Standby Me, a motion picture based on Stephen King’s novella, The Body, depicts four adolescents:Gordie Lachance, Chris Chambers, Teddy Duchamp, and Vern Tessio who embark on ajourney to find the body of Ray Brower, a boy gone missing and presumed deadfrom their home town of Castle Rock, Oregon in an attempt to become famous. While this coming of age tale had many themes,the one that resonated the most was child abuse and poverty.
All four boys comefrom unique and unfavorable backgrounds in terms of their upbringings. Gordie comes from parents who are in grieffrom losing their oldest child, Denny, in a motor accident. In their grief, they ignore Gordie all togetheras well as put down his ambitions of wanting to become a writer citing that “writingis stupid and a waste of time” (King, 1982). Chris comes from parents who have an infamous reputation around thesmall town as alcoholics and criminals. In an exchange with Gordie about not being able to attend collegecourses, Chris says “It’s what everyone thinks of my family in this town. It’s what they think of me. I’m just one of those low-life Chambers kids”(King, 1982).
Teddy Duchamp, the son ofa PTSD ridden WWII veteran, experienced abuse as an infant when his fatherpressed his ear against a hot stove, nearly burning it off. Despite the abuse, Teddy continually defendshis father’s name throughout the film and dresses/portrays himself as a soliderduring their journey to find Ray Brower. Vern, unlike the other boys does not come from an abusive upbringing butinstead battles with being overweight, and characteristically afraid ofeverything. Thefour boys in the film, Stand by Me, whilea depiction of child abuse and poverty, can be viewed as a representation ofthe school system within their town of Castle Rock, Oregon. A small and poor town with limitedopportunity, Castle Rock seemingly creates predetermined futures for itschildren. During a conversation withGordie about transitioning to Junior High next year, Chris says:It’s not going tobe like grammar school, that’s why. You’llbe taking your college courses, and me, Teddy, and Vern will all be in the shopcourses with the rest of the retards, making ash trays and bird houses.
You’re gonna meet a lot of new guys. Smart guys (King, 1982).Interpretation of the film showsthat students are presented with two pathway options during their secondarylevel of education: college preparatory courses and workshop courses. The elite few who excel in class anddemonstrate promise are enrolled into preparatory courses while the majority ofthe students, who lack intellectual thinking, are dispersed into shop courseswhere their futures are then cemented. Theidea of taking shop courses can be perceived as a death sentence. This is due in part to the fact that thesestudents will never get the opportunity to leave the town of Castle Rock andmake a name for themselves.
Townslike the one depicted in the film, Standby Me, can be found all across the country and are usually classified aslow income or poverty-stricken. Suchtowns typically lack the necessary resources to help the advancement of futuregenerations, and subsequently their schools have lower graduation rates thantheir urban counterparts. According to theNational Student Clearinghouse Research Center, “59 percent of ruralhigh-school grads-white and non-white, at every income level-go to college thesubsequent fall, a lower proportion than the 62 percent of urban and 67 percentof suburban graduates who do” (Marcus, 2017). This can be attributed to the fact that rural students live in areaswhere college educations are not a necessity because one can make a decentliving working in a blue-collar field such as farming, mining, andconstruction. In the novella, The Body, Gordie looking back on hisyouth as an adult says “Some people drown, that’s all. It’s not fair, but it happens” (King, 1982). He is talking about how because of theirdifferent pathways in life, Teddy and Vern drifted behind, cementing themselvesin the town of Castle Rock forever.
Gordie on the other hand, went on to graduate college and become anestablished writer. While thecinematic version of Stephen King’s novella, The Body, depicts four children in a classic coming of age tale, italso brings to the attention the lasting impact that poverty can leave on atown and the success of future generations. The movie depicts that without the level of intellect to get intocollege, working in blue-collar industries within the town is the one of thefew alternative because education isn’t prioritized.
If education was a focal point in Castle Rock,then students who lack intellectual thinking like Vern and Teddy, would havemore one-on-one teaching as well as additional enrichment program opportunitiesto keep them on pace with the more intelligent students. Ensuring that every student has the chance toreceive an education that caters to their style of learning is vital to thestudent’s success later in life when they are adults.With powerfulmessages throughout the film, Walkout iscentralized around the idea of equal education for everyone regardless of race.
