Billy Elliot - Billys struggle against gender roles discussed.

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Essay “Billy Elliot”

Billy´s struggle against gender role restrictions for the opportunity to dance ballet is compared in the film with Jackie´s fight as a striker against his company. This happens on two narrative levels. To be more precise, the desperate fight of the miners that Billy´s father supports at the beginning, as well as he can, is displayed by the useless efforts to prevent Billy from developing into a good ballet dancer and becoming sophisticated. The industrial progress taking place in the depressed area and the cultural advance in Billy´s family cannot be prevented –neither by his father nor by anyone else as the end concluding scenes of the film shows.

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A scene demonstrating this parallel quite vividly is the (also) parallel sequence where Billy in a lesson works hard to improve his dancing on the one hand and the police defeat the striking workers in their own neighborhood on the other.

Taking a look at Billy´s part in the film, I would even say that Billy does not only achieve a cultural education for himself, but he is the one who who makes culture and new working class values accessible to his family. For instance he does not only start to learn ballet, but he also shows an ...

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The basic idea, to compare and contrast the two narrative threads, is brilliant, but the author has mistaken a superficial (and ironic) similarity in the narrative arcs of the two struggles, for a deep similarity of meaning, and this weakens the whole discourse. I agree that both struggles share important themes, most importantly the conflict between traditional working class values and the changes that are occurring in that part of England at that time. I even agree that Billy does in a sense "grow beyond" those values and comes to embody and embrace values that are closer to contemporary liberalism, bringing both hope and freedom for his family, because it means that at least one of them will escape the poverty trap of being a worker in a dying industry. What I don't agree with is that the film-makers want us to regard this all as "progress". It's change, rather than progress, harsh change that is forced upon people and which for the most part was economically and culturally devastating to the area where the film is set. As it stands, this essay is a good solid pass, somewhere between a C+ and a B: 3.5 to 4 stars.