I was actually finding Bad Teacher somewhat entertaining – in that way that Hollywood movies make you overlook their ample shortcomings with crisp sound and quick pacing. That is, until it became glaringly obvious that the movie was less about Cameron Diaz being a bad teacher and more about furthering a racist agenda. Here are 10 instances which point to this conclusion.

1. In the movie, Elizabeth Halsey (Diaz) plans to get breast enhancement surgery to attract a rich husband, so she looks at magazine photos to find the perfect breasts. Such as the one, below, of white women dressed in elegant evening gowns.

The photo of black women?

Elizabeth (Diaz) finds this image looking through a travel magazine on women in Africa. In contrast to the earlier photo, these black women are topless, suggesting primitiveness, savagery, and showing a general lack of respect for black women’s bodies.

2. Taking another jab at the African continent, Scott (Justin Timberlake) said:

We discovered this new Ethiopian restaurant. They finally got their own cuisine. Progress.

Is it progress that Africans/blacks actually own something? Or that Ethopians are no longer starving?

3. On a school field trip two teachers suddenly start talking about slavery:

Scott (Timberlake):You know, when President Lincoln abolished slavery, it was not a popular opinion.
Elizabeth (Diaz): Hmm.
Scott (Timberlake): I just hate slavery so so much.
Elizabeth (Diaz): Slavery’s the worst.
Scott (Timberlake): If I could go back in time and undo slavery, I would. I hate it.

Can you say… white guilt? And definitely not a sincere guilt.

4. On being not able to afford breast enhancement surgery…

Office Secretary: The total is 9300 for the surgery, plus one night’s stay at our facility. How would you like to pay?
Elizabeth (Diaz): That’s absurd. I’m a teacher, not a drug dealer.

5. Later, there’s voiceover and a clip from Dangerous Minds (1995) of Louanne Johnson (Michelle Pfeiffer) saying:

When I go to my grave, my head will be high. There are no victims in this classroom.

Next, Amy (Lucy Punch), Elizabeth’s teacher nemesis, is seen savagely beating a pinata to shreds. She is blindfolded with a red bandana to the audio of screaming children and Coolio’s Gangster’s Paradise. (Gang rivalry gone wrong?)

The next shots show bandana-wearing Amy mean mugging Elizabeth who is dressed in black shades and a black dress. (Funeral attire?)

6. Giving advice to a white student on getting a girlfriend…

Elizabeth (Diaz): Here’s the deal man. I cannot keep sugarcoating this for you. This girl is never going to be interested in you. Never. You clearly have rich interior life with the poems and whatever but she wants a guy like Ian what’s-his-face
Boy: Ian Mendelbaum? The rapper?
(She nods.)

Boy: He’s an idiot!

Elizabeth: Yeah he’s a fucking moron! But she doesn’t care. She’s superficial and her priorities are all fucked up.

Translation: Black men (rappers) do not have brains or intellect (rich interior life). They are idiots and morons and if any white girl wants to date them, she must be superficial and have misguided priorities.

7. The only black male student is the movie is engaged in a passionate argument about LeBron James and Michael Jordan, while white students talk about school books and grades.

Other minority groups and of course the educational system also received some attention…

8. After grading her students’ sub-par tests, Elizabeth (Diaz) said:

Pathetic, this is why the Japs are overtaking us. And believe me, I don’t mean you.

Then she points to an Asian(?) kid in her class. Is he Japanese? Maybe. But he could also be Korean, Chinese, from some other Asian group or from some other continent altogether. But this scene assumes all Asians look the same. While ‘Japs’ is also a derogatory way of referring to Japanese people.

9. On racial bias on standardized tests:

Elizabeth (Diaz): I’ve been speaking to various, uh black… citizens who alleged that your tests are biased towards white people and Orientals.
State Test Official: Ok, let me tell you something right away. A: Orientals test better. B: Every couple of years, we get these cock-a-mammy charges coming in from various parts of the state. You should hear the things that they call me. Racist and fag-a-tron and faggy Hitler and dick breath. Ok? But
I am not racist. I voted for Obama.

