A Different World

I want her as a teacher!
I want her as a teacher!

A Different World

Okay, so my boss is out of town. It’s not my fault that she left me with nothing to do!

This lack of work became a sticking point last August when I threatened to quit. And I would have, had my intuition not kicked in and “told” me that doing this would be a mistake. No problem, I came back. But in my resignation letter, #1 of my complaints was the fact that I had very little work to do.

When I first got hired, it’s true that they wanted me for only 24 hours a week. Which was too few for me, and I managed to get 30 hours quite easily.

My boss, a director of a charity raising funds for a university in Israel, likes having me around. She’s very protective of the work done so I have very little room to move when it comes to doing things on my own initiative.

So, with her off to Florida for two weeks, I have been occupying my time cleaning out old files from the 80’s and 90’s, making our office less of a museum and more of an up-to-date kind of place, ready to move forward when our tired and jaded director finally takes her retirement.

I don’t know. One day she might ask me for something from 1984 and I’ll be unable to find it, knowing full well that the relevant files were sent to recycling months ago.

She doesn’t like to throw things away, which is not the greatest failing in the world. It gives her much pride to answer a donor who is asking a question about someone from the past, i.e. “What year was Dr. Smith a member of the Board of Governors?” and be able to come up with the answer instead of “Gee, that was 30 years ago! I have no idea.”

Anyway, besides clearing space in our filing cabinets, I have been tuning into Netflix and watching, of all things, Danish television series. (Looking at the screen doesn’t impede one’s ability to pull out staples.)

I had read about these Danish television series in an extensive article in Atlantic Magazine. They’ve actually become famous for their daring ideas, great acting and super plotlines. They also give us a glimpse into a different, though somewhat similar, world as ours. Danish people, like Canadians, are a liberal people.

Yet, in Rita, an 8-episode series that came out in 2012, the main character’s 17-year-old son is not only gay, but finds himself in an extremely understanding and accepting school. This is a far more Danish than Canadian reality. Everyone is school knows that he’s gay. He does have his bicycle tires slashed and someone calls him a “faggot” on Facebook but that’s about it. No drama, no angst, except the fact that he begins to go out with a boy that he doesn’t really love and only in the last episode does he express his feelings to the boy who he’s crazy about.

He does this at the wedding reception of Rita’s other son. When Jedde finishes his speech in honour of the bride and groom, he goes over to one of the servers, who happens to be the beloved in question and kisses him on the mouth. Everyone in the room applauds.

Could you imagine such a scene in a Canadian or American series? Let’s say that mother, brother and sister all accept the gayness of their younger brother. Still, at the wedding reception, younger brother, in front of all the wedding guests, goes over and kisses one of the male servers on the mouth. Would you expect applause?

Such is the wonders of watching a television series instead of a movie, where you have a real chance of getting to know the characters, all from a different country.

And what about Rita, herself? She’s an elementary school teacher who, when school’s out, spends her time having sex, in his office (door locked, of course) with the school principal. I tried to imagine an American take on a school teacher with an elevated libido, single, female, divorced, having sex with not only the school principal but also the father of one of the students (this eventually gets her fired) and an old flame. In the American take, this would begin to look like a satire in no time, or weak comedy.

But Rita the series, although funny at times, places the Rita the teacher as really a wise and intelligent teacher who has it together professionally though not personally. The school kids respect her and admire her. Her personal failings are not hidden.

What I found most interesting was the glimpse it gave me into Danish society.

So now I’m on the lookout for more of these Danish gems, and seem to have found one in another series I’ve just started: Dicte, about a Danish police journalist, also recently divorced (great for potential love interests, I suppose) and while I’m only on Episode 1, it looks like a winner.



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