So I believed the hype. “Akeelah and the Bee” was supposed to be heartwarming, inspirational, a feel good movie for the family. It’s not.
Not to criticize what seem to be really good intentions. I’m all for making a movie that glamorizes smart kids. I’m thrilled by the idea of a spelling bee as something getting school administrators excited rather than all sports, all the time. (Even if spelling bee kids make me a little nervous.)
But this is not that movie. This movie intends to be sweet, but misses the mark and lands in saccharin territory pretty quickly. And I can live with just a little too precious in the movie world, but I cannot abide the lesson this teaches girls.
(SPOILER ALERT: if you haven’t seen the movie and don’t want to know the end, stop reading now.)
Akeelah makes it to the championship round of the National Spelling Bee. It’s down to her and a boy. She overhears the boy’s father pushing him ridiculously hard to win. So she makes a decision to tank the contest. She decides that the boy’s feelings are more important that all her hard work and her achievement. She decides that even if she is the best, that it’s better to let the boy win so he can feel good about himself than to play hard and let the chips fall where they may. The boy realizes what she’s doing and, to his credit, stops her and they end up co-champs.
How in the name of 2006 is it OK to teach girls that they must first consider how their success will affect those around them before they allow themselves to achieve? Why do we teach boys to work hard, play fair, and then succeed or fail on your own merits, but teach girls to consider how boys will feel before they decide whether to play all out or not?
Let me be clear, I am not advocating a win at all costs mentality. I am just saying that all children should be taught to play fair, but play to win.
Now on top of the ulcer this aggravated because of my rant, I have to figure out what to do about the cavity this movie gave me with all it’s bleeding heart, good intentions.