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Film / Bad Teacher

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She won't grade you an "F," because she doesn't
give an "F."

Bad Teacher is a 2011 comedy film directed by Jake Kasdan and starring Cameron Diaz in the title role. Also in the cast are Justin Timberlake, Jason Segel, Lucy Punch, Phyllis Smith, and John Michael Higgins.

Elizabeth Halsey (Diaz) is a middle school teacher in the Illinois school system with a crude streak a mile wide and a total indifference to her job and students. When a new substitute teacher (Timberlake) enters the picture and she finds out he comes from a wealthy family, she decides she needs a boob job in order to win his affection. And as fate would have it, the best teacher in the district receives a bonus that year, so Elizabeth decides to turn her slovenly ways around in order to acquire it by becoming the best teacher ever. Obviously, it's easier said than done.

Adapted into a short-lived TV series on CBS in 2014, with Ari Graynor in the lead.

This film contains examples of:

  • The Ace: Amy when it comes to being a teacher. In everything else... she has problems.
  • A-Cup Angst: Elizabeth is convinced she needs bigger boobs to be fully attractive.
  • Adults Are Useless: Principal Wally Snur, who shrugs off Elizabeth's neglecting her duties and hogging all the car wash money and to make things worse he offered a prize money for whichever teacher gains the highest test scores for his/her class, which inspired Elizabeth to aggressively push her kids to excel.
  • Alpha Bitch: Chase in Elizabeth's eighth grade class. Elizabeth herself claims she was one in school as well, and it's easy to believe.
  • Apathetic Teacher: Elizabeth at first. She spends lots of time viewing films with kids at class, often Asleep in Class herself.
  • Apple for Teacher: This is something of an Achilles' Heel to Amy, who hands out apples to her students. Elizabeth uses this against her by slipping an apple onto Amy's desk after rubbing a poison ivy leaf all over it. The next morning, Amy takes a bite and she gets quarantined from the field trip.
  • Asleep in Class: But not the students. Elizabeth sleeps on her desk with her head covered in her clothes.
  • Baby Trap: In a desperate attempt, Elizabeth tries to convince her fiancé that she's pregnant. She later discusses with Lyn how hard it is to get pregnant "by accident" as guys these days are so paranoid that they keep their used condoms.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Elizabeth got away with several things she's done and even got Amy's wealthy boyfriend Scott. And she didn't even want him anymore in the end.
    • Though it can be assumed that without Scott's finances she's still trapped in that small apartment with Kurt as her teacher salary will not be enough to launch her into a better home.
  • Bestiality Is Depraved: When Russell has his first real conversation with Elizabeth at lunch, she lies to him saying she caught her ex-fiance trying to do it with his dog.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Amy initially seems sweet and wholesome, if not a bit kooky, but she's actually quite spiteful and mentally unhinged. There's even talk of a Noodle Incident in 2008 when she apparently had a psychotic episode.
  • Black Comedy: Drugs at school, slipping a mickey, swearing at kids, cheating on tests... all played for laughs.
  • Calling Your Orgasms: Scott in his "sex scene".
  • Cassandra Truth: Everyone seems completely oblivious to the truth of Amy's complaints about Elizabeth. In fairness, everyone thought Amy was crazy (or just too annoying to deal with), so it makes sense that they didn't believe her.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The sticker on Amy's desk. It's later seen in Elizabeth's class. Amy has switched her and Elizabeth's desk, so the drugs were found in Amy's class.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander:
    • Amy. She's weird, sits on urinals, organizes teachers' watches etc.
    • Scott's pretty odd too, with his desire to go back in time and end slavery, odd definition of the phrase "pro-choice," lacking songwriting skills, and frequent missing of Elizabeth's more obvious come-ons.
  • College Is "High School, Part 2": Averted. Elizabeth tells Garrett that while he has trouble in middle school and will probably still have trouble in high school, he will be fine in college.
  • Comically Small Bribe: When Elizabeth's first and very rich boyfriend breaks up with her as a sanction for spending too much of his own money without consent, Elizabeth tries to persuade him to stay with a gift card for $37.
  • Cool Teacher:
    • Russel is seen on great terms with some kids at a school party.
    • Amy might have her moments when she's at her most reasonable.
    • Surprisingly enough, Elizabeth is honest to Garrett, offers him harsh (but much-needed) insight, and gives him her bra, which he uses as evidence that he made out with a girl.
  • *Cough* Snark *Cough*: Garrett's first scene is him being caught eavesdropping on 2 girls; a classmate calls him a loser while doing this.
