Won’t Back Down Protesters Disrupt The Premiere

by Yesha Callahan

First she received slack from portraying the ‘hired help’ in The Help, now Viola Davis’ current movie is receiving backlash from protesters. At the recent premiere of Won’t Back Down in Los Angeles, protesters showed up to express their anger about the film. Won’t Back Down is loosely based on The Parent Trigger law, which was passed in California and other states in 2010. This law allows parents to enforce administrative overhaul and overrule administrators in underperforming public schools if petitioned. In the movie, Davis and her co-star, Maggie Gyllenhaal, are two angry parents (one a teacher, the other a bartender) that are fed up with the corrupt teachers union and the principal of the school played by Ving Rhames.

Protesters are upset over the portrayal of teacher’s unions and the bad wrap they’ve received in the movie. The operative word is movie. Protesters showed up to the premiere with signs and chanted things like, “Won’t Back Down, Get Out Of Town”. The movie isn’t so much about the teacher’s unions, but about two parents who had strong enough convictions to fight for a proper education for their children and other students.

When appearing on the TODAY show Monday morning Davis applauded the protesters, stating, “I welcome protests. I welcome discourse; I think discourse is a good thing. I think it spearheads change…. And you know what, in this movie the teacher at the end of the day is the hero. They save the day. And it’s a system that’s broken, that needs to be fixed.”

Do you feel the protesters are warranted in protesting the movie?

  • Keyz

    Yes they do! Freedom of speech!

  • paul

    Do you feel the protesters are warranted in protesting the movie?

    In a word


    Protesters are upset over the portrayal of teacher’s unions and the bad wrap they’ve received in the movie. The operative word is movie.

    No the operative words are “this film is based on TRUE events”.

    Well it couldn’t possibly be based on any FACT pertaining to the parent trigger law.

    It’s propaganda, a distortion of facts to intended to influence public opinion to support school privatization.

    It has potential consequences in the real world.

    That takes this movie out of the “it’s only a movie “ category.

    So somebody please tell the torches and pitchforks posse to stand down on this one..


  • http://sisterescape.blogspot.com Fiore Scott

    “The movie isn’t so much about the teacher’s unions, but about two parents who had strong enough convictions to fight for a proper education for their children and other students.”

    I think this is a naive way to think of it. I would say that the teacher union plays a huge role in this story, and can easily be demonized, as it often is in the wider public and media. Unions themselves have caught a bad rap these past few years, and with the political climate the way it is, it has become easier to pass the blame on teachers and teacher unions than look for solutions that actually work.

    Why such focus on teachers and not so much on the actual curriculum they have been tasked to teach, coming from federal and state guidelines? Teachers spend 50+ hours preparing for the week, teaching, grading, etc., yet somehow continue to increasingly take blame for things they often cannot control. Let’s look at funding distribution and why, even in cities (Philadelphia comes to mind), the unfair distribution of funds to public schools is ridiculous. As a college admissions counselor, I’ve spoken to high school counselors who only have one printer in their whole school. I have more printers in my house.

    Let’s look at the curriculum that students learn. If they are constantly being prepped for state and federal assessments, drilled in a fashion where they quickly absorb the work but often forget it as soon as the test is done, how can students actually comprehend what they are learning. And where are the AP courses? Physical education?

    I’m not saying, don’t look at teachers as the issue. I fully believe everyone has a piece in this broken pie. But targeting them is not the way to fix such a broken system. NCLB is widely known to be a failing policy. Many states have their own policies in place that leave much to be desired. I believe it’s time for parents, students, educators, and policymakers to take a better, harder look at the policies.

  • http://museandwords.com NinaG

    Exactly! This article fails to mention that the movie was produced by Philip Anschutz, a businessman who invests in right-wing causes.

  • http://designsdelight.com art


    I believe in home schooling because really it works the best. Now I understand that Democrats hate anyone who interferes in their sub standard provision of education, it is an old Communist trick.

    I challenge you to look at the political bent of in your children’s textbooks. Your children have been taught to believe in whatever the UN agenda will be when they grow up.

  • http://gravatar.com/jamesfrmphilly jamesfrmphilly

    why is this actress always up in some negativity?

  • http://gravatar.com/jamesfrmphilly jamesfrmphilly

    since money equals speech, the rich have more speech than the rest of us…..

  • Shirl

    Beautifully written!! You made some Excellent points.

  • Pingback: ‘Won’t Back Down’ stars undaunted in face of union protests of school-choice movie « Hot Air

  • Melinda Willis

    Fiore Scott, You summed it up perfectly!

  • Kam

    I think unions are increasingly getting the blame because in many places it is virtually impossible to fire bad teachers due to unions. They also block things like vouchers. They ask for more money, but it has been shown that simply throwing money at poorly performing schools does nothing.

    I agree our curriculum is horrible and teachers should not get all the blame, but they could at least make it easier for people to fire horrible teachers.

  • BreaktheCycle

    People are up in arms because they should be. Teachers unions, and especially the Black community. Black children continue to be overrepresented in underperforming schools, expulsion statistics, and the prison pipeline, and underrepresented in advanced placement and gifted and talented programs. Policies that allow for the overriding of administrator’s decisions and privatization of schools only distract from the true problem: many of our children are operating in a highly stratified socio-economic and racially charged school systems. Education is for the good of society, and the quicker we realize this, the better off we will be. Lets start a movement towards having a discourse on how to make these public schools better the RIGHT way.

  • Allie

    if a teacher is truly horrible they can and will be fired, the union can only provide a lawyer.

  • Allie

    I wish Viola would research more smh… As a first year teacher and a member of the NEA…I feel like movies like this just add more full to fire and try to “educate” a lazy public. If people were to read research articles on why children are truly failing they would stop blaming educators. In no other professional field, ex. doctors, lawyers, etc do people try to tell them how to their job…unlike other fields the outcome of our performance relies on outside forces as well… There not only has been an attack on teachers, but schools of educations, and accreditation bodies as well…I’m just wondering who’s going to do this job, since everybody thinks they can do it. I do it because I love it, it sure as hell isn’t for the pay check. I work 12hr days at a minimum, and only get paid for 7.5 hrs, I make nowhere near the amount of my other Masters Degree counterparts/ professionals. I am truly expected to be mommy, daddy, nurse, and psychologist. And I gladly do it, but give me my damn respect and stop trying to tear down my career…..Anywho I glad they protested : )

  • Allie

    I also wish black folks stopped buying into this charter school bull, don’t believe the hype…this is the beginning of the privatization of education…And black folks since when did the privatization of anything benefit us? Lol

  • http://sisterescape.blogspot.com Fiore Scott

    Vouchers really don’t work, unfortunately. Privatization of public schools hasn’t been working either. State and federal governments have sugarcoated this programs so well to the public, that unfortunately many don’t see that they’re being taken for a big ride.



  • tony

    I guess Change and Choice are dirty words if it’s choice for parents and students and change for teachers unions.

  • Me

    you could have made an interesting point but that just quickly escalated into crazy lol

  • Me

    I’m genuinely asking this bc I don’t know: What’s wrong with the privatization of education? It seems to me that city public school more often than not have low budgets and overcrowding making a good education hard to attain. So far from what I’ve seen the charter schools that do work really give children the education they need. But how can that create consequences?

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