'Strictly Ballroom' Essay

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To belong to anyone else, one does not have to give up his or her values or independence by conforming. This is shown through the texts of the film, ‘Strictly Ballroom’ directed by Baz Luhrmann and the children’s picture book, ‘The Red Tree’ written and illustrated by Shaun Tan. In ‘Strictly Ballroom’ characters, scenes and techniques such as dialogue, costume, lighting, and marginalization are used to depict that to belong to anyone else, one does not have to give up his or her values or independence by conforming. In the children’s picture book ‘The Red Tree’ character, symbols, illustration and colour are used to successfully portray this.

Scott Hastings believed in himself and did not give up his independence to conform to the ballroom world. At first, when having to choose between dance partners of Fran or Tina Sparkle, he was torn between independence or conformity. He then accepted that he was different and that he did not conform to the ‘strictly’ ballroom world, and because of this, he did not lose himself in his battle of belonging. Through the technique of dialogue, “I just want to dance my own steps!” it is shown how Scott’s creativity creates difference in the community and is not accepted. He recognizes that he will not win but he wants to dance his own way, not anybody else’s, “You’re all so scared you wouldn’t know what you thought!” When Scott dances his own steps, colours, costume and lighting are used to show how he is not ‘strictly’ ballroom as he is placed into natural lighting and a ‘pure’ costume, rather than the bright ones other competitors wear. When Scott and Fran are sabotaged at the Pan Pacific and the music is shut off to stop their dancing, the crowd slowly begins to clap a beat for them to dance to. This shows the ‘strictly’ ballroom world gradually beginning to accept Scott and Fran and their “Crowd pleasing steps”. Through the examples given, it has been clearly shown that Scott Hastings did not give up his values or independence on his journey to belong. He did not give in by conforming; he instead stood up for himself and for what he believed in. This is also true of Fran, who just wanted to win the Pan Pacific but did not fit the stereotype of the glitzy and glamorous ballroom world, and so she did not belong. She was seen as just a beginning level dancer, and an “ugly duckling” and was completely unnoticed by Shirley, Les and Liz. By using dialogue and Fran calling herself, “Just Fran”, shows she does not have an identity because she does not belong. Fran is of Spanish decent which already makes her an outsider in America, let alone the ‘strictly’ ballroom world. Scott and Fran find each other and together fight Barry Fife and the federation of dancing so they are accepted for who they are. Fran did not give up, and this is made evident when Shirley and Liz confronted her to try and persuade her to leave Scott and not dance with him, “I think it would be best for everyone if you just went home”, “You don’t want to ruin his chances do you?” The use of low camera angles on Shirley and high camera angles on Fran, show Fran’s vulnerability and Shirley strong influential power over her. Even though she was confronted, she did not give up when Scott came back for her. She still wanted to win. Fran did not lose herself on her journey to belong, and did not conform to the rules of the ballroom world. She proved that “To live a life is fear, is a life half lived”.

On the other hand, Scott’s father, Doug Hastings, did not belong as he had lost all his independence by not standing up for himself when he danced his own steps. Doug lived in the shadow of his wife Shirley Hastings who treated him as a less significant person, “say something you stupid man!” showing that Doug has less power within the relationship and is weak. By using marginalization and having Doug out of focus in the Dance Studio, the lighting takes away from his power and he is left looking insignificant in the world of...
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