  • Crapsack World: Comedic version. Almost every character is a Jerkass, a nutcase, insecure/insincere and completely pathetic.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Elizabeth is cynical and not afraid to highlight it.
    • Russell as well, though he tends to play his in a much more subtle manner.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: "You can explain it all tomorrow, to the principal and the superintendent. When you got your meeting with the principal and the superintendent tomorrow. At the meeting! Tomorrow!"
  • Determinator:
    • Elizabeth has decided to get herself those bigger boobs. She stops at no obstacle.
    • Russell says he's going to be a terminator in his romantic pursuit.
  • Didn't Think This Through: After Amy drags Elizabeth's desk right into her own classroom then cracks it open finding a whole bunch of contraband that can put away Elizabeth, Amy forgets to move the desk back.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: The cop who slams into a van, due to Elizabeth's little carwash show.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Garrett is a rather pathetic example until Elizabeth's Pet the Dog moment near the end.
  • Double Standard Rape: Female on Male: Or rather, use of date-rape drug is funny when it's female on male.
  • Fan Disservice: In a bawdy comedy about a hot teacher, one might expect some female nudity. Well... it's there, but it's wholly unerotic. Elizabeth checks out her prospective plastic surgeon's handiwork on a surgically enhanced glamour model, and the whole scene feels like a butcher selling cuts of meat.
  • Fanservice Car Wash: Elizabeth spices what was a normal and tame one up by showing up in a tied shirt and daisy dukes, exploiting her sex appeal for all its worth and managing to break the school's money record in doing so.
  • Fatal Flaw: Amy loses in the end because her naive immaturity prevents her from being able to deal with an underhanded Jerkass like Elizabeth, who doesn't give a shit about playing fair or maturity.
  • Foil: Amy and Elizabeth are both this to each other.
    • Amy is, on the surface, a model teacher: a peppy person who engages with her students with fun lessons. But she's a naive, socially awkward, and downright childish person who lacks charisma and a backbone.
    • Elizabeth is a selfish, jaded, and disinterested educator, but she makes up for it with charisma, street smarts, and trickery.
  • For the Evulz: Elizabeth isn't flat-out evil, but she still ruins Amy's life because she's a love rival to her for Scott. Especially cruel since Amy sincerely tried to befriend her initially.
  • Frame-Up: The victim walks right into it. Amy sure should not have swapped the desks.
  • Go-Getter Girl: Amy. Also, Sasha, the brown-nosing Teacher's Pet in Elizabeth's class.
  • Going Commando: Elizabeth, or so she says.
  • Golddigger: Elizabeth, and she gets found out pretty early on having drained $16,000 out of her rich ex's account without his permission. Doesn't stop her from trying with a rich new sub whose family owns a lavish watch brand.
    Elizabeth: My full time job is finding a guy who's gonna take care of me.
  • Good Is Impotent: While not exactly "good", Amy is a relatively nice teacher, and because of that, she keeps being outmaneuvered and played by Elizabeth, who is quite happy to hit her below the belt.
  • Goshdang It To Heck:
    • "Shut the front door!"
    • "Shish kabobs!"
      • Amy eventually drops this when she's arrested at the end of the film.
  • Gluttony Montage: Because Elizabeth smokes weed daily, she often binge eats from gaining an increased appetite on corn dogs and brownies.
  • G-Rated Sex: Scott and Elizabeth in the hotel room. They didn't really have any protection though so that could have been a reason.
  • Gym Class Rope Climb: The gym teacher shows Elizabeth how it should be done...kinda.
  • Hangover Sensitivity: After a night at the bar when Elizabeth's comes to teach her class, she wears dark sunglasses, turns off the lights and later covers her face and head in her hoody.
  • Hard Truth Aesop:
    • In-Universe, Elizabeth harshly tells Garrett that some girls like Chase are shallow bitches who will never care about "sensitive" guys like him, nor be impressed by his poetry and he should just move on.
    • The conflict between the seemingly nice, but immature, Amy and the bitchy, but crafty, Elizabeth ends with Amy being framed for possessing drugs and transferred to a crappy school while Elizabeth is promoted to the guidance counselor and is able to get away with her actions. The lesson is no matter how "nice" you may be as a person, a ruthless, lying Jerkass with greater street smarts will win out over you, especially if you act like a weirdo to people and naively try and convince yourself that you can get this person to like you. Amy only nearly succeeds in getting Elizabeth fired by engaging in a bit of trickery with the desks, but Elizabeth was able to outmaneuver her anyways through a bit of blackmail and deception.
