self interest, which presents them in marked contrast to Hollywood’s
good teachers” (73). These opinions help shape our understanding of
the professors in movies who exploit their students’ intelligence for
their own benefit and categorize them as stark intellectuals who
narcissistically prioritize their own interests and success above that of
An example of such a professor is Dr. Hathaway (William
Atherton) from Real Genius (1985). In the movie, Dr. Hathaway has
recruited a group of some of the top science students in the country to
work on a project for him. For much of the film, the students have no
idea that they are actually creating a weapon of mass destruction that
Dr. Hathaway plans to sell to the CIA. To Hathaway, the key
component of his plan is the 15-year-old prodigy, Mitch Taylor (Gabriel
Jarret). In a theme similar to that of the sexually exploited students,
Mitch’s age represents his assumed innocence, and therefore makes him
an “easy target” for Hathaway to manipulate. Hathaway emphasizes the
great opportunity that he himself has bestowed upon Mitch in aiding
his early acceptance to the university. He also tries to assert their
intellectual equivalence and shared intellectual superiority when he says,
“Mitch, there’s something you’re going to have to understand.
Compared to you, most people have the IQ of a carrot. We’re different
than most people, Mitch…better.” Since this is one of the first
exchanges Hathaway has with Mitch, it is obvious that he is trying to
eradicate any doubt Mitch might have toward the professor’s intentions.
In reality, though, Dr. Hathaway is only motivated by his own financial
success, despite his efforts to make it appear that he has Mitch and the
other students’ best intellectual interest at heart—as a professor should.
The second movie Dalton discusses in her book that provides
an example of a professor intellectually exploiting his student is Good
Will Hunting (1997). The movie follows Will Hunting (Matt Damon), a
janitor at MIT with profound, but untapped, mathematical abilities.
Professor Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgård), a renowned professor at MIT,
finds Will solving an advanced problem left on a blackboard one night
while cleaning the room. After assaulting a police officer, Will finds