An Aug. 6 outdoor screening of the Arnold Schwarzenegger film “Kindergarten Cop,” scheduled to commemorate both Oregon filmmaking and the movie’s 30th anniversary, has been canceled after a Portland author claimed the comedy makes light of the “school-to-prison pipeline.”
According to Willamette Week, Portland’s NW Film Center (NWFC) decided, after discussions with “staff and community members,” that screening “Kindergarten Cop” to open their “Cinema Unbound” drive-in summer movie series at Zidell Yards would be ill-advised, given the current political climate. The 1990 movie, which was filmed in Oregon and features Schwarzenegger as a cop who goes undercover at an elementary school, will be replaced with a screening of “Good Trouble,” a documentary about late Rep. John Lewis (D-GA).
NWFC’s decision came shortly after Lois Leveen complained on Twitter about the Schwarzenegger comedy. According to her website, Leveen’s work “has appeared in the New York Times, the LA Review of Books, the Chicago Tribune, the Huffington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic and on NPR.”
NWFC maintained to Willamette Week that it was not just Leveen’s concerns to which they responded, but “a dozen others, including Black community members who asked us to consider opening the Drive-In with a different movie.” Nevertheless, they responded directly to her Saturday tweetstorm, which has since been locked, in which she wrote:
What’s so funny about School-to-Prison pipeline? Kindergarten Cop-Out: Tell [NWFC] there’s nothing fun in cops traumatizing kids. National reckoning on overpolicing is a weird time to revive Kindergarten Cop. IRL, we are trying to end the school-to-prison pipeline. There’s nothing entertaining about the presence of police in schools, which feeds the ‘school-to-prison’ pipeline in which African American, Latinx and other kids of color are criminalized rather than educated. 5- and 6-year-olds are handcuffed and hauled off to jail routinely in this country. And this criminalizing of children increases dramatically when cops are assigned to work in schools.
“It’s true Kindergarten Cop is only a movie. So are Birth of a Nation and Gone With the Wind, but we recognize films like those are not ‘good family fun,'” Leveen added. “They are relics of how pop culture feeds racist assumptions. Because despite what the movie shows, in reality, schools don’t transform cops. Cops transform schools, and in an extremely detrimental way.”
Despite NWFC’s willingness to cancel “Kindergarten Cop,” Leveen told Willamette Week she was still displeased with the organization, writing in an email: “I have been a Silver Screen members for years, and an NWFC patron even longer, and I know how seldom their screenings attract substantial numbers of BIPOC [Black, Indigenous and People of Color] audience members. When a white-dominant institution cannot honestly admit their error and insensitivity, it does not suggest they will avoid similar errors and insensitivities in the future.”
In the wake of the nationwide turmoil after George Floyd’s death, HBO pulled “Gone with the Wind” from its streaming platform with the intention of re-releasing with it with an introduction from Turner Classic Movies host Jacqueline Stewart, a professor of Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago, who argued the 1939 classic “is a prime text for examining expressions of white supremacy in popular culture.”