Portland Film Center Cancels Outdoor Screening of “Kindergarten Cop” Following Complaints by a Local Author

Willamette Week reports it’s not a tumor, but it has been cut out like one.

NW Film Center had planned to kick off Cinema Unbound, its summer drive-in movie series at Zidell Yards, on Aug. 6 with a screening of the 1990 action-comedy Kindergarten Cop.

Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as a police detective who goes undercover as a kindergarten teacher in order to bust a drug dealer, the movie was filmed in Astoria, Ore., and celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. NWFC had planned to show the film “for its importance in Oregon filmmaking history,” according to a press release.

Those plans are now off—in part, it would appear, due to an online campaign against the screening.

In announcing the cancellation, NWFC said it came to the decision after discussions with “staff and community members” convinced them that, given the current political climate, it would be wiser instead to add a second screening of Good Trouble, the new documentary on civil rights icon John Lewis, who died July 17. A screening scheduled for Aug. 7 had already sold out.

But judging by social media, the Film Center seems to have been swayed by one “community member” in particular.

On Saturday, Portland author Lois Leveen—whose writing credits include contributions to The New York Times and The Atlantic and the book The Secrets of Mary Bowser, a novel based on the life of a slave-turned-Union spy—took to Twitter to excoriate the organization for leading off its series with the movie.

“National reckoning on overpolicing is a weird time to revive Kindergarten Cop. IRL, we are trying to end the school-to-prison pipeline,” she tweeted. “There’s nothing entertaining about the presence of police in schools, which feeds the ‘school-to-prison’ pipeline in which African American, Latinx and other kids of color are criminalized rather than educated. Five- 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 a message sent to WW over the weekend with the subject line “Kindergarten Cop-Out: Why Does NW Film Center Think There’s Anything Fun About Cops Traumatizing Schoolchildren,” Leveen elaborated on her concerns.

“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 wrote. “They are relics of how pop culture feeds racist assumptions.”

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