Submitted By britttany13
Words: 1090
Pages: 5

Madeline Schmees November 15, 2012

Billy Elliot
In the film Billy Elliot, a young boy struggles to fulfill his passion of being a ballet performer as his father forbids him from taking lessons, deeming ballet a ‘feminine pastime’, a statement that most people would agree with based on what is considered a gender social norm. Billy Elliot is faced with a conflict between following his heart and doing what he loves and putting those dreams aside to please his father and be labeled as a ‘normal’ boy. The short film ‘Tough Guise’ shown in class explained the struggle of boys and men to feel that they must mold themselves into aggressive, powerful individuals to be accepted by their peers. In many cases, men who don’t assert their dominance over others by playing rough sports, having large muscles or holding a position of power may be considered ‘soft’ or ‘weak’. To avoid this label, boys may participate in violent or even dangerous activities to prove their manliness. In Billy Elliot, Billy is in the middle of a boxing match, appearing to be nervous and apprehensive about taking a swing at his opponent. Before he can even defend himself, Billy is knocked to the ground by his opponent, which then causes his coach to complain that Billy is ‘a disgrace to his father’ for his lack of aggression. On the other hand, Billy’s older brother seems to fit the male stereotype described in ‘Tough Guise’ quite accurately, frequently yelling and cursing, as well running from police and displaying violent behavior towards his family. Once Billy’s father finds out about Billy’s secret dance lessons, he viciously scolds him and questions his interest in the ballet; According to Billy’s father, “lads should be playing football, boxing or wrestling, not doing ballet.” Furthermore, Billy’s father even tells him that by participating in ballet, he is “asking to be hated.” This scene clearly displays the way that society labels certain activities as feminine or masculine and the way that society uses social norms to define which activities are abnormal for each gender to participate in. The movie seems to point to the larger society as the source of the problem. Billy’s father was quick to shun his son when he found out that Billy was involved in ballet, which is generally a female driven activity. It seems that the root cause of the problem was Billy’s family’s failure to accept him based on a harmless activity that he enjoys. Billy’s fathers own personal insecurities and daily stress with work and family issues probably made it harder for him to accept that his son wasn’t interested in something that a ‘normal’ boy would be interested in; he most likely feared that his son would struggle to be accepted by other people if he chose to do ballet. If society is able to tolerate individuals based on who they are instead of whom or what they are interested in, problems like the one that Billy faced can be eliminated. I think that the movie does portray this social problem accurately. It effectively showed how uncomfortable a person might feel when they encounter a male or female involved in an activity that wouldn’t be considered a social norm for their respective gender. In a video shown in class, in a female high school wrestler explained the discomfort that was displayed by her male opponents once they found out they were up against a girl in a match. Often times, she explained, they fought harder during a match instead of treating her equally. This is a real-life example of the social barrier that is created when boys and girls don’t conform to social norms. This film is a form of claims making because it addresses an important issue that many people struggle with every day. The film accurately reflected on a situation that many people who have gone through the same thing as Billy could relate to. However, I don’t think that this film establishes the issue as a social problem in society’s “minds eye” because