Features and Columns · Movies

Class, Color-Coding, and the Brilliant Costume Design of ‘Bad Education’

What’s red, white, and embezzled public school funds?
Bad Education
By  · Published on July 2nd, 2021

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay on Bad Education’s color-coded costume design.

The difference between wealth and status often comes down to one thing: who you show your wealth to. Where today’s social elite tend to participate in “inconspicuous consumption” (a term coined by Elizabeth Currid-Halkett in her book The Sum of Small Things), the nouveau riche and the low-status tend to give themselves away with, oh, I don’t know a 24K gold-plated penthouse

True upper-class folks know the right ways to move through the world to stay in line with other upper-class folks. And when an interloper fails to reproduce any of these mannerisms, they expose themselves as an outsider.

2019’s Bad Education dramatizes the largest public school embezzlement scheme in U.S. history. In director Cory Finley’s deft re-telling, it is also a painful look at the American wealth/class divide. Set in an affluent Long Island suburb, the film follows the circumstances that led a charismatic superintendent (Hugh Jackman) and his associate (Allison Janney) to steal $11.2 million from the school budget. And as the video essay below explains, Bad Education‘s thematic concerns are reflected in Alex Bovaird‘s costume design. These subtle (and unsubtle) tells are outlined in a class-conscious color scheme: a map to who holds power, who doesn’t, who’s trying too hard, and who doesn’t quite fit in.

Spoilers ahead, though if you haven’t seen the film yet, you should! It’s great.

Watch “The Clever Costumes of Bad Education”:

Who made this?

This video essay on the clever costumes of Bad Education is by the YouTuber max teeth. Their work runs a broad and fascinating gamut from the relation of German philosopher Walter Benjamin to M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village to what Hitch can teach us about the performance of masculinity. They only started their account in December of last year, so get on the ground floor and support their work by subscribing to them on YouTube here. And you can follow them on Twitter here.

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Based in the Pacific North West, Meg enjoys long scrambles on cliff faces and cozying up with a good piece of 1960s eurotrash. As a senior contributor at FSR, Meg's objective is to spread the good word about the best of sleaze, genre, and practical effects.