  • Hard-Work Montage: When Elizabeth decides to win the prize money for the teacher whose students score highest on the Illinois State Exams, her class starts working really hard. However, it's not enough.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Elizabeth starts off as an Apathetic Teacher who uses manipulation to try to win the affections of a handsome and rich substitute teacher. After a conversation with Garrett about Chase, she realizes she is no different. She helps Garrett get a better reputation, decides not to have her breast implants or date Scott and to remain a teacher. She later becomes the school's guidance counselor.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Scott, the object of Elizabeth's affection, is dating Amy, who is a redhead. Subverted as he's not the hero, nor is he the protagonist's final guy.
  • Hoist by Her Own Petard: Amy swaps her desk with Elizabeth's in order to find out if she's hiding anything (which she is). Later, the illegal drugs in Elizabeth's desk are found and believed to be Amy's, resulting in her transfer to the worst school in the state.
  • Hood Ornament Hottie: Elizabeth helping raise money for a "good cause".
  • Horrible Housing: After getting dumped, Elizabeth ends up in an old, dirty, and clamped apartment with a Fat Bastard of a roommate she met on Craigslist.
  • Hot Teacher:
    • Elizabeth, especially when she needs to raise money.
    • Amy's quite pretty too.
  • Holier Than Thou: Amy thinks she's better in everything and better than anyone.
  • Incompatible Orientation: When Scott admits he has a crush on Amy and tells Elizabeth, she lies to him about Amy being a lesbian.
  • Insufferable Genius: Sasha, the brown-nosing Teacher's Pet who is constantly baking cookies for Elizabeth and hopes to be president one day.
  • Japan Takes Over the World: Elizabeth insults her students' mediocre essays claiming "This is why the Japs are overtaking us!" But then points out she doesn't mean the sole Japanese student in her class.
  • Jerkass: Elizabeth. She's rude, she bullies and harasses everyone, she only wants men for their money, and can come off as blatantly racist. Though some of her Pet the Dog moments might shift her over into Jerk with a Heart of Gold territory.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Elizabeth falls into this in the end.
  • Jizzed in My Pants: Scott does it while he dry humps Elizabeth.
  • Karma Houdini: Elizabeth decides against a boob job in the end... but she still (presumably) keeps the money and certainly dodges punishment for her various crimes and pinning them all on poor Amy.
  • Large Ham: Amy Squirrell.
  • Lesser of Two Evils: Both Elizabeth and Amy are quite unfit as love interests for Scott, the former is a ruthless jerkass golddigger and a bully, but the latter is simply a Cloud Cuckoolander womanchild and so has a bigger heart than Elizabeth does, and so has a more genuine love for Scott while Elizabeth only wants his money.
  • Lower-Class Lout: Elizabeth. Even given her dire financial situation, there is little justification for Elizabeth being a gold-digger and a lazy to aggressive teacher.
  • Misplaced Kindergarten Teacher: Amy. She teaches her junior high school kids while dressed as a naval captain. She's overly enthusiastic about apples and she sometimes wears childish accessories. However, she isn't as nice as she seems (because Elizabeth broke her on the inside).
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: Elizabeth wants Amy kicked out of the school so she can have the wealthy sub Scott all for herself and as a bonus get revenge for all the awful things Elizabeth inflicted on her such as stealing the car wash from her, giving her a poisoned apple and stealing the ''Annie'' wig.
  • Nice Guy: Scott, who is way more benevolent of a teacher than Elizabeth.
  • Noodle Incident: Whatever happened to Amy in 2008. Some sort of mental breakdown is implied but the details are only hinted at.
  • No Social Skills: Garrett, who picks a completely random and inopportune time to pour out his heart and soul to his crush, and further embarrasses her by talking about a time when she wet the bed. Elizabeth gives him harsh but much needed advice on how she simply wants the popular guys. She later helps his reputation by giving him her bra and making the boys think he had been hooking up with an eight grader.
  • Not in the Face!: Elizabeth when taking a dodgeball for the cause. The kid that she throws the ball at goes for the face, anyway.
  • Opinion Flip-Flop: Scott is easier to edit than Wikipedia.
  • Pet the Dog: Elizabeth is definitely a grade-A bitch, but she does have a few good moments.
    • During her ruthless Stern Teacher mode, Elizabeth gives her students a rather odd boon if they get a question right: letting them sock her with a dodgeball.
    • She encourages her pudgy colleague to go hang out with a dude who was checking her out.
    • In one scene, Elizabeth gives her bra to one of her shy, awkward students so that he can use it as "proof" that he was caught making out with an eighth-grade girl, thereby making himself look cool to his classmates as well as the girl he has a crush on.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Elizabeth nastily tells Amy, "I don't eat muff pie", in response to the latter's attempt at befriending her.
  • Potty Failure: Chase in 2nd grade, when she wet the bed during a sleepover.
  • Precision F-Strike:
    • A precision S-strike is delivered by Tristan.
    • Amy yells out "Fucking damn it! What the fuck?!" after she's framed by Elizabeth for drug possession. Before that, she avoided swearing.
