Billy Elliot (Jamie Bell) is an shy 11-year-old living with his proud miner father (Gary Lewis) and older brother Tony (Jamie Draven) during the political and social unrest of the 1984 miner’s strike. Times are hard – the men of the house spend their days on the picket lines clashing with the police, while Billy navigates the minefield of adolescence and takes care of his increasingly senile grandmother (Jean Heywood).
Determined to forge his son in his own image, Billy’s father sends him for boxing lessons with pal George (Mike Elliot) at the local village hall. Unfortunately, Billy isn’t interested in expressing himself with his fists, he’s much more taken with the ballet lessons next door, run by jaded Mrs Wilkinson (Julie Walters). When Billy’s old man learns that his son has forsaken boxing gloves for ballet shoes, he is distraught: dancing is not a manly pursuit, certainly not for a miner’s son.
Fearful of what his friends might say, Billy’s father bans him from taking classes and searches for a glimmer of hope in the bottom of his beer glass. One night, during the long trek home from the pub, Billy’s father happens to witness his boy performing a routine for schoolfriend Michael (Stuart Wells). Moved almost to tears by the boy’s passion, Billy’s father suddenly realises that he has let his preconceptions and macho pride cloud his judgement, and sets about raising the money to send his son to London, where the admissions panel of the Royal Ballet awaits.
Beautifully observed and surprisingly free of mawkish sentiment, Billy Elliot is a heartwarming coming-of-age tale that speaks straight from the heart, juxtaposing Billy’s battle of wills with his prejudiced father, with the community’s struggles against the larger forces of the outside world. Newcomer Bell is mesmerising, completely unfazed in front of the cameras. He possesses a charming awkwardness in the initial scenes which immediately endear us to Billy, blooming into exuberance and joy whenever he dons his ballet shoes and loses himself in the rhythms and movements of the dance.
His relationship with sour-faced Mrs Wilkinson is beautifully developed, initially fractious and gradually burgeoning into a touching surrogate mother-son dynamic. Walters once again employs a canny mix of humour and emotion to get beneath her character’s skin. Lewis and Draven are also solid as the working class men who expect Billy to follow them down the mines, and youngster Nicola Blackwell also makes an impression as Mrs Wilkinson’s daughter Debbie who awakens frightening but not unpleasant feelings in Billy.
The film builds nicely in pace over the course of the two hours to a rapturous finale at the Royal Ballet auditions, topped off with a rousing coda that will have audiences fumbling for their tissues and cheering in the aisles. Daldry’s direction is flawless, energising the dance sequences (choreographed brilliantly by Peter Darling) and catching its breath during the sequences between Billy and his family. A triumph. Based on a screenplay directly written for the screen by Lee Hall, BILLY ELLIOT is a British production directed by Stephen Daldry in 2000.
The picture earned three nominations (actress, director and screeplay) for the 2001 Academy awards. Set in a small industrial town of the northern part of England in 1984, BILLY ELLIOT describes the family problems encountered by an eleven years old boy who’s got a passion for dancing. Strongly missing his late mother, Billy is not understood by his father and his brother who would like him to practice boxing. While Billy is training a lot under Julie Walter’s direction, a strike at the only mine in town destabilizes the Elliot’s poor family that is treating Billy as a scapegoat.
A few months later, Billy’s got a unique opportunity to pass a dance exam at Newcastle but his brother is arrested by the police on the same day. –Daniel Staebler, Resident Scholar “Billy Elliot” is set in the North East of England (Where i live!!! ) in the 1980’s a time of political unrest and severe unemployment for many parts of Britain- Newcastles mining industry being struck really bad. Billy (Jamie Bell) is eleven and his family are suffering from the redundancy. His dad can JUST afford to still allow him money for boxing club. Billy is useless at boxing and only keeps it up to please his father.
One day he stumbles upon the ballet class and the openess of it’s tutor(Julie Walters)He shows a raw talent which only improves the more and more he practices. (Thoses scenes of him dancing in the toilet cubicles!! ) Mrs Wilkonson (Walters) encourages him to go and autition for the Royal Ballet school in London but due to self-doubt in himself and no encouragement from family (He is too afraid to tell his father and his mother has passed on leaving him only a letter he has memorised and recalls to walters in a touching scene)he passes up the opportunity.
There is a big blow-up between father and son when Mrs Wilkonson pushes him to go and Billy succumbs to her determination and his own dreams but though there are some heartbreaking scenes where you truly feel sorry for him and his life (Yes, it SOMETIMES is like that) you feel happy about the resolution and being a performing arts student (well any human can’t help but do this i gasped at the cinema by the almighty ending. I had a tear in my eeye and thought the last scene was tremendous and really sealed the film to perfection for me. Jamie Bell (how cute? Was an ideal casting for Billy (I know they searched and searched for a ‘special boy’)and is an excellent dancer. Stephen Daldry (Director) shows great ability and truth in what, i believe, was his first FILM direction. (Has worked in theatre before) I think this is one of the best British films in ages, and am proud it was based in my hometown. –Mimi Mac, Resident Scholar Set during the minor strikes of 1984, Billy Elliot follows the story of a talented young boy (Jamie Bell) who gains an interest in ballet while attending boxing classes.
