Analysing Gender Roles in Billy Elliot

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Analyzing Gender roles in Billy Elliot

Billy Elliot, directed by Stephen Daldry, is a film taken place in England during

the mining workers riot. Set against the background of the 1984 Miner's Strike, Billy

Elliot is an eleven year old boy who stumbles out of the boxing ring and onto the ballet

floor. He faces many trials and triumphs as he strives to conquer his family's set ways,

inner conflict, and standing on his toes!. Between Billy and his family the relationship is

a complete exemplification to the idea of gender role stereotypes. With Jackie (his father)

being a typical hard man who sees no prospect outside of the mining industry, and

Tony (his brother), who possesses a great deal opposition towards the deeply taboo art of

male ballet. The conflict of gender role expectations is amplified during the course of the

movie as Billy becomes more and more involved in ballet. The viewer can therefore

understand the fact that Billy faces a major challenge as far as gender roles are

concerned, yet he nonetheless chooses to break the barrier.

Gender roles can be defined as the behaviors and attitudes expected of male and

female members of a society that act as rules that don't exactly include Billy due to his

personality. The unspoken rules that we ourselves have created over time. Such rules give

Jackie powerful illustration to the stereotypical psyche of male roles in society. His

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identity as a miner of North England during the miners' strike and ex-champion boxer

already reverberates the fact that he holds very traditionalistic male values. He literally

cannot perceive life outside of the mining industry "Why would I want to go to London?

there are no mines in London" In effect, when Jackie sees his son Billy in dancing school

behind his back for the first time, there is major repercussion, "You, out, now!" He then

drags Billy back home and informs him that "Lads do football... or boxing... or wrestling,

Not friggin' ballet", expressing his views of male gender role. Billy NHMJBL `questions

him "I don't see what's wrong with it", to which Jackie replies "You know quite nicely

what's wrong with it" Jackie expects his son Billy to realize the fact that ballet is

supposed to be a pastime for girls or ‘poofs' (English slang for somebody that can be

considered a homosexual). Benjamin Spock a gender role researcher states that "Many

parents encourage and expect boys to be more active, to be more rough-and-tumble in

their play than girls. A boy who does not like rough play (and so goes against the gender

role he has been assigned) may be labeled a "sissy."" Thus Billy's father is hesitant to

the fact that according to his view he will be labeled nothing more than a "wuss". Jackie

expected his son to act in a "manly" fashion by participating in sports such as boxing. By

participating in ballet Billy was going against all the beliefs his dad had about gender


Billy not only shares many issues dealing with his father but also with his

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pompous brother Tony. Like many other people Tony has a macho muscular view of how

men should act. "In ways that show they are physically and emotionally toughened (e.g.,

not showing pain, keeping emotions locked inside)" (BNET research center) are what

Tony believes to be the behavior men should have. The expression of opposition is

shown in various situations such as when he finds out about the matter regarding ballet.

Upon which he laughs and expresses "you have to be joking" revealing how he thinks

that the mere fact is impossible for a boy. Many of Tony's remark towards billy are

mocking and insulting to begin with "shut up you shrimp get your own milk" which only

get worse after learning about ballet. Such hardships are one of few that Billy faces

throughout the film.

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