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The Dream of Public Education

by Curtis Marez

The opening credits for the Ivan Reitman directed comedy Junior (1994) start with a sequence, shot in a library at UC Berkeley, representing the dream of Prof. Alex Hesse (Schwarzenegger). Berkeley’s Valley Life Sciences Building comes into view at the end of the clip. Images of the building are subsequently used as establishing shots that introduce action in a research lab where Prof. Hesse and his colleague Prof. Larry Arbogast (Danny DeVeto) are conducting fertility experiments on chimps. In this narrative, however, Berkeley becomes “Leland University,” recalling Leland Stanford, founder of Stanford University. Does the film thus symbolically “privatize” UCB in ways that coincide or with or anticipate the recent history of state disinvestment in public education?

The conclusion to the dream sequence raises similar questions. Why does Dr. Hesse dream of crying infants in the library? Why is the punch line the moment when he steps in front of rows of crying infants in chairs--an image that combines both classroom and movie theater? What view of research and education is assumed or advanced in the nightmare from which the Prof. awakes? How might this scene compare to an earlier Reitman comedy, Kindergarten Cop (1990), where Schwarzenegger played an LAPD narcotics officer who goes undercover as a pre-school teacher? And what does Hesse's dream of infants in the library say about the image of students and the aims of a university?

A Dream about Public Education: Junior

The opening credits for Junior, filmed at UC Berkeley and reflecting on the significance of public education.

from Junior (1994)
Creator: Ivan Reitman
Distributor: Universal
Posted by Curtis Marez