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Mother of 2 takes stand against Disney’s ‘Teaching Mrs. Tingle&

GRANT PARISH, La. (BP)–Susan Clarius had never before played the role of an activist.
But the mother of two decided to take a stand when she saw a TV advertisement for a new push-the-envelope movie, “Teaching Mrs. Tingle,” released by a subsidiary of The Disney Company.
“My mom, a member of Alpine Baptist Church in Rapidese Parish, had heard about this horrible new movie … in the announcements before the sermon,” Clarius said. “Then I saw an advertisement about it on TV. I just felt sick to my stomach. The movie trailer seemed to imply that a bunch of students kidnap and kill a teacher they don’t like.”
Concerned, Clarius contacted Focus on the Family in Colorado, which gave her the number of Movieguide, a Christian magazine which reviews movies. She called and a representative of the magazine read her a description of the new movie, called “Teaching Mrs. Tingle,” released by Disney’s Miramax subsidiary.
“I thought to myself, it’s time for school to open and Hollywood releases a movie in which students kidnap and torture a teacher,” Clarius said. “I couldn’t believe it. Even after what happened at Columbine High School, they made a movie like that.”
Clarius said something inside of her snapped. “I think I know now what Jesus felt when he turned over the tables of the money lenders at the temple. It was a burning indignation, a righteous anger that seemed to immediately focus and direct me.”
A substitute schoolteacher, Clarius said she already has to deal with often-unruly students who don’t need any further suggestions as to how they might disrupt classes or make a name for themselves.
Clarius got on the phone and called both movie theaters in nearby Alexandria, La. Both managers said if they got the movie, they would play it without compunction. Clarius got the phone numbers for the district manager of each theater.
“Then I got this brainstorm, which I attribute directly to God. He told me to call local politicians and get them involved,” said Clarius, a member of the Christian Worship Center, an Assemblies of God congregation in Alexandria.
So she began calling city council members, school board members, mayors of neighboring towns, state representatives and state senators and candidates for local offices. Each told her they would also call the movie theaters’ district managers and register their complaints.
“We all asked that the movie not come to Alexandria,” Clarius recounted. Each manager was polite, but refused to commit. But a few days after she began calling on people to register their complaints, Clarius said she opened the section of her local paper that carries movie ads and saw a display ad for Teaching Mrs. Tingle. Stamped across it was the word “canceled.”
The two district managers for the local theaters told area reporters they had each received dozens of phone calls asking the movie not be shown in Alexandria. Now, thanks to Clarius, the nearest place to view the movie is in Lafayette, more than an hour’s drive away.
“I want you to understand, I am not an activist and am not anti-movie,” Clarius said. “But this movie goes beyond the pale. The original title was ‘Killing Mrs. Tingle’ and the students in it kidnapped, tortured and murdered the teacher. But after Columbine, the studio renamed it and filmed a different ending.”
The PG-13 movie, which costars Katie Holmes of the teen heartthrob series “Dawson’s Creek,” finished 10th at the box office nationally during its opening weekend, Aug. 20, tallying a Disney-disappointing $3.5 million in ticket sales.
“You know, advertisers pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to run 30-second ads on national TV with the hope that they will influence viewers to buy their product,” Clarius reflected. “If ads influence people, how much more does the actual content?”
Clarius said she was not worried that her own two children, ages 9 and 13, would see the film but that other kids would see it who have not been raised in a loving, Christian family and taught proper morals.
“What if some kids who are being raised in a dysfunctional household, maybe one without a father, and who confuse love with attention, saw the movie and got an idea? What if kids around the nation see it and act it out in real life?” Clarius asked.
Clarius said she wonders what lengths Hollywood will go to present entertainment. “Hollywood says it reflects society. But I’ve never heard of a group of students kidnapping and torturing a teacher. Have you? So is this mirroring society, or leading it?”
Clarius said she has received calls from people around the nation who heard of her battle through reading Associated Press news stories about the steps she took. She has also been interviewed by two area television stations and Christian radio stations.
“One lady in Dallas called and wanted to know everything I did so that she could try and do the same thing there. I wished her luck, because instead of one or two theaters, like I have here, she must have dozens in the Dallas metropolitan area,” Clarius said.
Locally, several parents have called to express their appreciation and kids at church and in the community have stopped her and said thanks, she said.
“So far, I haven’t got one negative comment about this at all.”
Clarius said she would get involved again to stop what she considers a deplorable movie from airing in her little town.
“We live way out here in the middle of Louisiana. We have what I feel is a very safe community. I don’t want or need people giving our kids ideas about how to terrorize people they don’t like,” Clarius said. “We have enough of that going around in real life to go see Hollywood glorify it on the silver screen.”

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  • Daniel Walker Guido