My favorite part about teaching high school is opening up discussions of controversial subjects and asking hard questions. My daughter is working on a ½ credit elective by completing an Introduction to Psychology.
I found the Elephant Man to be a great psychology movie for high school class.
Even if you are not teaching psychology, the movie Elephant Man can open the door to discussions about how society treats those with special needs, why are people frightened by what they do not understand and if it is okay to choose when to die.
I remembered hearing the movie’s name but did not recall if I had ever watched it. I did a quick read on Wikipedia, not a place to cite from but a great place to get an overview.
- Since Elephant Man is based on a true story, either before or after the movie take some time to read more about Joseph Merrick. Take a moment to understand the rare disease that caused his deformity.
- If you have a child interested in movie production, I suggest taking a look at why the producer chose to film the movie in black and white in 1980.
- Then research which Academy Award came into existence because of the movie Elephant Man.
- There is a brief scene where the doctor is performing a surgery on a man injured by a machine. In the scene you can quickly notice the difference in operating room protocols.
- Complete a venn diagram comparing medical procedures of surgeries performed in the Victorian age and surgeries done today. If you can handle graphic blood scenes, BBC has a YouTube on the History of Surgeries.
Psychology Movie for High School Class: Discussion
- Society’s Treatment of those with Special Needs:
- In the movie it is easy to notice that anyone who had any physically difference was shunned by society. They either found a life performing in a carnival show or lived in a hospital for the incurables. Laws were not in place to protect those who could not speak for themselves.
- Choose a diagnosis, disease, or genetic condition and create a time line on how society has changed its treatment over the last 100 years. For example, 40 years ago my mother chose to bring my brother home instead of having him institutionalized because he had Downs Syndrome. Today some mothers choose to homeschool their children with Downs Syndrome.
- Do you think it is okay for parents to screen their unborn babies for genetic diseases? Would you want to know if your unborn child was going to be born with a medical issue?
- Why are People Frightened by What They Do Not Understand:
- Often when the Elephant Man went out in public he covered his head. How do you handle a situation when seeing someone in public who is different? What things frighten you? Why do you think people get scared of the unknown?
- In the movie, the Elephant Man is harshly treated by the man in the carnival who puts him on display. Then the doctor takes over his care but allows society to visit him in the hospital. Both men are allowing society to view the Elephant Man, but one man treats him cruelly and the other kindly. Does the difference in treatment make it okay for the doctor to allow strangers to visit with the Elephant Man?
- If you have younger siblings discuss with them how to handle seeing people in public who are different. Do some research on tips and discuss with your parents which age appropriate ideas would help your siblings.
- Choosing When to Die:
- In the end of the movie, the Elephant Man takes all the pillows off his bed and lays down. He knows that laying flat will result in his death.
- Write an augmentative paper on whether a terminal patient has the right to choose when to die.
Psychology Movie for High School Class: Current Events:
Can you find any current events that address, answer, or discuss events that were portrayed in the movie Elephant Man?