  • Quitting to Get Married: Elizabeth attempted to do this before her fiancé dumped her.
  • Race Lift: In the pilot for the planned series, Carl will be played African-American David Alan Grier.
  • Raging Stiffie: A kid is shown to have one when he sees Elizabeth aggressively washing cars for the fundraiser.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Poor Amy is sent to teach at the worst school in the district after it ends up looking like SHE is the druggie rather than Elizabeth.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Elizabeth lives this.
  • The Rival: Amy Squirrel is Elizabeth's rival in love. They both want to get together with Scott. In the end though, Scott decides to pick Elizabeth but Elizabeth decides she doesn't want him anymore.
  • Sadist Teacher: Elizabeth when she decides to win the prize. She uses dodge-balls for wrong answers.
  • Save Our Students: The videos Elizabeth shows the class (e.g. Dangerous Minds), have this theme, at least at the beginning.
  • Sexy Soaked Shirt: Elizabeth quite enjoys herself while washing cars during the fundraiser. She pours water and soap bubbles on herself, or sprays herself with water while wearing shorts and a sexy plaid shirt.
  • Sickeningly Sweethearts: Amy and Scott when they date. They are sickly sweet when they sit together and eat together in the teacher's lounge. Russell can barely take it and Elizabeth has hard time coping with it as well.
  • Slipping a Mickey: Elizabeth drugs a guy who is in charge of tests to get the classified results. Played for laughs as it doesn't kick in quite as quickly as she'd like it to.
  • Smug Snake: Amy.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Garrett, the Dogged Nice Guy who has unrequited feelings for a classmate. Russell a little bit as he tells Elizabeth that he won't stop trying to pursue her no matter how much she rejects him. He's much more subtle than Garrett though.
  • Staring Kid: The little kid with his jaw hanging open, who appears in two scenes.
  • Stepford Smiler: Amy Squirrell.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: The chubby, geeky boy declares his love for the most popular girl in class... and she clearly and instantly rejects him. In one of her few nicer scenes, Elizabeth honestly (but not cruelly) tells him that girls like her simply don't go for guys like him, and that he won't be "cool" until college. She even gives him her bra to make the other kids think he hooked up with an older girl to restore his reputation.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: Elizabeth rubs an apple with poison ivy and puts it on Amy's desk, causing her to break out in a rash around her mouth so that Elizabeth can go on the field trip with Scott.
  • The Complainer Is Always Wrong: Amy's numerous, valid complaints about Elizabeth are routinely dismissed. Given her past, it is actually understandable why.
  • Too Much Information: Garrett's poem to Chase, which includes details on things such as "the time you wet the bed and I promised not to tell anyone".
  • Trojan Horse: The apple Elizabeth laced with poison ivy then placed on Amy's desk for her to find and eat.
  • Two-Teacher School: Downplayed. This is a movie that focuses on teachers, several teachers are featured in this movie, however, the staff is very small (Russell seems to be the schools's only gym teacher) and only few of the teachers are named..
  • Ultimate Job Security: Partly because she's hot; partly because she's Determinator.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Elizabeth, verging on being an outright Villain Protagonist.
  • Vanity License Plate: Elizabeth's car's plate says "hers". Her fiancé's says "his".
  • Villain Protagonist: Elizabeth, who is pitted against the less-than-perfectly moral Hero Antagonist Amy Squirrel.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Elizabeth enjoys a good reputation that she earns through deception, manipulation (including bribery) and even extortion, which is how she managed to get the principal to overlook all her misdeeds and wring dollars out of her students' parents. In the end, the only one who doesn't like Elizabeth is Amy, though Amy did like her at first but that's before she realized what a cruel jerkass she is.
  • Womanchild:
    • Amy Squirrell. If she doesn't get what she wants, she'll throw a huge tantrum about it. Even her own students are put off by her disturbing immaturity as she treats them all like kindergarteners.
    • Elizabeth is this as well. She's an incredibly lazy, vapid, and self-absorbed person without any conception of responsibility, using fraud and deception to get her way.
  • Working with the Ex: Actors Justin Timberlake and Cameron Diaz previously dated for a few years. In this movie, Timberlake plays the substitute teacher Diaz's character is trying to pursue. They had previously been in Shrek the Third together, but they didn't have to work with each other or have any scenes together.


Video Example(s):


What, with whom, and when?

That's a meeting, with the principal *and* the superintendent, tomorrow, in case it wasn't clear.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / DepartmentOfRedundancyDepartment

Media sources: