beautiful, young student at Harvard Law School, is committed to
defying the stereotypes her peers have placed on her. She is eager to
prove her intellectual worth but manages to maintain her naiveté
throughout the film. Elle fits the description of Carens’s paradox,
making her the perfect target for her professor’s sexual advances.
Professor Callahan (Victor Garber) invites Elle into his office one
evening, to express how “impressed” he is with the work she’s done on
their trial. He says, “You’re smart, Elle,” knowing how much his
opinion of her intellect is worth to her. He then suggests that he is
considering offering her a legal position at his firm for the summer and
punctuates the suggestion by placing his hand on her thigh. After she
refuses his sexual advance and storms out of his office, he shouts after
her, “Too bad, I thought you were a law student who wanted to be a
lawyer!” Professor Callahan’s immediate attempt at regaining his
pedagogical authority after being shut down gives us an insight into his
perceived self-worth. Yes, Elle is an attractive young woman, but what
makes her even more attractive in terms of her professor’s apparently
bruised ego is that he perceives her to be an “easy target.” He recognizes
her impassioned quest for intellectual achievement and respect and,
therefore, assumes he can manipulate her with his pedagogical
As mentioned, the second variable of my Hollywood professor
model pertains to their tendency to exploit their students intellectually.
In her book The Hollywood Curriculum, Mary M. Dalton examines such
professors in her section on Dwayne Huebner’s “Scientific Value
Framework” for valuing curriculum. Huebner criticizes “educational
activity value only for the change produced in students or for the
support it brings to teachers” (226). In her discussion of Hollywood
professors who intellectually exploit their students, Dalton focuses on
this kind of self-support that they seek in the way that they “place
measurable outcomes above unselfish interaction with students” (78).
Dalton also notes that “college professors are generally presented more
distant from students than teachers of high school and younger
students; their distance is often a product of their intellectualism and
Previous Page Next Page