Secretly he attends ballet instead, and forms a strong bond with his teacher(played by Julie Walters). When his father learns of his new found interest, it threatens to break up the family. Love and friendship plays a major role in everyday life. This is shown particularly well in the film Billy Elliot, directed by Stephan Daldry. It is set in Everington in 1984, during the miners’ strike. Throughout the film love and friendship is portrayed in a range of different ways as Billy, the main character, has a different relationship with each of the other characters.
The effective use of symbolic and technical film codes and the narrative elements; point of view, plot and characterization positions the viewers to challenge the stereotypical understandings of love and friendship. By applying symbolic codes the director has shown the relationship between Billy and his father Jackie Elliot to be quite unique. Throughout the film the relationship between Billy and Jackie change. In the beginning Jackie is very easily worked up, about the miners strike and the loss of his wife. This anger he takes out on his sons forcing them have to act very tough.
In his time Jackie was a great boxer, therefore he wanted Billy to do boxing in order to become strong and fit. What Jackie didn’t know was that Billy was suffering greatly during these lessons, he just was not fit for boxing. Whilst Jackie was involved in the miners strike Bil Traditionally media representations of men have always involved power and other characteristics commonly associated with males and masculinity. In the past, media texts have generally constructed men to conform to specific ideals understood by society regarding masculinity and the idyllic male qualities.
These principles in today’s society describe what is known as dominant masculinity. While it is common for modern society to construct texts reflecting dominant masculine values, new representations of men are evolving. Within modern media texts, the representation of men often challenges the central attitude regarding dominant masculinity. This essay will discuss how media representations of men have transformed over time, and how traditional masculinity values have been confronted with radical ideologies concerning construction of men and multiple masculinities.
Historically males have been classed as superior to females, privileged with greater rights and have governed societies through the patriarch system. Another key signifier associated with men is power. The fore-mentioned ideas are the principles on which dominant masculinity is based, and where the concept evolved. The ideologies of traditional masculinity are personified within today’s media through portrayal of strong, tough, cool and heterosexual stars. Archetypal of this being stars such as Clint Eastwood, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone.
Similarly the actual characters within films are constructed possessing power and masculine attributes. The media essentially normalizes these qualities within males and creates a desire for men to achieve similarity and conform to societies model of masculinity. The universalism of traditional masculinity was assisted by the development of film early in the twentieth century. Films were predominantly produced in America and as a result the values and attitudes of American society were adopted throughout the Western world.
The effect of controlling the film and media production, and subsequently widespread cultural values followed the process of cultural imperialism, where one culture asserts its economic and political control over another country (O’Shaughnessy, 1999, p 99). The primary production of Western film and Gangster films at this time reflected American society and it’s values. Within these texts power, strength and authority were crucial characteristics and these traits were therefore commonly associated with masculine ideologies.
Often modern texts and films defy the ideologies presented within dominant masculinity. There are many alternative representations that can be distinguished in modern texts. Contemporary constructions of men often show more feminist characteristics, diverse sexuality and other traits that oppose traditional masculinity such as being less dominant in family, social and work related roles, powerless, subordinate to females, more sensitive and less violent. The revolutionary changes apparent in the representation of men have introduced the question of masculinity in crisis (O’Shaughnessy, 1999, p. 00). It raises the issue of a universal definition for masculine values and challenges the traditional meaning of manhood. The following passages consider the multiple masculinities exhibited in modern film technique through examining the representation of men within the film Billy Elliot. The analysis of the film, and the approach it takes in its construction men, re-enforces the changes evolving in masculinity. Rather than depicting a strictly structured image of masculinity, the new approach signifies diversity.
A traditionally masculine man, to be identified as masculine, has to conform to the specific characteristics – being strong, powerful, tough, attractive, muscular, rugged, and brave etc. However, although these qualities are still present within modern films too, alternative representations are being presented. The film Billy Elliot exemplifies the many versions of masculinity in today’s society – not all representations are about power. The film positions the audience to accept the alternative reading of masculinity by normalising the different characteristics apparent within the characters.
Several of the significant ideals regarding masculinity are encoded through the use of binary oppositions. The main ideologies presented are apparent in the binaries regarding Billy and his Father, and Billy’s ballet teacher and his Father. Billy is constructed to oppose his Father in several ways. In some aspects Billy’s Father is a representation of the dominant masculinity. He appears to be tough, hard working – in the coal mining industry, and he conforms to the masculine values within the society through attempting to make Billy attend boxing classes with all the other boys in the community.
