Just a few weeks ago, the Jamaican women’s bobsled team made history when they became the island’s first female athletes to qualify for the 2018 Winter Olympics.
So it’s an exceptionally appropriate time to reminisce about the 1993 movie that depicted a similar feat. WFXT reports when a Massachusetts high school added Cool Runnings to the list of movies, there was an unforeseen backlash.
Winter Week is a post-midterms tradition at Wayland High School, where nothing but leisure activity is on the agenda. Part of week’s lineup of movies included the one about a Jamaican bobsled team.
But shortly after the screening was announced, the principal told students they’d no longer be playing the movie.
A student reportedly complained the movie was “culturally insensitive,” according a memo from the school’s principal, Allyson Mizoguchi:
“Winter Week is a long-standing tradition at WHS in which students engage in enrichment activities during the week following midyear exams. For the last two years, Winter Week has included a movie viewed simultaneously by all students. The viewing of this movie, selected by Student Council, is for the purpose of bringing the school together by means of a story with a positive message.
Following the recent announcement that Cool Runnings would be the movie shown this year, I received concerns from members of our community that raised my awareness about elements of the movie that could be viewed as culturally and racially insensitive. After researching these concerns further, I felt that Cool Runnings no longer fit the purpose, values, and scheduling format for an all-school event. I decided to cancel today’s showing.
While disappointing for students, I want to emphasize that this experience has inspired productive, honest conversation about stereotypes in the media, the nature of narrative, and subtle, racially insensitive messages as compared to overt racism.
More than anything, this event has demonstrated that active and engaged citizenship at WHS is alive and well. I am proud of the students who have listened carefully, challenged respectfully, and reflected deeply during this experience.”
But whoever the student was, his or her peers weren’t backing the critique. In an email chain, nearly 150 students responded. Most of the replies conveyed indignation, with students declaring plans to watch the movie at their own leisure.
Is it Cool Runnings culturally insensitive? Should the principal have let the show go on?