I have a thing for cheesy based-on-a-true-story Hollywood movies that push agendas of change through whimsical montages and brave woman confronting the odds. I could watch Freedom Writers on repeat all day long, simultaneously channeling their determination and googling updates on the real story. It’s not that the movies are usually that good or the acting that powerful, but something about one woman vs the entire world stories really inspire me.
So when I first saw trailers for Won’t Back Down starring Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal, I got totally psyched up about the movie. I immediately got my computer out so I could look up the real story and find out what actual events inspired someone to turn this story into a movie. I even prepped my tissue box for all the tears that would soon be streaming down my face.
But rather than find anything that hinted at this movie being based on any real events, I found article after article condemning it as anti-union propaganda being funded by conservatives who are pushing for charter schools. And to add insult to conservative-backed injury, it’s not based on any kind of true story.
It’s based on a law called the parent-trigger law. A law most simply explained in this Huffington Post article:
The law allows public-school parents who gather signatures from a majority of their peers to transform a school into a charter. They can also opt to remove a consistently failing school’s staff or close the school entirely.
That’s the true story. Right there. Someone saw that law and said to themselves, “let’s create a story around that law! And because it’s based on a real law, we can say that it’s inspired by actual events.” Which basically means any movie that involves any law could be inspired by true events. Such as a movie about a murderer who goes on trial because the law says murder is illegal. Since that’s a real law, then it’s basically a true story.
That means there is no single mom who’s battling a school district for a teacher who cares about her daughter’s dyslexia. Nor is there a jaded teacher who comes alive with the idea of the takeover and completely changes her life as she fights against the bureaucracy. It’s all made up.
And it’s not just anyone who saw that law and immediately created a fantasy of epic proportions about a wild-eyed woman trying to do right by her daughter, it’s funded by Philip Anschutz, owner of the anti-union Walden Media. That’s the same man who funded the controversial education documentary Waiting for Superman. Both movies claim that public schools are the enemy and we’ve got to get all the kids into charter schools.