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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

frequently asinine questions: “Will you do my film studies homework for me?”

I’ve heard from numerous other film critics that they get the same requests, but it never ceases to astonish me when I get an email like the following, which arrived recently:

Hello Mary Ann!

We are a group of students for [redacted university outside the U.S.]. We are American Studies majors doing a thesis on How films, reinforce american values, so that they can still be perceived as the only super power in the current century. We are extremely excited to start writing our thesis however; we cannot start on it if we haven’t chosen some films to study. We feel that you are very knowledgeable about movies especially hollywood movies. Can you please help us?

Here are some questions that we wish for you to answer:

1. What hollywood movies in the past five years including 2010 illustrate important American values such as liberty equality capitalism?
2. Can these values been seen in the movies outright or if you to go in deeper in the film to see this values?
3. Why are these values very important to american society?

Thank You

We Hope to hear from you soon

I am asked by students all the time if I will do their homework for them, but this email was pretty nervy in the depth and breadth of what these students wanted me to tell them: basically, they’re asking me to not only write their paper for them, but to formulate their actual thesis as well. For obviously these students — even though they are “American Studies” students on a university level! — do not actually know why certain values may be important to Americans, so they clearly cannot therefore know which movies may (or may not) reinforce them. Are even university students these days so incapable of thinking for themselves and so in need of having their hands held through their learning that they think nothing of actually asking someone else to do their work for them?

As I told these students, and which I will continue to tell anyone else who has a similar request for me: Your teachers want to know what you think about movies, not what I think about them. Do your own damn homework.

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  • Shadowen

    Hey, you’ve got to give them credit. I’ve seen worse grammar and spelling from American and Canadian college students.

  • amanohyo

    If you think that’s bad, I once I had a roommate at college who not only almost never attended classes, he also paid people through an internet service to do his homework and write his papers for him. His parents were more or less flushing his tuition down the drain, but what really annoys me is that some student out there who really loves History didn’t get in because of that lazy, spoiled doofus.

  • funWithHeadlines

    No problem, I’ll do it for you:

    1. What hollywood movies in the past five years including 2010 illustrate important American values such as liberty equality capitalism?


    2. Can these values been seen in the movies outright or if you to go in deeper in the film to see this values?

    Oh, it’s right there on the surface!

    3. Why are these values very important to american society?


  • JSW

    Since when have liberty and equality been important American values?

  • iakobos

    Talk about lazy. Way to go MaryAnn.

  • Jim Paradis

    (light-bulb comes on). This explains where pointy-haired bosses come from! They use their college years to hone their skills in getting others to do work for which they take credit. They don’t know squat, but by convincing the right people that they do they get ahead…

  • misterb

    Jim Paradis,
    Let me translate into PHB-ese for you:
    I spent my university experience building valuable inter-personal skills that allow me to actuate my success parameters by using my communication and motivational talents to enable other individual contributors to explore their own goals by accomplishing critical tasks that appear on my incentive criteria.

    You are now excused from classes!

  • Ha. My old job was in computer sales, and every once in a while I’d get some wanker college kid on the phone trying to get me to do his homework. Something like asking me to design an entire network infrastructure for a 40-person office or something. And then they’d get all pissed off when I told them I couldn’t spend hours helping them set up a quote for something they have no plans to actually buy. Idiots. My favorites were the ones that would then get all threatening. “Well when I graduate and get a job, I’m going to tell my company not to buy from you guys!” Ok, kid, I’m terrified.

  • Knightgee


    Ah yes, the important American values of handwringing and a complete misunderstanding of human evolution.

  • RogerBW

    I once got mail to the admin address of a mailing-list I run, asking to buy machine-guns and grenades. The originator was at the School of Art, University of Tehran.

  • Lisa

    really? The most exciting emails I receive are how to get cheap viagara. How the other half lives.

  • Katie

    I get this all the time from not just college students but high school students as well. And because I work in politics and we have a public phone and that gets answer they call us up rather than send letters. I have flat out told kids that I’m not doing their homework for them. They need to do their own research. It’s incredibly annoying.

    Also, these kids clearly didn’t reread the email before they hit send. See question 2.

  • Shadowen

    I think that almost any job where you have written contact with the public, you will eventually get a student saying “Do my homework”, especially if the company is in any way related to recreational activities. For example, I work for an alcoholic beverage company, and the number of times a student or group of students has contacted us…at least we have a definite excuse: no information to students, even college, students, ever.

  • Kate

    Since when is capitalism a “value”? Isn’t it an economic system?

  • Victor Plenty

    Kate, it’s both, in a way. When people refer to capitalism as a value, they are often thinking of the related values such as entrepreneurship and the responsible management of small family businesses, small family farms, and so on.

    They are usually not thinking about the way large scale capitalism tends to favor the concentration of wealth into fewer and fewer hands at the top of gigantic monopolistic corporations which evade regulation by abandoning the community and the nation that gave them birth, nurtured their growth, and enabled their early successes; expanding into the lawless landscape of multinational labor and commodity markets where increasingly impoverished workers and peasant farmers compete against each other in a despairing race to the bottom.

    Or at least, I certainly hope nobody is thinking of that when they label capitalism a “value.”

  • I am very impressed at your ability to resist a completely subversive response. Myself, I’d have spent extra time coming up with something completely ridiculous, starring the films of Uwe Boll.


  • Victor Plenty

    Newbs, the risk to that approach is, the cheating students might receive extra credit for “original thinking.” You may think this unlikely, but remember, not every homework project gets graded by a fully qualified and tenured professor. Many are graded by students still working on their own graduate degrees.

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