poignant, thought provoking and based on a true story
This was a rather memorable episode of the ABC afterschool specials--a series which gave children and teens a variety of dramas or comedies based on issues of the day. In this one, Ellen Dunning plays Jennifer Graham, who had her 15 minutes of fame in the late 80s for refusing to dissect a frog in biology class on ethical and religious grounds(she was an animal rights supporter and vegetarian). Instead of being respected for her compassion and integrity however, she is chastized by her teacher and ridiculed by her schoolmates. She is sent to the principal's office--where the school official tries to find something not "cruelty-free" about her wardrobe in lieu of an intelligent argument to challenge her with. When that fails--he tells her that she can skip the dissection class, but it will be deducted from her grades. This proves unacceptable since she needs a high grade to go to college. Ultimately--the soft spoken teenager takes her fight to the media and the California Supreme Court.
The filmmakers did a splendid job of showing how compassion is often subject to regulation in our society, and in particular the prejudices that animal rights-minded people must face. Kerrie Keane plays her supportive mother, and Joan Rivers makes an unbilled appearance in a scene where Jennifer is a guest on her talk show. Leslie-Anne Down(who must have done this on principle) is in a very quick scene where she plays a witness explaining the influence of the $6 billion a year vivisection industry(supplying the animals and cages) on school and government policy. Ellen Dunning gives an effective performance and the real Jennifer makes an appearance in an epilogue suggesting further reading on law and the Constitution!
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