Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ded)



First Advisor

Robert Millward, Ed.D.

Second Advisor

Mary Beth Leidman, Ed.D.

Third Advisor

Joseph Marcoline, D.Ed.


According to Glanz’s early research, school principals have been depicted as autocrats, bureaucrats, buffoons, and/or villains in movies from 1950 to 1996. The purpose of this study was to determine if these stereotypical characterizations of school principals have continued in films from 1997-2009, or if more favorable images have emerged that accurately depict the position of school principal. This study used both quantitative and qualitative approaches to analyze 49 movies. The results revealed that movie images of principals have not changed significantly in recent years: principals do not tend to have major roles in the movies and most principals are still depicted as stereotypical autocrats, buffoons, and bureaucrats. Most of the school principals were portrayed as middle-aged, white males of average weight and height with receding hairlines or in many instances bald. Most principals are dressed in conservative, drab clothing and typically wear a suit or a sport jacket that is brown, gray, or black with a white or cream-colored dress shirt and a nondescript tie. Noteworthy is the emergence of the democratic principal in 20% of the movies that were reviewed for this study. The democratic principal exhibits behaviors and qualities that researchers have linked to successful schools; behaviors such as, being visible in the school, firm on discipline, a good communicator, seeks input from stakeholders, nurtures positive relationships, and knowledgeable about curriculum and instructional practices. The democratic principal is often shown taking on the bureaucratic school system in an effort to provide valuable opportunities for students. The contradiction in images between reel (movie) principals and actual principals can be attributed in part to the fact that many of the stereotypical portrayals of principals come from the teen movie genre which is written from the point of the student. The principal is the authority figure that the students have to rally against. Additionally, many movie writers, directors, and producers are from a generation where the principal’s job was much more focused on managerial duties than it is today. Consequently, the principals in their movies are shown doing low-level administrative tasks.