Note that whites are the only group referred to as ‘people.’ After Cameron Diaz says the word black, she struggles to come up with a word of how to describe blacks – people wouldn’t be accurate – so she settles on citizens. Even hearing the word ‘citizens’ causes the state test official to squirm and look up to the ceiling as if this word too may not be fitting.

Stereotyping Asians as model minorities and referring to them as Oriental is also offensive. And cock-a-mammy? Fags? Obama? Really?

10. Amy (Punch) on teaching at a new school:

When the superintendent personally asks you to work at one of the worst schools in the state… well, you say yes. And boy I am looking forward to bringing my brand of zany energy to those underprivileged students at Malcolm X High School.

Of course ‘black students’ are never mentioned directly, but what else comes to mind when you talk about a school named after a black civil rights leader?

And just for fun, here’s another reference…

There’s a brief video clip from Lean on Me (1989) in which Morgan Freeman said:

There’s only one boss around here, and that’s me. The HNIC.

(read: Head Nigga In Charge)

* * *

Maybe if there were just one or two or even three comments or if the majority of them had any real relevance to the plot, it would be difficult to label them as intentionally racist. You can disagree with the way blacks are portrayed in the Blind Side (2010) or Precious (2010), but the main characters are overweight, under-educated, poor, and a host of other things so a stereotypical outlook, although not desired, forms the spine of the story.

Bad Teacher, on the other hand, seemingly has nothing to do with race but wants everything to do with race. There’s no question that the movie’s race jokes are more offensive than funny. All that’s left to decide is who amongst director Jake Kasdan, producer Jimmy Miller, writing team Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg, and some uncredited writer(s) deserve credit for achieving this new ceiling of racial insensitivity.


  1. Hmmm. so a comedy about terrible people has people who are terrible. i guess that there are other ways to be terrible. but, since the characters are contemptible and/or stupid, i worry more about what this film says about teachers.

  2. I thought the subtle racism expressed by the characters was intended to make the audience dislike them even further. It accomplished that for me.

    Also, the who Ian Mendelbaum thing…that’s not a rapper in real life, is it? Because I promise you if that’s a rapper, he’s a Asher Roth type.

  3. True, only there was no one left to like, for me, lol. I thought a movie was supposed to make us like at least the main character a little bit?

    So that’s where the question of ‘Bad Teacher’ intended target audience comes into play, or?

  4. The movie could have been better. It’s like they had a good idea, didn’t bother to finish writing it. It ended up being a bunch of one liners. Now while teaching is harder than they made it seem. I know a teacher like each of the teachers in that movie. I had a friend who was a bad teacher, former lawyer. She used to full on sleep in class and show movies, keep in mind we taught blind kids, so that was pretty messed up.

  5. She was a lawyer, the principal’s husband was a lawyer. She had a Harvard degree, so no she didn’t get fired, but I did get transferred for being too nosy about it, so Bad Teacher was very realistic in that regards.

    • Unbelievable… it’s a good thing you left that flock, those kinda alliances and the headaches that come with them are better left outta your life… they are always unhealthy.
      So Lark, I am curious about what you think of the subtle allusions to race in this film and how it makes teachers look.

  6. Tenure (the right to due process protects teachers like me) not teachers like her, if tenure went a way people like her would still have a job, because they have the right friends.

  7. Well….I think the education profession needs some education up training in regards to diversity. The racial comments in the film weren’t so far from what I’ve experienced working in the schools. Keep in mind I’m one person. There are many stories. Other people’s experience of course may differ.

    I don’t necessarily know if that film was bashing teachers or just bashing that shallow middle class person who doesn’t think too much beyond what is in front of their nose.

    That movie could have been good, but it was so bad. I think the racial comments in the film were used in the tradition of the unreliable narrator, though it did feel a bit hipster racist at times. I think the person who made the film did the race part to make the people look bad, but also because they probably had some issues. It seemed to be the same group (black) that was the problem over and over again.

  8. Really interesting observation and insight 🙂 Initially I was indifferent about the comments… but the repeated nature and constant referrals to one group drew my attention and I begun to look at the movie in an entirely different light.

