YMMV / The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

  • Adaptation Displacement: The book is well-known but it's often forgotten that the film is an adaptation of a play. The play was not particularly successful and only got a boost in popularity after the film was made. Certain details of the film - notably Sandy's more assertive personality and Mary McGregor getting killed - aren't in the book. But they are some of the most memorable aspects of it.
  • Alternate Character Interpretation:
    • Jean Brodie is subject to a lot of this. She says that she opted to stay away from Teddy Lloyd to devote her life to teaching young girls. But Sandy especially calls her out that she selects certain girls that merely appeal to her vanity and seem easy to manipulate. There's also the question of whether Jean picks girls for the "Brodie set" because they remind her of herself (Jenny in particular) or because she feels affection for them. There's also the possibility that the Brodie set she views as the children she never had.
    • The Love Triangle between Teddy Lloyd and Gordon Lowther. Jean could either enjoy stringing both of them along and simply not want to have to pick one. Or she could be keeping Lowther at bay because she doesn't love him and doesn't want to trap him in an unhappy marriage with her when she still pines for Lloyd. Or she could have been intending to marry Lowther once Jenny had started her affair, in effect having both men at last.
    • Miss Mackay's attempts to dismiss Jean Brodie. It's either her not wanting such a radical teacher at Marcia Blaine or a personal vendetta against a teacher that's been very hard to get rid of. Miss Mackay's eventual reasons for succeeding support the former, but she definitely seems a little too pleased when she does.
    • Sandy's reasons for betraying Jean Brodie are either motivated by a desire to protect the rest of the girls (and preventing another death) or jealousy that Teddy Lloyd still painted Jean whenever she posed for him. The film also shows her crying at the end, which suggests that she's going My God, What Have I Done? alongside I Did What I Had to Do.
  • Award Snub: Although Maggie Smith received an Oscar for her role as Jean, the only nomination Pamela Franklin got was a BAFTA - which she lost to her co-star Celia Johnson. The only other award she was up for was for the National Board of Review.
  • Designated Villain: Miss McKay is who Jean Brodie opposes and yet she's not particularly cruel or conservative. She's just disturbed by some Troubling Unchildlike Behaviour from her students, and is worried they might be getting dangerous ideas from their teacher - which as it turns out they are. In the book however, she is far more antagonistic; she makes up slanderous rumours and tries to bribe the girls into telling lies to get Jean fired.
  • Funny Moments:
    • Lowther bursts into one of Jean's classes in a panic (as Miss McKay has just seen the fake letter talking about their affair). Jean tries to keep up appearances and says (as innocently as she can) "Mr Lowther, did you want to speak to me about something?" - while pushing him out the door.
    • When Mary McGregor accidentally walks in on Teddy and Jean kissing, Jean furiously screams at her about what happened to 'Peeping Tom'. Mary flees in terror. Teddy meanwhile quips "poor old Tom."
    • The letter reading scene - where Miss McKay has found Sandy and Jenny's sex fic about Jean and Gordon. As she reads it aloud, Jean clearly finds it Actually Pretty Funny, while Gordon looks mortified. Miss McKay also looks especially annoyed when the letter describes her as "rather narrow". The crowner is when the letter congratulates Gordon "on your sexual intercourse, and your singing."
    • Jean's Suddenly SHOUTING! outburst after her resignation is demanded counts, if only for Miss McKay's utterly dumbfounded reaction when she's done. Jean also gives us this gem.
      "If scandal is to your taste, Miss McKay, I will give you a feast!"
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Maggie Smith plays a dangerous teacher who is difficult to get rid of. Years later in the Harry Potter series, she would get to be on the other side - as a Reasonable Authority Figure trying to oppose a dangerous tyrant abusing her pupils. And she uses a Scottish accent for both.
    • Jean Brodie is a massive Fascist supporter - and in the book she admires Hitler too. Her love interest in the film would later play a man attempting to escape from a German POW camp.
    • There's also Maggie Smith's role in Tea With Mussolini, where she's one of several English and American ladies enduring persecution in Mussolini's Italy. Be Careful What You Wish For much?
    • Miss McKay is scandalised when she reads a fake love letter written by Sandy and Jenny about Jean and Gordon having sex. Fast forward to the 20th Century where Real Person Fics are considered standard behaviour for teenage girls.
  • Jerkass Woobie: It's hard not to feel sorry for Jean as her whole life falls apart around her, even if she absolutely deserved it all.
  • Narm Charm: Miss Brodie is a Large Ham but Maggie Smith's Oscar-winning performance shows how charismatic she is, and how easily she can command the attention of her pupils through that charisma alone.
  • Tear Jerker:
    • Mary McGregor and her ultimate fate. She's an orphan who gets bullied by the other girls, even those in the "Brodie Set". And she takes the terrible advice of the one mother figure she's ever known - and runs off to join the army. Her train gets bombed before she even gets there - and it turns out that she was headed for the wrong army. She had intended to join her brother, assuming he was fighting for Franco when he was fighting for the Republic. So not only did she die for nothing, she never got reunited with her brother and if she'd headed to the other side - she might at least have lived long enough.
    • Sandy's line about Mary also tragically sums up the poor girl's fate.
    "She had you. That was her misfortune!"
    • Mary's fate in the book is equally sad. She's bullied by the girls far more than she is in the film - where she at least gets accepted by them after revealing she saw Jean and Teddy kissing. Jean even picks on her in the book. Sandy occasionally feels sorry for her but continues to bully her anyway. Despite this, Mary would still look back on her years at Marcia Blaine as the happiest of her life. She dies at the age of twenty-three in a hotel fire - where she becomes too confused to escape. The rest of the Brodie Set are deeply saddened by this and many of them frequently say "I should have been nicer to Mary."
    • There's also the part during Sandy's "Reason You Suck" Speech where she suddenly stops shouting and meekly says "what will you do now?" - showing that she clearly feels remorse for Jean. And in fact she probably waited in the classroom to see if she was going to be okay. The fact that this is her parting with her mentor is also incredibly sad to think about.
  • Unbuilt Trope: Before the Cool Teacher trope had become popular, here is a very early deconstruction of it. Jean Brodie's pupils have their lives ruined by her influence and the Dean Bitterman she opposes seems more like a Reasonable Authority Figure.
  • Values Dissonance: Although the story is ahead of its time by pointing out the dangerous effect a teacher can have on her pupils, it's a little alarming how casually the girls treat the idea of one of them having an affair with Teddy Lloyd. Notably Sandy gets Miss Brodie dismissed for causing Mary's death but she never attempts to get Teddy fired for making passes at his students.
  • The Woobie:
    • Poor, slow Mary McGregor who has no one except a delinquent brother and Miss Brodie.
    • Mr Lowther, a decent, guileless sort who is strung along by Miss Brodie for years.