Home / General / The perils of Googling on the wall.

The perils of Googling on the wall.


In one of my classes yesterday, I was trying to make a point about the use of space in Last Tango in Paris but could not, for the life of me, remember who directed it. Because it maddens me when information’s on the tip of my brain, and I can’t be able to pay attention to anything until I figure out what I’m just barely not remembering, I walked over the lecturn to quickly Google the film. Unfortunately, I was currently using the lecturn to display images from another film, and this was what popped up:

Ever wondered what’s really high on my list of “Things I Never Wanted to Discuss in Class”?

Now you know.

(It’s not that I’m averse to discussing rape in class—I do so when I teach Blowup—it’s just that that’s a discussion that needs to be carefully moderated and respectfully handled, i.e. not the sort of thing you want to be surprised by in class.)

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  • SEK

    (That actually makes sense given the scandal around the film and subsequent revelations about Brando’s role in the making of that scene, but honestly, that’s not the sort of thing you want to talk about in class, and when I initially said “We’re just gonna ignore that bit there,” of course the students weren’t going to pay attention to anything I said until they knew what that bit meant.)

    • ploeg

      Surely you tried bullshitting them didn’t you? “Didn’t you all know that Last Tango In Paris butter the the most popular brand in Wales? In Europe, it’s pretty common to see the names of films in product brands. They also sell Godfather brand horse meat in France, and then you have Clockwork Oranges.”

      • SEK

        The problem with that is they have phones and laptops and will trying to figure out what really happened while I’m trying to move on. It actually takes a little digging to figure out that the scandal was initially about the scene itself, and only later about Brando’s insistence on raping Maria Schneider and Bertolucci’s complicity in the affair. It’s quicker just to tell them what happened, but even in the age of ubiquitous pornography and the knowledge that many of the actresses aren’t told what a scene will entail until it’s underway, that’s a conversation that stops the class short.

        • blowback

          “Brando’s insistence on raping Maria Schneider and Bertolucci’s complicity in the affair”

          And your evidence for this is?

          Seriously, if it is her claim that she “felt a little raped, both by Marlon and by Bertolucci” that she gave in an interview with the Daily Mail, then she also stated:

          “Marlon said to me: ‘Maria, don’t worry, it’s just a movie,’ but during the scene, even though what Marlon was doing wasn’t real, I was crying real tears.

          and when asked if the sex scenes between Brando and her were for real, she replied

          “Not at all. There was no attraction between us. For me, he was more like a father figure and I a daughter.

          So, while Brando and Bertolucci might have been exploitative, they weren’t rapist in the modern sense.

          BTW, rape is derived from the latin word rapere which means to carry off so the Rape of the Sabines was nothing to do with an involuntary unlawful sexual act!

          The Daily Mail article can be found at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-469646/I-felt-raped-Brando.html

          • Saurs

            A hearty LOL at the free etymological lesson. The Romans just really needed their kitchens cleaned, and lo, a buncha female Sabines had to be borrowed for the task. They were returned unscathed once the grossest bits had been neatly scraped off the bottom of the salamander. Speaking of “scraping off“…

            • blowback

              Actually some Romans (as in followers of Romulus) needed wives, so Romulus arranged a festival to which he invited Rome’s neighbours at which following a pre-determined signal the Romans carried off the Sabine women who were attending the party. Romulus then offered them a free choice of whether or not to accept Roman husbands with the full property and civil rights that entailed. Livy, in his account, was quite clear that no sexual assault took place.

              Another example of the different now archaic uses of the word rape is in the Rape of Nanking which was, I believe, a reference to the extreme violation of the population of Nanking in a non-sexual sense rather than to the multitude of violent often murderous sexual assaults that were perpetrated by the Japanese military.

              • Saurs

                Bowdlerizing other culture’s myths ‘n’ fables, on the interweb, no less!, is a thankless task.

                I fondly remember the day our Latin instructors tried to fob that old chestnut on us, and it was an instant classic. “This was a business arrangement! They came over freely! Damn your judgment!”

                You do get that it was sexyfuntimes to write these stories this way, yeah? And that Roman dudes got off on it? And that all their foundation and origin myths explicitly include rape ‘cos it broke up the tedium, much the way modern films will through in random T&A or an unexpected rape scene to catch a dude viewer’s attention? And that we’re just discussing stories here? And sanitizing stories to make them fit morally palatable modern parameters is a bit silly and makes you look disingenuous?

                Can I stop asking questions now?

                • Saurs

                  I mean, SAT-level hint: there was a reason the imperial propaganda machine of ye old Rome commissioned the displaced sons of land-owners to pen epics about how Augustus’s forefathers totes fucked over all of north Africa… and wham-bam-thank you-ma’amed Hannibal’s great great great great great grandmother in the process. Boo-ya! Take that, you bastards! We stolez your women and humiliated yer queen!

                • Saurs

                  ‘Cos raping the other side’s women (or writing songs about doing so, hardy-har-har) has long been the method of choice for dickhead quien-es-mas-macho European tribes, then and now. Which is precisely the reason any particularly ugly consequence of warfare is likened to a rape–it fucks with dudes’ heads. The worst of all possible scenarios being that your enemy gets hold of, manhandles, and destroys your property. (That women are property and that rape “ruins” them for all time forever and ever amen is an underlying truism that supports this strategy.)

          • Halloween Jack

            Yeah, the Daily Fail does put it in context, although of course they quote her out of context for the title of the article. On the other hand, they also have a pic of Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln, so they’re not all bad, I guess.

        • ploeg

          You mean that your students would not have just taken your word for it that Last Tango In Paris is a popular brand of butter? Madness!

          Perhaps you get that smartphone that nobody else in the room can see and write it off as a business expense. Or alternatively, if the name of the director is truly not germane to your subject, you simply punt on that issue and go on. You might not like it, but just continue on with the spiel and the feeling will pass.

          • John

            I think the key would be to go to IMDB and search for Last Tango in Paris from there, rather than through google.

  • Just make your browser do what you want instead of what the internet wants. I use Googlebar Lite with Firefox, which can disable suggestions. I’m sure other products do the same.

    • SEK

      I don’t have permission to install anything on the lecturn, is the problem. Every time I teach in a new class—which, with the budget being what it is, tends to be every quarter now—I have to file an official request with tech support to have them come and install VLC Media Player so I don’t have to deal with Windows Media Player. (Which always insists that I don’t own the DVD I’m trying to play, and therefore won’t let me play it, the bastard.)

      • Murrietta

        You don’t just use your own laptop? That’s what I do, so that I can use whatever software I choose. I’ve never met a lectern that didn’t have a VGA cable and a laptop setting.

        • SEK

          My laptop is barely a computer: no DVD drive, can’t play Youtube videos, etc. so that’s really not an option. (Buying a new laptop is, but that also requires money, so please refresh this page constantly and increase our ad revenue.)

          • Hmm. I wonder if pounding your RSS feeds increases revenue, because I do that a lot. Here’s to a new laptop.

          • “please refresh this page constantly and increase our ad revenue”

            That’s the truth. Your beloved authors have to feed themselves. And buy gin.

  • Mudge

    Just go to IMDB and find it..I never Google for movie info.

    • DrDick


  • Bill

    Why did you use Google instead of IMDB.com?

    • SEK

      There’s a Google button on Firefox, and I really didn’t want to slow the class down that much more just because I’m anal retentive. Plus, of course, I didn’t that would be the auto-suggestion, which was obviously pretty oblivious on my part. (In my defense, I’m a bit of a whirling dervish in class, and oftentimes trip myself with being a bit impulsive. One of my reservations about teaching Doctor Who, in fact, is that the students would figure out my shtick is a shtick.) (Which they did.) (After the first episode.)

    • Anonymous

      I actually always use Google to find the IMDB page – it’s way faster than searching within IMDB itself, particularly if there are multiple titles or actors with the same or similar names. Google is much better at ranking the hits.

  • jon

    I’d discuss it as a masterful, early example of product placement. Sweet cream or unsalted?

  • stickler

    As a professor, let me just add my support for SEK’s dilemma here:

    It’s not just technology, or “why not just use another browser,” or what have you.

    You’re in front of 35 19-22 year olds (well, I am, anyhow, don’t want to speak for SEK), you’re trying to engage them in material you KNOW is really, really important (for passing your final exam, anyhow), and let’s face it you’re trying to sell this material. You’re on stage, performing. (“sage on the stage, not guide on the side…”)

    And some part of the technology fails. For me on Monday, it was the projector. Oh, hey, let’s see if I can draw Auschwitz on the chalkboard.

