The Mirror Has Two Faces

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Looking for a good video to use when teaching sexual morality? The Mirror Has Two Faces may work well. This teaching strategy gives discussion and reflection questions to get your students talking about sexuality in light of the media and culture.

We live in a culture obsessed with sex, and our students soak up that message in music, television, and film. I am astounded at how explicit the sexual dynamics, innuendo, and situations in typical teen dramas (witness "Dawson’s Creek," "Felicity," and "Party of Five") get each season. And on top of these shows, which are well written and interesting at times, I also have students who regularly watch "Ally McBeal," which is filled with mature sexual themes.

In my morality course, I teach a two-week unit on sexual morality. I use the definition of wholeness found in Saint Mary’s Press’s Growing in Christian Morality, "the balancing of all parts of the self to create a dynamic and harmonious order," to begin the unit. We explore sexuality as one of the parts of self and attempt to articulate what a healthy sexuality would be like in today’s world. Comparing and contrasting the media view of sexuality with what our faith tradition calls us to is always an interesting activity. We consider stages of intimacy and look at how easily sex can be corrupted in our world.

I use the movie The Mirror Has Two Faces as a discussion piece in the middle of the unit. The conversations and reflections that have occurred in my classes over the past three years (since the movie was released on video) have been overwhelmingly positive.

Available from Columbia TriStar Home Video, this 1996 movie starring Barbra Streisand, Jeff Bridges, and Lauren Bacall, is rated PG-13 and runs 127 minutes. The story centers around two professors who develop an intimate relationship that is not centered around sexual passion. Cultural myths, female archetypes, the media’s preoccupation with sex, and the relationship of beauty to self-esteem are some of the themes that arise in the movie. I teach in an all-girls school, but I believe this film could be compelling in a coed situation or all-boys environment as well.

The discussion questions below are sure to start some interesting conversations. Feel free to comment on how it goes in your classroom in our discussion forum!

  • Compare and contrast Gregory and Rose’s ideas of sex and love.
  • Is romantic love an illusion? Explain.
  • Comment on the following quotes (direct or paraphrased) from the movie:

* "How can companionship, respect, and genuine affection exist in a sex-saturated culture and a world cheapened by the media?"

* "The final scene of fairy tales was always the ritual of a wedding. No one ever told you what happened afterwards."

* "Throughout history and literature, sex is a fatal love potion. Whenever consummation occurred, chaos, disaster, and death would follow."

* What does Rose feel for Alex? What did you think of the scene at the end of the movie when they were together?

* Why does Rose feel such a need to know she’s pretty?

* Did you pick up any mixed messages from the theme in the movie? Explain.

* Rose’s mother tells her that after looking back on her life, she realizes that she settled. What is "settling"? Are you susceptible to it?

* What is the meaning behind the title of the movie?

* What scene did you find most moving? Why?

* Do Gregory and Rose love each other? Give evidence for your answer.

* After seeing the end of the movie, what do you believe the future holds for Greg and Rose?

* How does the movie illustrate the importance of wholeness of self and wholeness in relationships?


Published December 29, 1999.