In the 2000 film, “Billy Elliot,” we meet an eleven-year-old boy who struggled to come to terms with his passion for ballet. Jamie, Billy’s father, was quick to forbid him from taking lessons, expressing that ballet is a female pastime; currently this statement remains relevant because the gender social norm still discriminates between what is traditionally male and female activities. Throughout the film, Billy finds himself torn between doing what he is passionate for and pleasing his father by conforming to be labeled as just another ‘normal’ boy who participates, in a boy’s pastime.
The film points blame at society as the main source of the problem. Although Billy’s father was quick to react angrily when he found out about his son’s drive to become involved in a traditionally feminine hobby such as ballet. Society’s influence is exhibited through Billy’s family not accepting him based on a feminine pastime that he chose over boxing. Throughout the movie Billy isn’t afraid to combat any obstacles that are put in his way to achieve his goals.
Despite his father dealing with the death of his wife and the coal miners strike, finding out that Billy was interested in ballet and not what the stereotypical boy should be interested in potentially worried him that society wouldn’t accept his son for who he was. Although gender social norms have improved today compared to the early ’80’s, plenty of children, teenagers, and adults still struggle on a daily basis to be accepted by society.
When Billy’s father finds out about Billy’s secret ballet lessons, he scolds him and is quick to question his son’s interest in ballet. His father states: “lads should be playing football, boxing or wrestling, not doing ballet. ” Unlike the short video, Billy doesn’t feel the need to mold himself into being the aggressive, masculine individual accepted by society. This scene shows how society labels certain activities as either feminine or masculine, thus making it abnormal and frowned upon for the other gender to partake in that activity.
This film effectively shows how an individual could feel uncomfortable when discovering that a male or female is involved in an activity that is not considered socially normal for their individual gender. Billy’s brother exemplifies this uncomfortable discovery by lashing out towards Billy forcing him to dance on the kitchen table. Billy’s brother represents the traditional masculine figure by looking to get into a fight with the police during the strike.
Billy’s brother also remains loyal to the strike longer than Billy’s father which further illustrates how much more difficult it was for the brother to fully accept Billy’s passion for dancing. Thus, I feel the film does portray the social problem accurately and is a form of claims making because it covers an important social problem that many people struggle with in their every day life. The film touches on a subject that many individuals can relate to and are passionate about.
Yet, I don’t feel that the film helps to establish this social problem in society’s “minds eye” because the overall feel for this film was so lax and humorous. The audience might possibly just see this as an innovative and funny movie compared to a movie that tells a unique story about a severe social problem. This film does reflect changing norms about this particular social problem. We see that things such as receiving a higher education, playing sports, and being involved in politics not too long ago where all considered to be a social norm for only men.
Nevertheless, laws and legislation were passed that made woman able to enjoy almost all the same rights as men. Things such as popular TV shows, social media, and magazines encourage children and teenagers to just be who they are without worrying about what other people may think of them. Despite Billy’s father’s tough guy attitude and initial reaction of his son wanting to partake in ballet lessons, he sucks up his pride, goes back to work, and even sells some of his most prized possessions to help support his son’s dream.
Billy’s father then encourages Billy by helping him make it to his ballet school audition, being proud when he was accepted, and attending his performance at the end of the movie. Watching this film made me realize how unfortunate it is that some children do not have the ideal support system. How many parents, siblings, family members, and peers are not supportive of a young child just based off of what society labels to be normal or not normal.
This truly opened my eyes to be more accepting and understanding in various situations. Today this particular social problem of gender norms does still exist, but we do see that Americans now have more equal rights compared to the 1980’s. Individuals are now more willing to be different and accept people for their differences no matter what the social norm. I believe that this film could move society in the right direction towards having full acceptance of everyone despite the current social norm.