The Transition of Self-Acceptance in Stephen Daldry’s Movie ‘billy Elliot’

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My visual representation is of a watercolor tree, depicting Billy Elliot’s transition of self-acceptance throughout Stephen Daldry’s movie ‘Billy Elliot’. This film highlights the opportunities and obstacles individuals face in their everyday lives.

Billy transitions from a narrow-minded and myopic society where specific activities are characterized as masculine and all boys must partake in them. Billy tried to conform to the limitations placed around him by society but nonetheless, struggled with the acceptance. “You’re a disgrace to them gloves, your father and the traditions of this boxing hall” is heard from his boxing coach after being knocked to the ground by his opponent. Not only is he physically hit but also hit metaphorically by the tradition of passing down the gloves and the expectation that he will oblige with the rigid gender roles of their society.

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The mise en scene of the music from the ballet class juxtaposes how Billy is surrounded by such a masculine sport. The ballet music compliments just how at rest Billy looks after being knocked down, and by having him breathing in slow motion it is able to create a suspended atmosphere where he is in his own world. I have chosen to represent Billy’s old view of the world by hanging boxing gloves over the tree and resting an axe against its trunk. This is able to express how these aspects of society had a heavy influence on him as they were weighing him down, making him feel isolated and trapped into conforming to the restraints of society’s expectations. The tree itself represents Billy’s strength and courage during the decisions he endured in order to become his true self. The branches reach outwards in his quest to find himself, and form stronger bonds with the people in his life that encourage him. Billy soon discovers a passion for ballet but lacks the acceptance and support from the community he lives in and from his family. His father’s opinions are voiced when he discovers his son is taking up ballet by hollering “You. Out. NOW!”. These truncated sentences enable the audience to gain insight into his views against his son pursuing this form of art. He enters from within the shadows, a wire fence dividing him and his son. The continuous barrier motif is emphasized as Jackie looks on horrified at his son from behind the constraints of the barriers placed on their father-son relationship. Billy is pulled out from the brightly lit walls of his ballet class into the shadowy grasps of his father.

The contrast in the lighting is used to portray the emotions felt by both parties, more importantly just how comfortable Billy was in the ballet class. Much like this scene, in my picture I decided to play with the color scheme, in order to represent how pressure was applied to Billy to act a certain way. The colors in my piece are dreary except for the fresh trunk that has broken through the gray bark. I chose to have the colors being as dull as they are in order to convey how nothing sparked his interest and he did not want to partake in the activities ‘he was meant to be doing’. Although Billy continues to work hard for his goal, he is still missing the encouragement from his family specifically his father. He was able let his passion for ballet shine through by breaking out into dance and leaving his father in awe. The lack of dialogue in this scene lets emotions run high as this is Billy’s form of expressing his feelings which were cast aside for the sake of societies’ judgment.

Actions speak louder than words and by having the protagonist focus on expressive movement as opposed to speaking, it enables a more intense reaction from Jackie as Billy’s dance is seen as a challenge against his views. This is represented in my creative task as the peeling of the bark from the tree. This metaphorically represents Billy discovering his true self, enabling him to risk his relationship with his in order to purse a form of art he is devoted to. There is seen to be a golden color emitting itself from the section of the tree trunk that is exposed. I chose to express Billy’s transition of acceptance with gold as it is a warm color that is bright and cheerful, much like Billy’s demeanor after standing up to his father, and is associated with feelings of love and passion to which he has devoted to ballet. Dance becomes a means of escape from his surroundings, a refuge, a form of self-expression and, ultimately, a way out of his closed community and into the larger world. After an eventful acceptance from his family, his father, Jackie, assists Billy in every possible way to help him adapt and be accepted into the new world of ballet. Billy ultimately succeeds as in the final scene his family come to watch him solo for the Royal Ballet. To create a dramatic and emotional atmosphere, the composers have used a ritardando in the backing music as Billy leaps into the air to reflect on how he has overcome society’s limitations. This musical device aids in the conveyance of how proud Billy is of himself and the magnitude of his performance, being the lead performer in a prestigious, sold-out ballet production.

In my visual representation, this piece of Billy’s transition is reflected through the color scheme of the entire drawing. The grey tones of the tree, axe and boxing gloves convey the neutral and emotionless connection Billy had to the expectations he was forced to conform to. The juxtaposition of the grass to the ‘outside world’, emphasized in grey, communicates Billy’s growth and that although he had lack of experience to begin with he was able to stand his ground against the weight of gender stereotypes and express himself. The colors in the picture reveals that he was pretending to be someone he wasn’t, in order to seek acceptance from his family. The colorful grass represents he was happier once he showed his true colors.

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