Friday, November 20, 2020

Major Barbara

Whenever I teach Business Communications at Baruch College, I like to show the 1941 film of Bernard Shaw's play Major Barbara.

Business students are almost never familiar with Shaw, not even with his most famous play, Pygmalion. Some of them are familiar with it's musical adaptation, My Fair Lady, though, and when I introduced the film in class today, one student said she had definitely heard the song "I Could Have Danced All Night."

Why show Major Barbara in a Business Communications class? Well, it is a play about business, after all, and the issues that get brought up in the drama remain relevant today. I also try to get the students to analyze Andrew Undershaft's strategy in bringing Barbara around to his own point of view. I even wrote an article about this exercise, which appeared in the journal Shaw.

The film always serves as a nice jumping off point for discussing issues of business ethics. I like to ask students to consider if there is any company or industry where they simply wouldn't work, no matter how much money they would make. Sometimes they reply that they wouldn't do anything illegal, but I try to press them to consider the matter as more than mere legality.

If you haven't seen the film, it's in the public domain now and freely available. It's worth a watch, especially now when the lockdown is depriving us of live theatre.