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Marcia Gay Harden,
Pat Conroy, an ambitious, slightly rebellious idealistic teacher accepts Bennington county, SC's school board superintendent's offer to teach the all-black kids of the pauper fishery community on Yamacrew Island. Staffless 'head' mistress Brown incarnates stupidity and blind rule obedience, her didactic skills consisting in scolding and spanking her students. Pat moves heaven and earth to motivate and educate, but after finally getting through to pupils and parents is refused contract renewal by the arch-conservative authorities. Written by
How can Pat, the hero teacher, always be smiling smugly?
I see from an internet search that Pat Conroy, an able novelist (I've read The Great Santini, which tells you all you need to know about the Marine Corps, good and bad) "fictionalized" his experiences as a teacher in writing "The Water is Wide". In the Hallmark production, his character is named Pat Conroy, so the "fictionalization" didn't go too far. Even with a Marine fighter pilot for a father (which is also referred to in "The Water"), Pat has a whole lot of brass for a brand new teacher, and he almost never loses his smug smile (which, come to think of it, I think would drive a Marine father crazy).
But I think that Conroy's characterization, or the portrayal by Jeff Hephner, or direction by John Kent Harrison, or all of the above, might be as true-to-life as the hero's name or his Marine fighter pilot father.
So, how could a teacher facing so many difficulties have an unfailingly smug smile? If he took the absolutely worst teaching job in the State of South Carolina, which absolutely no other teacher wanted, it would give him a certain confidence. They might still fire him, but he would know every step of the way that he was doing it for love. I know from my own experiences that that situation gives you a certain buccaneer confidence. Maybe I smile smugly like that a lot. I guess I have a right. If you have right on your side, and it's your only friend, I guess you have a right to tease people a little about what your secret is.
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