Photograph by Courtesy Paramount Vantage
The day after Vince Gray trounced Adrian Fenty in the mayoral primary last September, the producers of Waiting for “Superman”
held a fancy premiere at the Newseum, complete with an open bar, free sushi, and a panel discussion featuring Michelle Rhee, then serving as the D.C. Public Schools chancellor. The audience was full of the types of people who turn up in Politico
’s Playbook every morning. For supporters of the no-holds-barred education reform agenda that Rhee champions, the election results were obviously a disappointment. But for the purposes of marketing the movie, they could hardly have been better. By the end of the week, the national narrative was set in stone: Pushing education reform had killed Fenty’s political career; watch this movie to see just what the ungrateful voters of the District had doomed their children to live with instead. Those of us who live here knew better—Fenty’s own inept political instincts did him in—but the other story, and the movie, got all the press. (Never mind that the D.C. school the movie heralded, the SEED School of Washington, was a charter, which meant Rhee had nothing to do with it.) By Oscar time, though, the plight of urban schools had apparently vanished from the zeitgeist, as “Superman”
wasn’t even nominated.