Billy Elliot

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Identity is portrayed as malleable, created through society’s views and expectations upon oneself. Cultures, background and peers are all pressures on oneself to assimilate into someone “acceptable” in that culture. This is prevalent in the visual texts Samson and Delilah and Billy Elliot, in which all three of these characters attempt to go against these pressures, to overcome them and create their own identities. These three characters suffer different consequences because of this challenging of the identity of your culture – challenging your own stereotype. By using symbols, dialogue (or lack of) and other elements such as elder figures, these visual texts highlight the personal cost of breaking the reigns of society.

A close study of Billy Elliot shows the viewer that there are many key elements that are required to create a new identity, making a successful transition into a new unfamiliar world, especially when this new world is opposite to the dominant culture that oneself live in. Identity is an important aspect for any individual, as it separates one from another. This concept that is identity can refer to physical elements, such as gender, nationality and age, or psychological aspects such as values, ethics, characteristics, etc. The visual text Billy Elliot thoroughly explores the idea of identity and conveys how it can be shaped, formed or changed, through motifs on landscape, movement and music to create notions of self.

Through techniques such as symbolism, contrast, imagery and language, the viewer gets an indication of the uses and themes of stereotypes, growth and determination. The metonymic function of the fictional British mining town of Everington is to convey masculinity and hardship. Here landscape is used to demonstrate how our natural and physical environment shape and inform personal responses. The characters are products of the values and beliefs manifested in the world that surrounds them. The restrictive setting of Everington makes it difficult for the characters to understand their definition of self, and thus Billy must move outside of this environment. The recurring image of the green and lush graveyard in the foreground is used to contrast the dark and ominous mines that command the background. By using these images, the director represents the fate of the characters and the idea that they are trapped by the ideological values and expectations of their society.

Ironically, the graveyard also represents hope for Billy through the guiding force of his dead mother.

The colour blue in the film is used as a symbol to express the working class environment; the masculine class culture that thwarts Billy’s ambitions. The doors in the film are either painted red or blue – blue representing the households that support the union, and the red representing the houses supporting the “state”.

The union is a male dominated, masculine class group. It is featured in the film as all males, the miners who are on strike. The clothes that are worn in the film are also predominantly blue – the sweaters and the denim jackets for example. These are resemblant of the blue working jumpsuits that are worn by workers, and remind the viewer of the working class and again emphasize the masculinity in this film that Billy is expected to assimilate into.

The individuality and the singularity of Billy are shown when he is limping up the street. In the background, there is a single white yacht – representing purity, and innocence. This yacht is surrounded by the vast ocean of blue, which conveys how billy is the white yacht – alone, pure and innocent in a world of blue, the union, the masculinity, the male dominated society’s pressures placed upon him to conform.

The relationship between Jackie and Billy is important, as it is a complete exemplification to the idea of gender role stereotypes, and acceptable male identities. With Jackie being a typical masculine male in his society, who sees no prospect...
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