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For the most part it's a tale of an adolescent, Trevor, who gets picked on a lot at school. Not as much as he used to, because the year before he called in a phony bomb threat, complete with a working bomb (minus anything that would actually explode). Because of this, parents and teachers are afraid of him, and his fellow students generally avoid him, except for a group of outcasts called the "Trogs". As violence by the Jocks against the Trogs escalates, Trevor is the suspect for anything gone wrong, even though he didn't necessarily do anything. One teacher is willing to give Trevor the benefit of the doubt, and casts him in a highly controversial play about (what else?) school shootings. It all comes to a head as some other students create a plan to bring guns to school and kill everyone in the cafeteria. Written by
Most films seek to entertain. This one seeks to educate. The subject here is education itself, specifically American high schools, with their exclusionary social cliques, peer pressure, disgusting hierarchical caste systems, and the inevitable toll that these harsh realities take on students, in the form of depression, anger, and violence.
The film is fictional, but it presents truths that exist most everywhere, to varying degrees. The message could hardly be clearer or more timely. And that message is that for kids, high school functions as an emotional and psychological ... trap.
But if high school is a trap for kids, it's a source of income for teachers and administrators, some of whom thus have selfish motives for preserving the status quo. And for parents, their kid's high school is useful to gauge their parenting skills which they hope will lead to a sense of pride of accomplishment ... for themselves.
In no part of high school life is this pressure more apparent than in school sports, and the film rightly zeros in on this culture. For boys, athletic accomplishment or non-accomplishment is the main, perhaps only, criterion by which they are judged and stamped, and sent on their way to fend for themselves in a society that demands competitive performance.
"Bang, Bang, You're Dead" is a clear, compelling story that shines a needed light into a dark corner of American society. The film should be required viewing for teachers, administrators, and parents. But it won't be required viewing, because a lot of adults would just as soon keep that light turned off.
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