Teachers Protest Viola Davis Film

Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal in Won't Back Down (20th Century Fox)
Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal in Won't Back Down (20th Century Fox)

Viola Davis is no stranger to starring in films whose plotlines are mired in controversy. The Help, for which she won a Screen Actors Guild award, was scrutinized for its portrayal of African-American women and what some said was a sugarcoating and misrepresentation of 1960s race relations.


Now Won't Back Down, in which she stars as a concerned parent pushing to make changes in the local public school system, is the subject of protests by teachers who disagree with its take on unions and argue that charter schools aren't the answer to America's education dilemma. From the Atlanta BlackStar:

While the plot line and previews have the makings for an updated version of "Lean On Me," not everyone is excited about the movie's release. During Sunday night's Hollywood premiere at Ziegfeld Theatre, protesters showed up along the red carpet with loud chants and signs like, “Won’t Back Down get out of town." …

When appearing on the TODAY show Monday morning Davis applauded the courageousness yet addressed the protesters, stating, "I welcome protests. I welcome discourse; I think discourse is a good thing. I think it spearheads change … And you know what, in this movie the teacher at the end of the day is the hero. They save the day. And it's a system that's broken, that needs to be fixed."

Davis hopes the activists and protesters understand that cast and crew were in no way aiming to be disrespectful. Film director Daniel Barnz addressed protesters as well, encouraging them to view the film before making a decision, as "it encourages the coming together of both sides."

Discussing her pre-Help stuggles to land quality roles, Davis has said, "I've had to channel my talents in narratives that were incomplete, and those two or three scenes in a movie, I've had to try to make them work, flesh them out as real human beings … I haven't had the benefit of a full journey, a character who's been in every frame of the movie."

Putting aside the substance of the education debate, it seems to us that her starring role in another film that strikes a nerve nationwide is just one sign that her days of "incomplete" parts are over.

Read more at the Atlanta BlackStar.