In the beginning was the word: Spellbound
Pettipiece, Tony April 2009
And the child. And the child spelled the word and saw that it was good. And the parent saw the good child. This spelled good for the child and the parent and the movie business. Or does it? “Childhood is a congenital disease and the purpose of education is to cure it", a crazed analysis uttered by a drugged-up James Mason in Nicholas Ray’s Bigger than Life. Maybe he had a point though? While the kids in this film represent a fair cross section of society none of them seem normal if you want to define normal by what the majority of kids their age idle their time away on.
The number of hours these contestants spend studying for the big day is excessive. The kids sense this and Emily asks early on if this whole thing is not “a different form of child abuse?”. And when she’s eliminated she says “now I can throw away the books and be a normal kid again“. Ted “feels relieved after dropping out.“ Many of the parents push the kids deliberately hard to succeed in this battle. Are they doing this for the kid or for their own selfish agenda? I think much of it is for self and it is not hard to imagine some of these dads and moms fighting with the coaches or punching out other parents as one sees on the hockey/soccer fields. My reaction always is “stay out of the game, lets the children play.” I kinda felt the same here.
The negative impact of all this learning is unclear but one could safely say they are happily breeding geeks. An Indian kid, brilliant with book learning but so unaware of his own cultural history as to not know that Darjeeling is a famous district in India with an even more famous tea to its name. Bottom line is that 5 hours a day of spelling coaching may amount to child abuse. I don’t care if it’s two in Spanish, two in French, two in German, it does not add up to nurture. I found this aspect of the movie upsetting and at first it overshadowed the primary theme...