The opposition is presented in Billy not conforming to the values of the society. His major defiance occurs when he commences ballet classes. This initiates several other challenges regarding masculinity such as the discussion of feelings and who has more authority and power. The opposition between Billy’s ballet teacher and Billy’s father confronts dominant masculinity. The primary female character depicted within Billy Elliot, Billy’s ballet teacher, shows virtues such as dominance, power, authority and confidence. Traditionally leading female characters are backgrounded in comparison to the male.
They are intimidated, passive and subdued by men. The control and command taken by Billy’s teacher demonstrates female superiority and resembles a matriarch rather than the common patriarch. This can be seen when the teacher confronts Billy’s father. It symbolizes the power and strength women can project. Billy’s ballet teacher is also runs her own ballet school, this could be seen as symbolic of female leadership, control, power and authority. Effectively, it could be said that Billy’s father is subordinate to the teacher in this regard.
Furthermore, the ballet teacher has control of life, her family, the ballet school and Billy and his dancing. The father appears to have no control; the union and the union members rule his work, therefore he has no income and effectively no employment. This demonstrates another aspect in which the traditional representation of men is disputed. Billy’s father also has no control over his family, a key indication of an alternative male construction. Generally males are seen to be in control, especially in regards to their own family.
This idea is strongly supported within traditional masculinity and the patriarchy system. The film contains reference to diversity regarding sexuality. There are several contradictions regarding the traditional heterosexual male and alternative sexualities. Billy’s interest in dancing, leads to him being coupled with being gay. Billy’s best friend in the film is gay, and his father is secretly a cross-dresser. The film approaches this in comedic way, yet does not degrade this way of life, as traditional masculine ideals tend to do.
The film sympathizes with Billy and his gay friend, and effectively normalizes Billy’s interest in dancing. After Billy’s success with his dancing career, the community in which Billy lives also accepts Billy’s unusual interest in ballet. In addition to this, supporting the new representation of men is the introduction of female heroes in modern films. Often films nowadays are presenting audiences with values confronting the traditional male hero. In a sense the roles are reversed, and the leading female adopts the characteristics more commonly associated with the representation of males.
Archetypal of this is films such as G. I Jane and the latest release movie Tomb Raider. The leading female roles in these films are powerful, strong and dominate men. There are several other avenues that explore multiple masculinities. Advertising, magazines, and male models/pin-ups look at the different angles regarding the representation of men. Males are not only seen to be powerful and strong but other characteristics are now featured in media texts. The conventional masculine traits are being replaced with images displaying sensitivity, care, and even gay, bisexual and images cross-dressing.
In advertisements especially for cosmetics such as after-shave and deodorants, males are constructed as being sensitive, caring, family men. This is particularly evident in advertisements for the ‘Eternity’ range of fragrances. The advertisements show males in a less dominating position. Generally, the images depict a young male with his wife and a child, and are symbolic of a caring sensitive masculinity. Also, it is common to find images of men with other men that do not conform to the dominant masculinity values. Males with males are generally depicted displaying power and authority.
However, it is now becoming increasingly common to find image Male pin-ups have again allowed the reversal of gender roles. Dyer (1982) instigates the theory – those being looked at are powerless and those that are ‘looking/staring’ are powerful. This idea is related voyeurism and generally refers to males being the powerful element. However, this theory can be reversed with males being objectified for the pleasure of women. In this instance males are being ‘looked at’, and are consequently powerless and the females are ‘looking’ which as a result empowers them.
Established codes and conventions make it easy to identify traditional masculinity within media texts. Conversely, breaking these codes and conventions socially can fabricate misinterpretation and resentment. O’Sullivan (1994) In relation to the representation of men, expressing opposing codes and conventions regarding men raises questions in the society. Challenging the convention male image has phased society with the masculinity crisis – what does it mean to be a male? O’Shaughnessy (1999) The myth that masculinity and the representation of men must involve power, strength, authority and heterosexuality is being exploited.
Audiences are seeing men being represented differently displaying traits such as – sensitivity, homosexuality, and men being portrayed as subordinate to women. It is evident that there has been a change in the way men are represented in the media. Traditional masculinity ideologies are still apparent in many films, however, new ideals are evolving and alternative representations are being constructed. In the alternate portrayal of men, dominant masculine values are often challenged. This can be clearly seen in the film Billy Elliot.
The film challenges traditional masculinity through normalizing Billy’s interest in ballet and giving authority and power to woman rather than men. Similarly some films demonstrate a reversal in the traditional roles through females playing the dominant and powerful characters such as G. I Jane and Tomb Raider. Additionally other media texts, such as magazines and advertisements, also portray men in ways that challenge the values of dominant masculinity. From this it is evident that representations of men are not always about power.
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