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Liberal Maggie Gyllenhaal Defends ‘Won’t Back Down’ From Anti-Union Criticism

Maggie Gyllenhaal defends 'Won't Back Down'

Maggie Gyllenhaal’s new movie, Won’t Back Down, opened on Friday to mostly negative reviews. The anti-union, pro-charter attack film is receiving a myriad of backlash, protest, and harsh criticism from the America Federation of Teachers, but it boasts at least one liberal advocate: Maggie Gyllenhaal herself.

The central issue of the film, the apparent corruption of the American public education system, is a hot-button topic and difficult to talk about without ruffling many feathers, and the film’s seemingly anti-union message has turned what might have been a thoughtful discussion about the progress of American education into a target for education and labor advocates country-wide. Traditionally characterized as a largely liberal group, one left-leaning voice is conspicuously absent from the deluge of criticism: Actress Maggie Gyllenhaal, who stars as a struggling single mother in Won’t Back Down.

“Clearly — and I don’t know anyone who’d disagree — there are huge problems with the teachers union,” she said during a promotional interview on Friday. “So you can be in support of a teachers union and unions in general, but if you don’t take the time to look at things that are broken … then it will fall apart completely.”

Though Maggie was quick to cite her proud leftist upbringing and general support of unions, she asked, “Can we not even take a look at ways that the teachers union isn’t functioning without being called anti-union?”

Not in the opinion of critics, apparently. Elena Sheppard of PolicyMic says that “the film’s politics would be a non-issue if the story held up, offered something new, or even presented the information in a non-pedantic manner. Instead, the film often feels like a thinly veiled lecture with a few loose characters mixed in.” Another review said that Won’t Back Down is “an absolute fabricated work of fiction, hiding behind the label ‘Inspired by True Events.’ ” Lastly, one reviewer damned the film as a “marriage made in hell between bad politics and bad art.”

What do you think? Did you see Won’t Back Down? Are you a teacher? Do you think that teacher unions need reform? Sound off!

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4 Responses to “Liberal Maggie Gyllenhaal Defends ‘Won’t Back Down’ From Anti-Union Criticism”

  1. Mark Soskin

    Finally got to see it on HBO. As inspiring a movie as Norma Rae 3 decades ago. But Norma Rae was far more fictional and implausible (preposterous): blacks, whites and a Brooklyn Jew getting along to unionize a rural south textile plant that soon wouldn't be able to compete with Asian rivals anyway. The irony is that with private unions nearly all gone, public unions of police, firefighters, and teachers now wield political power (often controlling local elections). Just because billionnaires and wingnuts oppose something doesn't make the object of scorn good guys. American unions are conservative special interests. They are not progressive except if it serves their interests. Members can be as one-issue as tea party fanatics. The film equally attacks administrators, school boards, and unions, but the truest portrayal is how union and management join to defend the status quo no matter how many lives or kids' futures are ruined.