    Otherwise the entertainment value for me was there… then again, it really doesn’t take much on a well shot movie to get me enthralled, lol.

  9. After the first example they don’t say anything about race. For example who is to say she meant a black drug dealer. I don’t know about you but I know just as many white boys that sell drugs as black guys. In the conversations that they shared they never said anything about race. I think those examples did not prove the point. I think it’s a comedy and it was supposed to be funny. It’s ok to say you didn’t find it funny but saying it was racist was a bit extra.

    • I see. I think you are right about some of the allusions made in this movie to race (black people), they were not explicit. When they are not explicit, then they are debatable. Maybe this is what you mean by ‘really reaching’. Right?

      But I think, as with most racial priming, implicit referrals to a particular race especially in a negative sense – like when you put a bandana on a ‘violent’, ‘aggressive’, ‘cantankerous’ white girl – may not elicit racial sentiments. Taken together with all the other scenarios expressed in the article, it is hard to refuse that we stand to suffer from some cumulative manifestation of it.

      I see where you are coming from and your argument is just as valid. In fact it is the same side of the debate, except we do not agree to it’s far reaching effect. No?
      The debate here lies, I think, and correct me if you think otherwise, is whether you think if we put all these racial primings together, it will have an effect or become significantly racist, if you wish?

  10. I guess we just see things differently. I don’t associate bandanas with violence and aggression. Do you think the same thing when you see a cancer patient wearing a bandana to cover their lose of hair? It’s all in the way you see it.

    I am not saying I am wearing my rose colored glasses but I do want to give people the benefit of the doubt before I start labeling them as racist writers. Of course if someone were to point out every example it would seem more racist than if we were to allow someone to form their own opinion. As educators we still have to teach people to form their own opinions and not force feed them making them jaded and bitter.

    • True that… the more sides they see, the more different ways they can learn to look at it, the more angles they can attack it from, the better! 🙂

  11. @Lee Grace – By they way, if you don’t mind me asking, are you an educator, like what particular role, teacher, educationalist?

    • I am a educator. I was a working in a charter school as a building substitute teacher but for the past 2 years I have been working in early childhood education. (preschool teacher)

  12. Are you for real? This reads like a parody of racism-spotting.
    For a start, Timberlake’s character is consistently portrayed as an idiot, and his inane comments about Ethiopia or slavery (or sharks) merely reinforce the point.
    As for the cost of the breast surgery, the film never equated being a drug dealer with being black. I think you just did, however.
    Furthermore, Ian Mendelbaum, the rapper, has a clearly Jewish name!
    I can’t believe anybody could hold that the authors’ point of view is the same as the characters’. The audience is clearly not supposed to share Diaz’s values, priorities or attitude.
    Isn’t it obvious that “I’m not racist, I voted for Obama” was meant as a lame excuse by the authors, too?
    Finally, public schools in poor neighbourhoods, especially mostly black ones, are consistently, demonstrably bad, due to a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with black people being inherently worse students or human beings. Using a stereotypical “black school” name as a byword for a bad school does have a hint of racism, but unfortunately it’s not so far from reality.

  13. I know. We couldn’t agree more! Albeit, it’s still worth a watch… if you are kinda bored – we gotta see it to know what’s going on, right?

  14. I just watched the movie yesterday and in my opinion I think of the movie as a peach. (Now bear with me here). The peach is a juicy fruit with a hard-core seed in the center, now if think of the seed as racist connotations which the movie very well has, the juicy part is covering up the seed with sweetness (humor).. but at the end of eating the peach the seed remains. Now this is the most important part; what you do with the seed. The aim of the writers is to implant chapter 11 of mein kampf into our minds and yes it would sound absurd being that the writers and directors are Jews but this is key in understanding the dimensions of hollywood. The movie has a deeper meaning and aim besides creating a race hierarchy in your mind. Thanks to Ann Mamie for highlighting this …more power to your “I”

  15. As a black women I saw the movie and regret even going to see it..other then the racism used in the movie the movie sucked badly…i even heard a white guy in front of us yell out racist during one of the scenes. I’m not one to complain about racism because you don’t make me and sure can’t break me. but I had to give my two cents on this movie..very poor taste. I hope there are not teacher’s out there like these they portray in the movie..

