(Tw: grooming, non-violent statutory rape.)
I recently got sucked into the soapy movie-of-the-week masquerading as afterschool special A Teacher on Hulu. On the plus side, the magnificent Kate Mara and equally impressive star of Love, Simon, Nick Robinson. Mara is a hot (did I mention she’s hot?) new English teacher called Claire Wilson at Red Blooded American High School™️. Though very PG-13 in what it actually shows (no full-frontal nudity, unlike the vapidly addictive Sex/Life) the experience was surprisingly pornographic. I’m not complaining.
I enjoy any TV show that triggers uncomfortably horny feelings. A Teacher is set in Austin, Texas, but that’s not the triggering part… Ms. Wilson singles out soulful Eric Walker (Robinson) for that special “SAT coaching” and if you get the intention behind my ironic use of quotes, naturally it’s not too long before they end up f*cking in the backseat of her car. Hot for teacher indeed (sorry, I had to).
He is 17, she is 30something, but a cursory search reveals Robinson was a preternaturally young 24 at the time of filming. Phew! We are thus freed up to take the headlong dive into the ludicrously lecherous master manipulatrix “Call me Claire” Wilson, who really likes widdle Eric, sure, but is clearly grooming him…
At this point I become aware that I’m avoiding facing you, by plunging into the far too well-lit world of Eric and “Claire.” That’s right, I’m avoiding intimacy with you and I’m sorry. (Yes, you.) The truth is I could painfully relate. Not to the part about being attracted to teenagers; I haven’t been since I was one. I’m referring to being a young person groomed by an older adult and also completely unprepared for the emotional fallout of that affair.
The weird part is, though I avert my eyes from realistic violence or medical scenarios onscreen, I don’t have the same response when emotionally triggered. Instead, I’m compelled to watch, like a femme Malcolm McDowell; eyelids splayed open involuntarily, I dare not look away. Entertainment can be a way to process in a more remote way: Sometimes you just have to give yourself the gift of delicious trash to give your life some perspective.
Truthfully, A Teacher is the first time I’ve seen my experience portrayed so accurately onscreen, because just like the frat boys think Boyslice is a legend for hooking up with Mara the MILF, my friends thought I was a bit of a legend for hooking up with my pedo and none of us were legends at all, just a bunch of hormonal schmucks.
When I was that young person (in the 90s) groomed for 9 months at 15 by a 24-year old ponytail-type, there was a lot more cigarette smoke but in all other ways the story is apocryphal. Person meets person, power differential is never acknowledged, horny person is taken advantage of by pervert, then discarded, the end. (Note: I usually see being a pervert as a positive attribute, but this is not the good kind.)
This is not even to mention the other ponytail type who (M30) plied me (F15) with drugs and alcohol, though I discarded him, so it wasn’t as traumatic to my abandonment issues, thanks other ponytail-burnout! That one really hit different when one of my sons turned 15, as Eric ends up saying to Claire, that is very, very young. (Ew, ew.)
And neither of my 90s ponytail-types (ew) ever went to jail, unlike poor Claire! A Teacher is fictional, adapted by writer Hannah Fidell from her own eponymous movie and not even as nutso as the real life Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau story… do check that one out if you’re not familiar. Or even if you are (see: gift of delicious trash to give your life some perspective).
“My” charming 24-year-old idiot was a smooth talker; he had a large Rolling Stones mouth tattoo next to his crotch, which may as well have been a red flag with taste buds, but I didn’t pick up on it. He even met my parents. (Like I said, it was the 90s.) You shoulda tried to stop me, you there shaking your head wondering what happened to the children, you shoulda tried. I was as horny and needy as any teenage girl can be; done with high school by 16, the boys were climbing in the windows, bless them, but at least the older ones used the front door.
Penetrated at 16 with my full consent after being told his college girlfriend was on the way out anyway (so consent based on lies, so not consent) then six impossibly overstimulating weeks later, dumped and branded a Scarlet Woman for lol omg, not the last time in my life, so whatevs. Don’t cry for me Argentina, IDGAF. Then unable to eat, sleep, or function for around six months, just like the student in A Teacher. Eric Walker pays for his heady little spittle swap with an almost unbearable slump, as did I.
And Kate Mara was so good that she let me hate Claire a little bit, but also to have complete compassion for her, unlike for the motherf*cker mentioned earlier, who I found out a year later had also “dated” a girl (N.C.) from my old high school, who at least was 18 at the time—bless his heart he was 26 by then—and the funnest fact of all is he is still married to the woman he cheated on with us. For. The. Ensuing. Thirty. Years.
I have not fallen for that “my gf is not an issue” crap since that period in my life. Sadly, Keith Richards’ merkin (as I like to think of predatory ponytail-peen) never got “me-too”d, even though I heard there were dozens of these young chippies. On the plus side he did age very, very badly. Ew.
Without too many spoilers, let’s just say that the seminal (as in semen) A Teacher proved a handy little vehicle for processing a flipped gender version of my own experience, but missed an opportunity to go a little deeper. (No, he wasn’t a teacher and no I’m not Rose McGowan so I won’t be naming “Mr. Mara”.)
Suffice to say that ten years later when a grown-up Eric with very bad hair tells an identical looking Mara she ruined his life, um no. Or rather, je refuse. I will never give that person, J**** “H*******” Y****, or B**** B***** for that matter, the satisfaction. In fact, the break-up with the former really helped kickstart my writing and thirty years on, I might be starting to get the hang of it…
Art by me (pastels/pencils)
I enjoyed this!