Videogum's report on the recent multiplex tragedy in which a birthday party of seven year olds, who were attempting to see Megamind, were accidentally exposed to Saw 3, reminded me of a pseudo-Onion story I wrote many years ago just for fun. That was before blogs were invented and I didn't bother pursuing an outlet for it. But now that I have my very own virtual newspaper, I guess I do have an outlet for it after all...
Field Trip Leads to Firing
Cleveland. What began as a well-intentioned pre-holiday field trip to the movies for kindergarten teacher Tom Weston and his class turned into an incomprehensible nightmare for the parents of his thirteen students yesterday afternoon.
Weston, who had planned on taking the children to watch the animated feature Turkey Day in preparation for Thanksgiving, became discouraged when he discovered that the print had been damaged and would not be screened until later that night. Instead of giving up on the excursion and returning the youngsters to school, he impulsively bought tickets for the next available film, director Todd Solondz’s black comedy Happiness. Hours later, when parents became aware of what transpired, Weston was out of a job.
“I mean, are you going to tell thirteen 5-year-olds, who have been looking forward to this day for the past three weeks, that they’re not going to see a movie after all, and instead have to turn around and drive right back to school? I think not,” responded Mr. Weston. When questioned about his alternate choice, Mr. Weston became extremely defensive. “How was I supposed to know that the title was ironic? I thought that whole ‘dysfunctional family’ shtick died out a few years ago.” Upon being reminded that, no, it obviously hadn’t, Mr. Weston conceded. “Okay, it was wrong, I know. I said I was sorry.”
“I can understand making a mistake and not knowing what you’re getting into, but I also would have pulled out of there as soon as I realized what was going on. But he just sat there and kept watching,” said Mary James, the parent who exposed Weston’s wrongdoing. “When my daughter told me that ‘the fat lady killed the door guy,’ I knew they hadn’t seen Turkey Day. I called the theater and asked them which film that sounded like, and the manager confirmed that it was Happiness. That’s when I tracked down the principal’s phone number and called him at home.”
Other parents had the same stunned reaction. “My son came up to me and started asking about ‘cumming,’ and when I finally got him to shut up and tell me where he’d learned that word, he said he’d heard it in the movie,” said Chuck Gaster. He went on to add, “You don’t know how relieved I was to hear that it was some art bulls---, not a real porno. Even though it’s still bad and everything.”
The children themselves seemed unaffected by the whole incident. Asked if he liked the picture, James Winslow answered, “Cartoons are funny.” Wendy Davis responded with, “There weren’t any pilgrims in it.” Christopher Thompson, class prodigy, elaborated: “This could have been so much less. You know, a ‘look at us, we’re weird people’ work that celebrated its irreverence. But Solondz chose to keep the story humane and, by doing so, kept us, as viewers, drawn into the bizarre events that continued to unfold.”
Mr. Weston supports Thompson’s evaluation. He claims it’s the reason he remained in the theater. “It felt so original and open to interpretation that I got sucked into it and forgot that I was on a field trip with my class. If it had been any worse—as in poorly made—this never would have been an issue. I suppose that’s a compliment to Solondz, even if it did end up costing me my job.”
Weston also tried to place blame on the theater itself for selling him the tickets in the first place. Asked how he could have consciously sold NC-17 rated tickets to Mr. Weston, knowing that he had a busload of children with him, 22-year-old box office worker Chad Davey said, “I was tired.”
Happiness has been lauded by critics for being a bold and daring artistic achievement (original distributor October Films buckled under pressure from its parent company, Universal, when they screened the final cut, forcing Good Machine, the film’s production company, to form their own distribution unit in order to keep Mr. Solondz’s vision intact), but this praise is lost on the parents, who are disgusted with Mr. Weston.
“He’s probably a pedophile too,” said Bob Gaster. “If he ever has a kid, I’m gonna show him scuzzy porn and give him a dildo to play with,” he added.
Not completely recovered from the shock of the whole experience, Weston has just finally begun to come to terms with his termination. “Okay, fine, fire me. But those kids had no idea what was up on that screen. If they had known, they wouldn’t have been sleeping or running around or crawling under the seats. They would have been watching with me. This is a cinematic achievement that should be seen by everyone.” After saying this, he paused and let his head drop to the floor, adding sheepishly, “Well, maybe not everyone.”