English teachers are such colossal jerks, at least whenever they appear in movies. A case in point is Smart People (2008), which is the second-best academic movie ever made in Pittsburgh (Wonder Boys is superior). Smart People offers us a Carnegie-Mellon Professor of English, played by a shambling Dennis Quaid, who is a depressed, angry, uncommunicative, and miserable being, and who insults and patronizes both his students and his family. He's the perfect embodiment of traditional and persistent American anti-intellectual stereotypes. Book-learning has turned him into a mere grammarian, a pedant, who must learn about "real life" from his rolling-stone, improvident, frequently-stoned but streetsmart brother. Smart People is constructed around stereotypes that were exhausted when Shakespeare created Holofernes and Sir Hugh Evans more than four hundred years ago.
I've known a lot of English teachers -- some good, some bad -- but I've yet to encounter the shallow stereotype.
English teachers make their way into a disproportionately large number of movies. There are two reasons for this phenomenon. The first is that the writer of the film wants to illustrate some thematic point, so he brings his characters into a classroom where a pompous old fart or fartess can provide some cheap laughs while explicating a poem or novel that is tangentially related to a point the film is trying to make. The second reason is purely revengeful. In films in which English teachers figure, there's often --almost always, in fact -- a young man whose writing is unappreciated by the narrow-minded professor. In Smart People, he's the son of our own nasty hero, and his sparkling poem is published in the New Yorker while his indifferent father is still waiting to hear whether his critical-theory manuscript has been rejected yet once again. This character -- the brilliant but unappreciated young poet or playwright or novelist -- stands in for the writer or director of the film, who is saying, in filmspeak, "look at me now, you colossal jerk. I'm making movies and you're still back in high school or at State U., grading freshman term papers. So there!!! That'll teach you to give me a C+."
By the way -- Smart People is an intelligent, well-written film. I heartily recommend it.