Portland Theater Cancels ‘Kindergarten Cop’ Screening After Local Author Lois Leveen Claimed It “Feeds Racist Assumptions”

The Northwest Film Center officially canceled their planned outdoor screening of Kindergarten Cop following pushback from Portland author Lois Leveen.

Kindergarten Cop is a 1990 film directed by Ivan Reitman with a story and screenplay by Murray Salem. The film starred Arnold Schwarzenegger, Penelope Ann Miller, Pamela Reed, Linda Hunt, Richard Tyson, Carroll Baker and Joseph and Christian Cousins.

The movie saw Schwarzenegger’s John Kimble go undercover as a kindergarten teacher in Astoria, Oregon in order to convince the ex-wife of a murderer and drug dealer to testify against him. Eventually, Kimble takes on more of a protective role as the drug dealer, Cullen Crisp, is released from prison and quickly seeks out his ex-wife and their son.

The film sees Kimble begin to enjoy his undercover work and even has him pondering whether or not he should change professions.

The film was originally planned to screen at The Northwest Film Center on August 6th with the theater announcing they were screening it “for its importance in Oregon filmmaking history,” according to the Willamette Week.

However, those plans would be radically altered after local Portland author Lois Leveen attacked the theater on Twitter earlier this month.

Leveen, who is the author of Juliet’s Nurse and The Secrets of Mary Bowser, first wrote, “What’s so funny about School-to-Prison pipeline? Kindergarten Cop-Out: Tell Northwest Film Center there’s nothing fun in cops traumatizing kids.”

She then added, “National reckoning on overpolicing is a weird time to revive Kindergarten Cop. IRL, we are trying to end school-to-prison pipeline.”

In a subsequent tweet she wrote, “There’s nothing entertaining about the presence of police in schools, which feeds the ‘school-to-prison’ pipeline in which African America, Latinx, and other kids of color are criminalized rather than educated.”

Finally, she added, “5- and 6-year-olds are handcuffed and hauled off to jail routinely in this country. And this criminalizing of children increases dramatically when cops are assigned to work in schools.”

In an email to the Williamette Week with the subject line, “Kindergarten Cop-Out: Why Does NW Film Center Think There’s Anything Fun About Cops Traumatizing Schoolchildren” Leveen would elaborate on her issue with the Northwest Film Center screening Kindergarten Cop.

She wrote, “It’s true Kindergarten Cop is only a movie. So are Birth of a Nation and Gone With the Wind, but we recognize films like those are not ‘good family fun.”

She added, “They are relics of how pop culture feeds racist assumptions.”

Leveen then stated, “”Because despite what the movie shows in reality, schools don’t transform cops. Cops transform schools, and in an extremely detrimental way.”

She would also write, “I have been a Silver Screen members for years, and an NWFC patron even longer, and I know how seldom their screenings attract substantial numbers of BIPOC audience members.”

“When a white-dominant institution cannot honestly admit their error and insensitivity, it does not suggest they will avoid similar errors and insensitivities in the future,” she continued.

The Northwest Film Center would respond to Leveen’s tweets and indicate that the screening of Kindergarten Cop had been replaced with one of John Lewis: Good Trouble.

They wrote on Twitter, “Thank you for your feedback.  Due to overwhelming demand, the Northwest Film Center has added a second showing of John Lewis: Good Trouble to the Cinema Unbound Drive-In at Zidell Yards, with tickets on sale now.”

They elaborated, “We are thrilled to be able to offer another opportunity to share this important story with an even larger audience, and we thank our distribution partners Magnolia Pictures and director Dawn Porter for enabling us to bring this inspiring film to Portland.”

The Northwest Film Center then made it clear that John Lewis: Good Trouble was replacing Kindergarten Cop, “The additional showing on August 6 replaces Kindergarten Cop, which had been chosen for its importance in Oregon filmmaking history.”

Finally, they concluded, “After discussion with staff and community members, however, we agreed that at this moment in history, John Lewis: Good Trouble is the right film to open this year’s Drive-In series.”

As for the Northwest Film Center’s claim that there was popular demand for John Lewis: Good Trouble, their own website calls that into question as neither screening for the film are sold out.

In contrast, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Do the Right Thing, Labyrinth, and E.T. the Extra Terrestrial are labeled as “SOLD OUT.”

After the Northwest Film Center’s decision to cancel Kindergarten Cop and the decision gained widespread attention, Leveen locked her Twitter account.

What do you make of the Northwest Film Center’s decision to cancel Kindergarten Cop after complaints from Lois Leveen? What do you make of Leveen’s complaints?

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