I haven’t seen Bad Teacher yet. “Yet” implies that I’m going to, but that’s still up in the air. I really have no interest in the movie, unless someone manages to talk me into a free screening. I probably wouldn’t review it—I can feel the bias bubbling up in me already—but I could at least find out if my moral indignation is valid.
What is it about Bad Teacher that bugs me? A lot, really. I guess I don’t find our ridiculously flawed educational system to be all that funny. I don’t want to watch Cameron Diaz shit all over an undervalued and underpaid profession. And yeah, the fat kid in me doesn’t need to see my people get ridiculed while playing dodgeball in P.E. class. I lived that already, thanks. Bad Teacher is just in poor taste.
And still I say, so what? I’m not easily offended by anything, especially when it’s done in the name of comedy. No topics are really off limits, as long as they’re funny. So, yes, while I’m especially sensitive to misogyny and homophobia, I have laughed at jokes about women and gay men. People are ridiculous as a whole—if we can’t find something funny to say about our differences, we’re just going to feel super awkward all the time. (As opposed to most of the time, I guess.) I do impose certain limits on myself: I don’t make jokes about rape, for example, because a) I find most of them to be pretty weak, and b) I don’t think I’m a talented enough humorist to pull it off without just being an asshole.
Which means there’s something in particular about Bad Teacher that turns me off. I’ve been sitting here trying to come up with a reasonable explanation, and so far all I’ve got is this: it’s a mainstream Hollywood comedy. Am I being fair? Not really. But the truth is, I would be a lot more open to this film if it were a dark indie flick. At the end of the day, I don’t trust Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel, and Justin Timberlake to star in a true satire, which is what Bad Teacher would need to be to work for me. If the trailers are any indication, this movie is broad—like, really broad—which means more jokes about teachers saying naughty words and less intelligent commentary on a fucked-up institution.
It’s a real shame that I don’t trust a major studio comedy to be edgy without pissing me off, but they haven’t exactly given me a lot to work with. I just assume that the jokes about teachers (and women and queer people) won’t be funny—they’ll offend me not because of their existence, but because they’ve found nothing new to say. Most of these movies find humor in the same stereotypes; after all, that’s what makes the majority of the country laugh. So when I see the trailer for Bad Teacher and sit there all frowny-faced, it’s partly because I think there could be a good comedy somewhere in there. Just because the concept is contentious doesn’t mean it wouldn’t work in more deft hands.
Again, I know it’s not fair to pre-judge. As a movie critic, I should try to put aside my expectations and give even the shittiest-looking films a fair chance. Besides, I could be way off: maybe Bad Teacher is the best comedy of the year. (JK, obviously Bridesmaids.) But while I’d like to believe a big Hollywood comedy can be good, smart, and subversive, I highly doubt Bad Teacher is going to be that movie. Then again, I’m the guy who hated The Hangover—who cares what I think?