  16. This is possibly the dumbest article I’ve ever read. Go buy one of those magazines and open a page randomly and tell me how many “white women” are on it. If anything you should be holding the magazine responsible. Secondly, have you ever been to parts of africa? If you go to places like Rwanda for example, you will plenty of tribal women walking around topless, its not a sexual thing over there, its just skin. Thirdly, the Abe Lincoln part, so if you could go back time you wouldn’t end slavery? You seem to have a problem with justins character wanting to, you misinterreted an annoying, eccentric character as a racist character. Fourthly, drug dealers make quick easy cash, teachers don’t have great salaries, I’m not even sure why you thought that was racist. I’m bored now, the rest is just as stupid

  17. I thought the movie was hysterical. It was meant to be a comedy and failed to see the racism except maybe for the part where the one teacher was being transferred to the “bad” school. Anyway..I do agree that you were reaching to find the racism in this movie. I am a buracial woman and love all movies..but I bet Tyler Perry can put out a movie having his characters saying nothing but racial remarks and no one would say a thing about it.

  18. “White women dressed in elegant evening gowns”. So what?
    “These black women are topless, suggesting primitiveness, savagery”. – Hey, that’s Africa. And that’s how those tribes traditionally dress and show their cultures! What can we do if they do live that way. It’s a reality there. Just take a trip to there to check that yourself!
    “Start talking about slavery”. – Since when has it been forbidden to talk about history?
    “I’m a teacher, not a drug dealer”. – There are many more drug dealers representing various ethnicities in this world than African American criminals!
    “Funeral attire?” – You’re jealous? Or black doesn’t fit you well?
    “Ian Mendelbaum? The rapper?” – Since when are rappers only black? How about Eminem?
    “Other minority groups”. – Whites are the only true minority, considering that our population is less than of non-whites and plus we’re decreasing in numbers.
    “And of course the educational system” – Good gracious, criticizing an education system is racist too?
    “Pathetic, this is why the Japs are overtaking us. And believe me, I don’t mean you”. – So what? Asians are good at studying.
    “Note that whites are the only group referred to as ‘people.’” – I didn’t notice that through the whole movie!
    “Underprivileged students” – this is your own interpretation of this term as referring to blacks. No one said that in the movie!

  19. This movie clearly isn’t racist and the Ethiopian restaurant line sets Jason Segal up for the funniest bit. some critics are so bait when they target movies.

  20. The Movie is interesting, that the Bad teacher wins. Racist? I believe, someone with the agenda, can find racism, in anything. Is the Truth Racist. That is the real question.

  21. This whole movie critique is hilarious. Are you serious!? You have the audacity to take a movie like this (a comedy mind you) and think it is somehow a statement of series issues, commentary or struggles of the times we live in. This is not Shakespeare or Arthur Miller “IT IS A C-O-M-E-D-Y!!!!!” not even based on a book. To boot, what makes you think I need you to interpret the meaning of any of these scenes for me with your half-baked leftist agenda. Yes, agenda!!!! To think a movie like this could seriously have an agenda you would need to have an agenda of your own!

