Just finished watching Spellbound —the 2002 documentary, not the 1945 Alfred Hitchcock classic. (I do highly recommend the Hitchcock film, but that’s not the subject of this post.) What’s so interesting about the national spelling bee, anyway? Yes, that’s what this Spellbound is about, but of course what’s interesting is not the spelling bee itself but the character and personalities of the eight participants that the film chooses to follow.

So what do we expect? Let’s see:

  • Diversity in ethnicity, class, and gender? Check.
  • Kids who are externally driven by ressure from parents? Check.
  • Kids who are internally driven by their own needs and values? Check.
  • Kids who are still normal kids despite it all? Check.
  • One kid with Asperger’s? Check.

So we have no surprises here, but it’s still a well-made documentary that’s well worth watching. There’s enough variety that the viewer doesn’t fall into the trap of saying that these are just normal kids nor into the trap of saying that they’re a bunch of weirdos. And in the long run, why should we make heroes of kids who strive for and achieve excellence in football or swimming but not those who strive for and achieve excellence in spelling or math competitions?

Categories: Movies & (occasionally) TV