Special to WorldTribune.com
“Submission,” a recent movie about a professor who engages in sexual misconduct with a student, has been slammed by critics for its superficial portrayal of sexual harassment and the #MeToo Movement. But this latest Richard Levine movie has a far more scathing critique to make: the dangerous stranglehold political correctness has on college campuses.
Without a doubt, professor Ted Swenson — brilliantly played by Stanley Tucci — should not have allowed himself to be manipulated by his student Angela Argo (Addison Timlin). He naively succumbed to her Machiavellian plans to seduce him. As he rightly admits at the end of the movie before the committee investigating the charges, his behavior was “inappropriate and unprofessional.” But as he justly points out, “the truth has been twisted” and “it was never a business transaction — that’s a lie.”
Although there was no sex in exchange for Ted’s help to get Angela’s book published, his marriage and tenured-track career are over. According to the committee, truth be damned if Angela lied about her role in the affair.
Indeed, consensual as it was, Ted still crossed the line and rightly deserved to suffer the consequences of his actions. But what about Angela? What are her ramifications for lying, seducing and manipulating the truth? There are none. Instead, she is lionized by the committee for being “brave” to come forward and help future victims. She also achieves her goal of having her novel published.
Ultimately, the committee did not do their job and properly investigate the charges. They did not do so because of a prevalent campus culture of submitting to the whims of students. According to this prevalent progressive worldview, victims always tell the truth and individuals must live their truth to attain fulfillment — regardless of the moral consequences or if this goes against the natural order. The result: a stunted generation.
During a dinner party with colleagues, Ted bemoans the dangers of being beholden to the misguided needs and ideas of young, uneducated students.
“I think we have been giving in without a fight—that we have been knuckling under to the most neurotic forces ever of repression and censorship,” said Ted to the shock of the guests. “I think we need to help these people get over themselves…lock them in a room and shout dirty words at them until they grow up. Sh***, sh**, c**sucker, mother**, f**, and throw in a couple of c*** while you’re at it. Just good old time-tested Anglo-saxonism and we will be doing these people a favor — emotionally, spiritually, educationally. We will help them grow up a lot faster than if we coddle them and indulge every whim and neurosis.”
Embarrassed, Ted’s wife Sherrie (Kyra Sedgwick) tries to apologize for his inappropriate monologue by telling his colleagues he must have “late onset Tourrette’s.”
But Ted is right. College campuses, which were once a bastion of tolerance and freedom of expression, have become dogmatic snake pits. Individuals who voice opposition to liberal or progressive views are branded as bigots, racists and intolerant. As a result, many choose to remain silent. They are forced into submission out of fear of being ostracized by their peers.
Ted acknowledges that his actions were self-destructive and questions if he “set himself on fire to protest his own complacency.” Once he frees himself of this dogmatic campus environment, his creativity is ignited. He finally overcomes his writer’s block.
Ted realizes that individuals must not be imprisoned by this modern form of thought police. Ultimately, “Submission” sounds the alarm bells for all adults interacting with youth: It is dangerous to give in to them rather than to lead and guide them.
As the popular saying goes, “Keep an open mind, but not so open that your brains fall out.” Rather, free thought requires judgement and strength of conviction. Truth is not for the young to make up according to their whims but is objective and eternal.