Joe the King

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Joe the King is a 1999 drama film, written and directed by Frank Whaley, based largely on his and his brother's own childhood.

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[edit] Synopsis

Spoiler warning


14-year-old Joe Henry (Noah Fleiss) has spent his life in an abusive household. His father Bob (Val Kilmer) is a raging violent alcoholic, while his mother, Theresa (Karen Young) feels too stressed to pay attention to him and lives in fear of getting caught in the path of her husband's wrath. His brother, about a year older, is normal and friendly, but offers no affirmative guidance. He mostly ignores Joe as he doesn't want the association of Joe's natural uncoolness ruining his attempts to get into the "in" crowd. Joe is taunted by his classmates, and hassled by creditors about his father's mounting bills. To make matters worse, one night when Bob goes off the deep end and smashes all of Theresa's records. In response to economic pressure, he takes a full-time job after school, leaving him tired and even less able to keep up with class work. Far worse, he becomes a petty thief to raise the money to pay Bob's bills and replace her records. He even does an insider job—robbing the diner where he works illegally.

Failing in school, Joe is assigned a Guidance counselor Len Coles (Ethan Hawke), who, though reasonably friendly, is incompetent. (For example, in their first session, when Joe starts to talk about his problems, the counselor unthinkingly shuts him off). Disaster eventually strikes, and Joe faces the rest of his seemingly doomed life in doubt. Ironically, where he winds up next seems more like hope than tragedy. Perhaps a chance to get away from his horrible childhood and family.

[edit] The spanking scene

The first scene of the film after the intro takes place in Joe's classroom. It is an elementary school in the United States of the 1950s/60s. Joe (Peter Anthony Tambakis) is about 9 years old. Joe's teacher Mrs. Basil (Camryn Manheim) asks the students to tell to the class what their parent's jobs are and what their own career goals are. When the turn comes to Joe, he stammers and fibs because he is ashamed to say that his father is the school's janitor. When his teacher finally forces it out of him, the snotty girl sitting in front of Joe comments teasingly, "He cleans out all the toilets", and all the kids laugh. Joe hits the girl with his pencil, and she cries out. At this the teacher rises, shouts "Silence!" to the class as she heads toward Joe, picks up the boy from his chair and drags him to the front of the classroom. "You will never touch another child in my classroom again!"

To everyone's shock, she then pulls down Joe's pants and underwear, lays him over her lap and spanks his bare bottom in front of the class (F/m). The film shows 10 hard spanks accompanied by her scolding "I told you to do something, I expect you to do it! You're just like your father!" We see Joe's face take on the expression of pain as he is so humiliated and spanked, and the film cuts away to Joe's father. Later we see Joe and his best friend talk about the event as they walk home from school.

[edit] More information

The actual spanking scene uses a series of quick cuts from different views: from the front, from behind, a close-up on Joe's legs as his pants come down, a bird's eye view that shows Joe OTK bare bottomed, receiving a spank, a worm's eye view that shows Joe's and his teacher's faces, interspersed with the faces of some of his classmates.

In the bare-bottom shot, the picture is rotated by 180 degrees — which mitigates the look, doesn't really look upside down because it was filmed almost vertically, and can be interpreted as Mrs. Basil's point of view.

Peter Anthony Tambakis also starred in the film The Sixth Sense from the same year.

Mrs. Basil spanks Joe left-handed. In 1999 Camryn Manheim was awarded the Women in Film Lucy Award. In real life she is a human rights activist.

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