    For SEK, it’s oh, hey, all that sex you just got a searchword for is not what I wanted you to learn.

    It’s distracting, it’s probably inevitable given technology nowadays, and it’s a pain in the arse.

    • SEK

      I’m just gonna say we need a “Like” button.

    • ploeg

      The madness starts when you introduce technology unnecessarily. After all, the original distraction was that you had to know the name of the director, and you had to take time out of the spiel to look it up, even though the identity of the director almost certainly was not relevant to any point you were trying to make. Just because it’s there doesn’t mean that you have to use it. Simplify, simplify.

      • SEK

        I know, I know … but because I teach visual rhetoric, I’m more reliant on technology than most teachers. (In fact, I wonder how they even taught film before smart lecturns.) Plus, of course, my obsession with detail is what makes me an academic in the first place, so it’s a bit of an object lesson when I have a fit because I can’t remember something.

  • Reminds me I’m going to have to be more careful, since I’ve started using the PC more in class. And my iphone, which thankfully is audio-only so nobody can see my googling mistakes.

    • SEK

      Watching a deaf guy try to use a voice interface is, I say knowing it makes me a terrible person, hilarious. I tried it in an Apple store and ended up sounding like the octogenarian Jew I hope to someday become yelling “WHAT!?! WHAT!?!” at a tiny device.

      • Trollhattan

        Some of my more treasured moments are from a friend who gets into spittle-enhanced yelling matches with OnStar in his car. It slays me every time.

        As to the many helpful “coulda’, shoulda’, woulda'” suggestions, they seem they miss the point of your story. Yes, there are many different ways to acquire the tidbit your brain wasn’t offering up, but you were simply trying the most obvious path while scratching that itch. I’m sure you’ll do something different next time, but you harvested a damn funny cautionary tale this time.

        (I’m sure glad I don’t have twenty pairs of eyes watching me use a computer.)

        • If I wanna use video, I have to bring in my own janky netbook, which has some severe memory issues, which means long moments of waiting for the video to start, and students nervously giggling.

      • I teach EFL in Japan. One of my students got the newest iPhone last month, and watching him interact with it has been, also, hilarious. I don’t know what it says about my teaching ability that Siri can’t understand him saying ‘hello’, but can successfully complete my request to search for ‘sous vide’.

  • Jazzhunt

    I understand your position but I have to point out that this is simply a example of poor googling technique and not much more. Since you had a specific query in mind you should have typed something like “Director Last Tango Paris” and the problem would have been averted. Since Google does have predictive completion you should use it to your advantage and actually type your query, rather than having to wade through the results.

    • SEK

      As I said above, I’m never going to be the one who argues that I’m not an idiot sometimes in the classroom, but it’s because it’s a performance thing: on stage, your brain sometimes does things it wouldn’t do otherwise, including, for example, considering the obvious.

      • Halloween Jack

        I’d stick to IMDB or even Wikipedia for things like finding the name of a director of a certain film, but when I’m doing a class, it’s for medical personnel, and so most of what I’m looking for isn’t anything that they wouldn’t have to deal with in the course of an average day, even if it does tend toward the down-there stuff. (I have, however, learned to make sure that SafeSearch on Google image searches is at least on “Moderate” when I’m looking there.)

      • Hogan

        It’s not going to matter roughly 98 percent of the time. How many movies have butter scene equivalents? Or rather, how many movies whose directors you would want to know the names of have butter scene equivalents?

  • DrDick

    This is why I always have lecture notes when I am in classes.

    • SEK

      But I have tangents, is the problem. I post my lecture notes, after all. All those screen captures are just in case the DVD on the lecturn doesn’t work, which happens about every other class.


    Next time, Google “Director (film name)”

    You’ll get the one and only suggestion.

  • Origuy

    The recent versions of Firefox let you choose the search engine by clicking on the down arrow in the search box. You can add IMDB by choosing the “Manage Search Engines” option. One of the options that comes out of the box is Wikipedia, but using Google you using get that on the first page anyway.

  • Mike Schilling

    You should have Googled last tango in paris david steinberg.

  • Slocum

    I never draw anything on the board because I’m afraid it will somehow end up looking like genitalia.

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