  22. Ok, I squirmed once or twice but on reflection: a) ( 1 ) everyone has larger breasts that CD’S character, you can argue racial stereotyping maybe here BUT the point being made is her narrow-minded obsession, additionally, the movie is ultimately about authenticity and CD rejects the narrowminded, status focused paradigm epitomised by the ‘hello’ women, arguably in favour of a more genuine approach perhaps more similar to the african imagery (although with smaller breasts herself) b) (2) JT’s character is a focal point for the quasi-moral message (broadly be yourself, rebel against convention) in the movie, and the fact that ethiopia actually has a well-developed cuisine and he was not aware of it further undermines the ‘worldliness’ and aptness of the comments he makes. This is a recurring joke in the movie, JT vascillates between being offensively and inoffensively bland, c) (3) the insincereity of JT’s character here (it is a redundant comment as far as cutting edge civil rights or human rights commentary goes, and is a comment a lot of people make unthinkingly) is the whole point of the joke. JT is then sent up by the gym teacher in a humourous skit about sharks – irony, something this review lacks, d) (4) I don’t see the racist comment here in merely saying ‘drug dealer’, it’s well-known that drug-dealing makes cash quickly, something teachers often complain about not being able to do, it might be a dangerous minds reference, it could also be an internal reference to the character’s own drug habit e) (5) Surely this is a humourous reference to Dangerous Minds – CD is blonde and very attractive (as was Michelle Pfeiffer), the bandana’d foe-teacher beating a red white and blue (small town USA) pinnata is a light-hearted poke at the parallel between the current movie and the (very good movie) Dangerous Minds that preceded it. It is also a foreshadowing of the end of the movie. The black dress being funeral attire, I just cannot make racist even in context. I thought CD was being a femme fatale here. f) (6) The contrast here is between rappers (street smart) and poets (the cliche would have it that they are anything but street smart). Both deal in rhyme, and let’s be honest the kid was not a great poet or rhyme artist, however, perhaps the parallel is drawn between the status obsessed, CD’s character and the object of the budding poet’s affections. The point would then be about how vacuous the objects of their respective affections are- Justin Timberlake – ‘the heir’ ( and ‘popular’ music star) and the ‘rapper’. Perhaps the flaw is in how they are prioritising their affections- CD does end up a guidance counsellor after all, the moment here is one of self-realisation for CD. g) (7) You can argue racial stereotyping here, however, the kid actually makes the more cogent arguments and the white gym teacher is interested in basketball as well. Basketball is one of the most popular sports in the USA, maybe everyone likes it, h) (8) This commentary is an ironic send up of criticism of the education testing system, a point that is developed later on in the film. Yes ‘Jap’ is a derogatory way of referring to japanese people. At the same time CD is a BAD TEACHER- that’s kinda the point of the movie. She is on the road to redemption/self-realisation at this point. She is anything but a role model. Arguably, by referring to the kid in her class at this point she could be doing a number of things, one of which may be disassociating the term ‘japs’ from the asian kid in her class, and thereby referring more to the kind of xenophobic patriotism that accompanies analyses of the education system- japs the external ‘other’, i) (9) This comment in your review is misconceived and arguably borders on being paranoid. CD is now being a BAD JOURNALIST, it is humourous that the STO responds to it at all. CD’s character could be sending up bad journalistic practice that assiduously avoids repetition of descriptive terms without any real thought as to the nuances of what the journalist is actually saying. At the same time the reference is to a real debate that is going on the education sector, but delivered humourously and non-commitally. CD is quite lacking in commitment throughout the interview, and we/the audience know what her real motivation is (hence the sketch is funny), the STO (a thoroughly uncool gentleman) expands at will, after all, this is his opportunity to impress an attractive woman. The STO’s response – ‘orientals test better’ refers to real responses given without batting an eyelid by people involved in positions of responsibility in the education and racial debate. He then tries to answer the allegations of racism by saying but ‘I voted for Obama’ as if that in itself actually answers the complex, and loaded, question he has just been asked. j) 10 Admittedly, I did squirm when the name of the school was said. I think the script was going for a reference to a ‘dangerous minds’ reference here (i.e. one stage removed). It is possible that this is more the writer maybe missing the mark than the movie being out and out racist. It is hard to make a subtle joke with an obvious sledgehammer in a hollywood comedy and have everyone marvel at your subtlety.

    Just for fun- here’s another example of how Bad Teacher is poking fun at social conventions and being a comedy- when the STO offers the explanation for giving inconsistent statements at different points he gives a very half-hearted surface explanation of recreational drug use. As if this of itself would account for the fact of the wildly different (and very coherent) accounts he has given in a short space of time. This is kind of a bit like the plot of the entire movie. It’s all a little bit stretched. The ‘lean on me’ reference might just have been a little bit in jest.

    In closing, the reviewer is perhaps trying a little too hard to draw racism out of the movie. Also, quite often he seems to have missed the tongue in cheek, and occasionally ironic, nature of the joke.

