Billy Elliot is a British classic dance movie that tells about the woes of one of the worlds most eloquent ballet dancers. The setting of the film is in 1984-1985 during the miners strike. Billy is a son of a mineworker Jackie Elliot, who values the strength of a man in the world. Due to his beliefs, he takes Billy to train in boxing and hopes that he would become a professional boxer. Billy hates boxing he is weak and keeps on falling and failing in his practice. During one of the sessions, he stumbles upon a ballet class, which takes place in their gymnasium. He finds the music soothing as he adopts the moves as he practices his boxing. His interest in ballet grows, and he secretly joins the ballet class. When his family discovers that he is practicing ballet, they force him to stop because ballet is not a masculine sport (Daldry). They believe that ballet is a feminine sport and men should not involve in it. Men that got involved in ballet are considered weak or gay. Gender stereotypes are the major theme of the movie as boys are supposed to participate in masculine activities rest they be considered gay.
The role of the boy child in the society was one of the main concerns in the film as Billy struggled to adopt a feminine sport of ballet. His father and brother, typical miners, prefer sports that exhibit strength and power such as boxing, football or rugby (Hilary 134). Ballet is a feminine sport that they believe boys cannot succeed. They reflected the views of the society in a period when the world was coming to terms with changes in gender roles. Billys teacher Sandra Wickson keeps Billy motivated and secretly trains him even after his father stops him. Sandra portrays the people in the society that are ready to accept changes in the social constructions of the society and changes in the gender roles. Her support to Billy helps him develop his ballet skills and provides him the confidence to stand up to his father. Billy has a friend Michael Caffrey, who confesses to being gay (Daldry). He shows his interest in Billy and often dresses up in his sisters clothes. Although Billy does not confess to be gay, he accepts his friend Michael and gives him a peck on the cheek as he leaves Newcastle for London to attend Ballet school.
The Strict stereotypes of the society change over time. Jackie, who is a representative of these strict stereotypes, finds it difficult to accept the fact that Billy likes ballet and not boxing. Their views change as they see the Billys talent and commitment to ballet. Their acceptance is a significant sign of the changes in the society regarding the stereotypes. As much as Billy proves not to be gay, his interest in ballet is an unacceptable habit in his community. His fathers co-workers find it difficult to accept such ideologies and do not celebrate his admission into ballet school. Their main reason was that ballet was a sign of weakness and homosexuality. In ballet school, Billy meets other boys, and he is still paranoid of their sexuality. He punches one of the boys that try to comfort him showing his displeasure with such people (Chrisler 32). The presence of boys in the ballet school shows the changes in the perception of the people regarding boys in ballet. During the performance, the hall is full of people despite the fact that all the performers that appear on the screen are male. This fact reflects the acceptance of changes in the sports world where the gender discrimination to different roles is accepted in the society.
This movie compares to the Karyn Kusama's epic movie Girl Fight. In a similar major the movie shows the changes in the gender stereotypes in sports. The main character in this movie Diana Guzman gets into boxing, a sport considered masculine, despite her fathers objection to it. She breaks the norms of the sporting society when she decides to become a boxer has to fight rejection and prejudice from her father to become a boxing champion. Although she that he does not find a female opponent, she fights a male opponent and shows great strength in her match. Her determination and ability to fight a man reveal the strength in women that are determined to put efforts in a sport reserved for men (Chang, 1). Just like Billy Elliot, she has to use her arrogance and determination to fight the prejudice for breaking the social norms. The movie was a tool that helped in the abolition of the traditional stereotypes to gender and gender issues.
One of the similarities between the two characters was their ability to achieve self-discovery at a young age. Unlike many people who would conform to the expectations of their society, the two characters decided to fight for themselves. Billy decides to bear the prejudice of his father and brother to achieve his dream. He discovers that he was different from other boys and ballet was his sport. When he discovers himself, he gives all he has to achieve his dream. He fights the prejudice of the society and practices his ballet. Although he is not gay, he does not care about the opinions of the people and continues with his ballet. He accepts his gay friend as a sign that he had no negative feelings towards being considered gay. With his persistence, he convinces his family to accept him as he is and tolerate his unusual hobby. He wins the support of his father and ultimately the support of his brother owing to his self-discovery and decision to fight for his stand.
Another dominant theme in the movie Billy Elliot was the classism and discrimination of the miners. From the onset of the movie, the miners are in constant fights with the authorities as they fight for their rights to adequate income. The gap between the rich and the poor is clear in the movie. Billy and his family have to struggle in their small apartment and live miserable lives. Billys mother had died a year earlier leaving the family to struggle in difficult conditions. The nature of their works forces them to value strength and adopt sports that reveal strength. Most of the people in his society were miners who fought tor their rights to equal pay and relieve. The scenes reflect the 1984-1985 miners strike, which was the greatest strike in British history. The struggle between the mineworkers and their employers was a significant event that influenced government policies and development of the country (McRae, 90). People differed in their opinions concerning the strike as the rich viewed the striking workers as pickets. Billys family reveals the misery the miners faced especially in a motherless home.
Their desperation had resulted in violence as the people of the community fought for their rights in the society. The police engaged the striking miners in running battles and increased their vigilance in the regions. The miners, on the other hand, protested their misery and often fought the police. In one of the encounters, Tony Elliot is arrested as he joined the protesters in fighting for their rights. During his arrest, Billy missed the Newcastle auditions to get to ballet school. The effects of the violence shape the needs of the society. People find it appealing for the men in the society to portray strength hence the need to participate in boxing. The violence expressed in the movie influences the preference for sports and social behaviors. Billys father expresses his dislike for Billys behavior violently and hopes that it would harden him and make him strong enough to conform to the society. The miners strike influences the development of social stereotypes (Chrisler, 45).
Billy Elliot is a good movie that shows the importance of self-discovery and fighting the social stereotypes of the society. Billy achieves his dreams and becomes a famous ballet dancer despite the fact that it was not acceptable to his community. Many people fail to achieve their dreams and find happiness as they conform to the requirements of the society. However, the only chance that one could find happiness in life would be by accepting his difference and remaining committed to his course. Billy is an inspirational character that influences people to fight the urge to conform to the social prejudices of the society but stand out fighting for their differences.
Billy Elliot. Dir. Stephen Daldry. 2000. BBC Films, 2000. Film.
Chang, Jennifer. "The Social and Cultural Implications of Gender-Crossing in Sports." The Social and Cultural Implications of Gender-Crossing in Sports. Web. 26 Nov. 2015. <http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/local/scisoc/sports02/papers/jchang.html>.
Chrisler, Joan C. Handbook of Gender Research in Psychology. New York: Springer, 2010. Print.
Hilary M. Sex & Gender: An Introduction. 3rd ed. Mountain View, Calif.: Mayfield Pub., 1997. Print.
McRae, Susan. Changing Britain: Families and Households in the 1990s. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1999. 90. Print.
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