the knowledge she hopes to obtain. The
latter characteristics from the “paradox” Carens describes make her
considerably susceptible to her professor dictating their relationship to
fulfill his own agenda. In these cases, the professor can rationalize his
sexual misconduct by convincing himself that he is aiding his student’s
desire to build an intellectually mature relationship with her superior.
Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) in Legally Blonde (2001) provides
strikingly original support for this idea. Miss Woods, a seemingly ditzy,
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