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The movie The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie was based on Muriel Spark's novel of the same name. Award winning actress Maggie Smith played the title role and won an Academy Award for her exquisitely sensitive portrayal of a maverick teacher at an expensive boarding school for girls in Scotland. Indeed the eccentric ideas presented by Miss Brodie to her students represent one of the key themes of the novel which is change, particularly subversive change and we can see an example of the type of fear this would engender within the traditional and backward-looking eschelons of society in the scene where Miss Brodie is confronted in the office of the terrified headteacher. Miss McKay is panicking in this scene about the potential danger Miss Brodie represents to the girls and to society with her wild ideas and attitudes. Jean Brodie encourages the girls to consider themselves "the creme de la creme" of society and seems to have radical views including those on feminism and the liberation of the self. She exhorts the girls to follow their hearts rather than their boring but dutiful heads and to hold on to the wild ideals and dreams of youth. The era after the second world war was full of fast-paced change which upset many traditionalists who began to fear new ideas such as communism; McCarthyism held sway. Miss McKay may suspect that Jean harbors a fancy for terrifying figures such as Mussolini and Franco, not to mention the shocking new sexual freedoms inspired by Freud. In the Office Scene we see an example of the subversive tendencies of Jean Brodie. A triumphant but neurotic Miss McKay uses a risque romantic letter purportedly written by Jean's students as grounds for dismissal. Jean Brodie artfully, correctly and provocatively asks the head if the letter was addressed to her (the head) and politely calls her out on a number of points. She speaks frankly and shockingly about adolescence and female sexuality, illustrating the new ideas about psychology and healthy emotional sexual well being. She then challenges the old submissive order of near serfdom by threatening Miss McKay and the school with her new rights under the law, saying she will sue. She seems to believe that the removal of her job would constitute unfair dismissal. Sadly Miss Brodie's own uninhibited style and passions are not well regulated and she is not a paragon of discretion so she does eventually lose her job, but this scene illustrates the end of the old order of the treatment of youth and new ideas, and the beginning of the new.
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