The Sub    (aka alternate title: “Creative Destruction”)


April 28, 2006

This script, treatment and notes were displayed on this site from March 2005 until the date above. The script was a short of about forty pages. I have expanded it to feature length and removed it from public display.  I have added a courtroom trial sequence, which I think imparts a lot more ideas; work goes on to make the dialogue and characters as realistic and natural as possible. I save other scripts that are not available for viewing.


The script does deal with a troubling subject: a substitute teacher gets accused of improper involvement with a minor, gets sent to prison and dies there. It is ambiguous as to whether the teacher really is “guilty” or should be convicted in a legal sense, so there is some injustice and tragedy. But the minor does play his musical work in public, as a kind of eternal or vicarious vindication. Beyond that, I’m not continuing to give out more details of the story.


During the past six or so months, there have been many sensational media reports about this problem, and there seems to be an increase in reported incidents and prosecutions of many teachers and other adults.  This subject matter has been used in some commercial films, such as Student Seduction on Lifetime in 2004, Whole New Thing (Canada) from Picture This/ThinkFilm in 2006, or The History Boys and Notes on a Scandal both (UK) (Fox Searchlight, 2006) (same link). Nevertheless, the display of my material in such a public matter was particularly upsetting to some people. The script did not contain any explicit depictions of sexual acts and was not objectionable in an objective sense in the way some Internet content is objectionable (such as pornographic) or even illegal. The circumstances however made it provocative. Do I have as much right to delve into material like this as NBC/Universal or Lions Gate/Lifetime?  Maybe not always, without “paying my dues.”  They are bigger than I am, and that is not a very satisfying answer. There is a subtle legal issue involving “self-libel” and fiction, which by definition is more subject to evaluation by the reader’s emotions and prejudices as well as objective intellect; that’s a major part of the issue. The political climate regarding Internet speech and behavior is becoming more unstable, because of a flow of media reports about misuse of the Internet by minors (on social networking sites) and of sexual predators visiting chatrooms (the NBC Dateline “To Catch a Predator” series). It’s important to realize that the acceptability of content posted in an unrestricted public space can change rapidly (and the likelihood that some legal theory previously viewed as frivolous might really be used) as “times change” because of external social events.


I will list a number of important ideas covered by the script:

(1) the complications for gay special ed teachers caused by the military “don’t ask don’t tell”

(2) the enormous maturity range among students

(2.5) body image problems of an older teacher in front of students (in the preview still available here, the 60-something year-old-male character is ashamed to show up in swimming trunks in front of students because of his balding legs -- the protagonist is entitled to his shame over what Dr. Phil gratuitously calls “tissue death” -- or maybe just rust and oxidation); the fact that some subs have not raise kids and that administrators might expect them to have done so

(3) the controversy over whether writers are “real people” (based on a real assignment at Hayfield)

(4)  the possibility that even a “good kid” might play games with a sub

(5) a lot of information about the psychological importance of classical music

(6) the contingent nature of substitute teaching from an administrator’s point of view

(7) the relationship between teaching and pseudo-parenting

(8) defibrillators in school

(9) the attitudes of parents towards gay teachers

(10) the carelessness of business establishments in admitting underage customers

(11) the legal definition of sexual battery; the issue of intent; the issue of arousal; passive solicitation

(12) zoning laws, apartments, and writers

(13) the sexual offender registry, how it works

(14) reparative therapy

(15) does an artist’s work redeem him after his passing?

(16) There is some relationship to legal theories of “rebuttable presumptionundergirding the military “don’t ask don’t tell” Federal law from 1993. See note 121a at this footnote file link. Also see this 1995 essay, “Perils of Rebuttable Presumptions.”  A related concept is “propensity,” like “pre-crime” or “thoughtcrime” in the film Minority Report. Included is the general idea that the military “don’t ask don’t tell” policy for gays could legally affect civilians in some circumstances.

(17) A philosophical play on the value of one’s life: is it in the life’s being lived, or in the life’s external work (music). The music is supposed to have a “Dorian Gray” effect.


A significant event in the story is the saving of the protagonist’s life by the student with a defibrillator. Apparently very school public schools actually have these yet (airports have them) but they will probably arrive in the schools over time. Here is a story from the DC Examiner 12/26/2005.


There are up to five commercial films called “The Substitute,” some of them with Treat Williams playing an undercover substitute teacher investigating problems in schools. There are details on  Some of them come from Artisan Entertainment.  I review the last of these films (and the TV film).


There is more information on my links on blogging and intellectual property.


The JonBenet Ramsey case, when it broke in August 2006 with the arrest in Thailand of former elementary school teacher John Mark Karr, raises the question of teacher applicant screening and of the practice of “passing the trash.”


©Copyright 2004/2006 by Bill Boushka (including the script itself).  All rights reserved. Please see contact information on this website. This is a work of fiction.


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