  23. Well, she’s a BAD teacher. Why is it a surprise that a bigoted, homophobic, alcoholic, drug addicted, surly, deceitful, selfish person is also racist? I’d be surprised if she wasn’t. Sounds like the character lives up to the title.

    • I am sure what you call ‘Reality’ is what you love the most – supporting racism! Just continue being a racist. It suites you well Jackie Debs!

  24. Wow thats one of my fav movies, Bad Teacher that is I mean both Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch) and Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz) are cute and adorable if you’re into that mean, insensitive bitchy thing..you know what I’m saying bruv? All right there may be a bunch of racist jibes as you just mentioned but let me ask you this aren’t we being a bit too sensitive. I understand the gravity of racism and all but it doesn’t hurt being light minded and laughing at some racist jokes especially if it’s directed at you. I mean you gotta be able to take it but do keep your eyes open when that thing crosses the line, you know what I mean. It doesn’t hurt to laugh once a while. By the way the movie Bad Teacher isn’t racist and insensitive against non-whites only. I mean the way Cameron Diaz shoots down Jason Segel in the beginning, “You’re still a gym teacher, then no?” (she won’t even consider treating him as human just because he’s a mediocre gym teacher in a middle school). Then the way that white kid Morgan gets shot down by his flame, Chase, and is later rebuked by Cameron Diaz for being so lame. I think that girl was a bitch for a 7th grader, it doesn’t hurt laughing and having fun at a frikking poem. Granted the kid was being a bit over-the-top but there is nothing wrong n expressing your feelings. I think while watching Bad Teacher I felt more for the white male characters than the subjects you mentoned (the uncool teachers, the principal, the school standardized test incharge and even a janitor who gets the middle finger from Elizabeth Halsey)).

    Anyway that was the whole point of the movie it’s a BAD TEACHER you’re dealing with. Whether or not she’s turned a new leaf would be clear once a sequel hits the cinemas. In my experience, such characters never change. Become mellow maybe but it’s just the leopard never changes its spots.

  25. Thanks for reminding me of some of the many laughs in “Bad Teacher.” It is a hilarious movie that made $100 million at the box office on a moderate budget.

  26. What about the student caught with boob magazines , as he walks out of the principals office Diaz covers her nose!!

  27. I couldn’t take this article serious, based on how full it is of the authors own projections, instead of actual facts. There are agenda driven connections forced between statements in the movie and racism, that were deliberately put there by the writer, and didn’t happen that way on screen. “Elizabeth (Diaz) finds this image looking through a travel magazine on women in Africa. In contrast to the earlier photo, these black women are topless, suggesting primitiveness, savagery, and showing a general lack of respect for black women’s bodies.”
    Equaling toplessness with primitiveness is a reach. Savagery? By portraying african tribal women in their hometown? “General lack of respect for black womens bodies” borders on being ridiculous. These are african natives in a travel magazine that is in no way mocking or disrespecting their bodies in ANY way. The first picture is Katy Perry, logically on the red carpet in some designer dress. The other are tribal women in a travel magazine, logically in their home and dressed in how it feels natural to them. Trying to misconstrue this as racism is embarassing. Same goes for the rapper’s remark.

    “Black men (rappers) do not have brains or intellect (rich interior life). They are idiots and morons and if any white girl wants to date them, she must be superficial and have misguided priorities” Says who in the movie? Nobody ever claimed being a black men as an umbrella statement, means no brains. She specificaly talked about Ian Mendelbaum being a moron. And that ties back to his individual behavior, not his entire race. Concluding any white girl who wants to date him must be superficial and stupid is also a reach. It’s not any, it’s Chase specifically. And she is superficial and stupid – regardless – of her being white or into black men. She obviously takes interest in people because of their popularity and not because they are black or rappers. That point was made as an assumption by Elizabeth and is not coming from Chase in the first place.

    This article and its further points are really uncomfortable to read, as they try so hard to make points where there arent any. 100% does this movie make comedy intended politically incorrect remarks, but it weren’t the ones discussed here.


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