The filmis a documentary based on the 1968 Eastern Los Angeles walkouts that wereassembled by Mexican-American students at Garfield, Roosevelt, Lincoln,Belmont, and Wilson high school. Thestudents were subjected to unfavorable conditions that contributed to anexceedingly high dropout rate including: insensitive and ill-informed teachers,unsatisfactory libraries, being subjected to janitorial work as a punishment,not being able to speak Spanish in school, and no access to lavatories duringlunch. With the local school boardpaying no mind to the near inhumane schooling conditions, the students with thehelp of teacher, Sal Castro and local Chicano activist, Moctesuma Esparza, stageda series of walkouts to bring the unfavorable conditions to the attention ofnot only the school board but the country as a whole. In addition to thetheme of equal education for everyone, the film also centralizes around povertyin the Eastern Los Angeles district.
Atthe time of the L.A. walkouts, Chicanos had a high school graduation rate of25% with only 2% of students attending college post-graduation (Olmos, 2006). Most Chicano students of the 1950’s and1960’s had parents who were first generation immigrants to the US. With this being said, getting a job with alivable wage was the focal point rather than post-secondary education. As a result, trade jobs became increasinglypopular in the Chicano community. PaulaCrisostomo, who was an activist in UMAS and one of the few L.A.
Chicanos bound forcollege, helped in staging the protests to improve schooling conditions for allMexican-American students, especially those who had fewer opportunities than her. Amongst everything UMAS protested in favorof, the most important was seeing that these students got accepted intocolleges. The aftermath of the protestsresulted in college acceptance for Chicanos increasing from 2 to 25% inCalifornia (Olmos, 2006).The first walkoutsoccurred on March 1 with roughly 200 students from Wilson High Schoolprotesting.
The students protested withsigns and cheers while local LAPD officers stood at a distance keeping theprotest contained. According to thefilm, later protests that included the other 4 East L.A. schools, had turnoutsof upwards of 2,000 students. Withpatience growing short, the LAPD was forced to shut down the protests by anymeans possible. This includedsenselessly beating students with batons and arresting them without justcause. News networks, instead of showingpolice brutality during the protests, cut it from their segments, portrayingthe cops as peacemakers and citing that few arrests made. The final walkout, which includedapproximately 10,000 students and their family members in the streets of EastL.
A. gained National attention, pressuring the Los Angeles school board tofinally meet on behalf of the Chicano students and their demands.The studentsbelonging to the group UMAS helped bring National attention to the poorconditions of East Los Angeles Chicano schools. Their organized walkouts brought changes to the school systems thatresulted in higher graduation and acceptance rates. Their protest went on to inspire othergenerations of Chicanos who were facing similar adversity in terms ofState/Federal law.
The most recent beingDACA, otherwise known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. This Executive Order issued by PresidentObama in June 2012, allowed the foreign-born children of illegal immigrants whomigrated with their family to remain in the U.S. if the remain in school andsubsequently obtain gainful employment. The program consisting of over 800,000 enrollees has seen overwhelmingsuccess with 17% of students on track to complete an advanced degree as well asa near 100% employment rate (Brannon, 2017). Even with success, the program and its participants face an uphillbattle. As of September 2017, currentPresident Donald Trump has begun the repeal process which will see the end ofthe program and the enrollees being deported back to their home country. As a result, numerous peaceful protests havebeen staged throughout the United States to show solidarity with DACA students.
The 1968 East L.A.walkouts showed the nation the impact protests can have on changinglegislature. The students weredetermined to make a difference in the schooling system for not only themselvesbut for future generations of Chicano students.
While their methodology paid off and changes were seen in the schoolsystem, they could have been more effective. If the East L.A.
students reached out to the better off West L.A.students, the symbol of solidarity between districts may have forced the schoolboard to act with more urgency. Inaddition, the schools that participated could have started their demonstrationsbefore school started thus giving the LAPD less leverage over thesituation. Overall, the walkouts provedto be effective with results seen almost immediately in terms of the amounts ofChicano students being accepted into California colleges.While verydifferent, the two films Stand by Meand Walkout shared a common theme ofpoverty limiting the future opportunities of students.
In Standby Me the children in the town of Castle Rock are essentially assigned arole. Those that excel in school getenrolled into college preparatory courses while the vast majority get dispersedinto shop classes. The Chicano studentsportrayed in the film Walkout foundthemselves in a similar situation. East LosAngeles public schools had a graduation rate of only 25% with only 2% of allMexican-American students being accepted into California colleges. With hard work, much like that of ChrisChambers of Stand by Me, they wereable to change not only their futures but the futures of generations to come.
Both masterpieces in their own right, thefilms showcased that predetermined fate doesn’t have to be the deciding factorof one’s future.