Conflicts – We’ve all had at least one in our lives. Some people will never get along with each other after a conflict, others make up again after a certain period of time. They can be about anything, between anyone. If they’re two friends, complete strangers or family members, arguments are always something that alters the relationship of the people involved for either a short or long time.
There are numerous reasons for arguments to arise, from money to property, decisions to feelings or from the pursuit of one’s dreams to following the mainstream trends. In the film Billy Elliot by Stephen Daldry, the idea that the conflict between the pursuit of a personal desire and choosing to conform is a result of the strict parenting style that Billy has to deal with, is explored. The reasons for this idea are the family’s situation, the death of Billy’s mother, the parent’s fear of failure as well as stereotypes.
One reason that explains why strict parenting causes conflict is the family’s current situation. A lot of people become influenced by the issues around them which change their behaviour and actions. War, poverty or depression are just some of the impacts. In the film Billy Elliot, Billy’s father Jackie and brother Tony are influenced by their financial struggles.
The movie is set in Northern England in 1984, the time the UK miner’s strike took place. Because Jackie and Tony lost their jobs, they experience enormous financial difficulties that cause frustration and anger. This clearly reflects well on Jackie’s strict parenting style. The fact that Billy’s grandmother also lives with the family influences Jackie’s behaviour a lot too. This is because Billy’s grandma needs care and attention,
both physically and mentally. Without an income, it becomes extremely challenging to care for a family of four. Especially for a father, whose main task is to provide his family with its needs and essentials, having no income affects his ability to do just that negatively.
This causes devastation and, as mentioned before, frustration that can easily turn into anger. Throughout the majority of the film, Billy’s father did not seem happy or satisfied. Sending his son Billy to boxing wasn’t only to distract the eleven year old from the current situation of his family and the deterioration of the economy. Jackie’s involvement in the strike caused him to not want to deal with any other problems.
When he finds out that Billy is doing ballet, he becomes furious because he doesn’t have the time and patience to talk to his son about it in a pedagogically correct way. He rather yells at him and forbids him to keep doing ballet and says that “[He’s] bustin’ [his] ass for those 50 pences.” That is the price of one boxing or ballet lesson. Jackie’s strictness can clearly be recognized when he tells Billy to “…stay here and look out for [his grandmother].
There is no doubt that raising children becomes a more challenging task if only one parent is present. Especially during complex times like these, it is hard to find balance between going on strike and being a good parent. Not only does a certain situation influence the parent’s way of raising their children. In the film Billy Elliot, the death of Billy’s mother plays an important part in terms of Jackie’s parenting style as well. It’s always extremely painful to lose a loved one. In this case, Jackie’s wife, who seemed like a loving, caring and friendly individual, passed away.
As a single parent, Jackie seems to want his family to stick together and tries his best to protect it in order to prove to himself, and to his deceased wife, that he’s a good father. However, Jackie’s unfriendly and even violent actions towards his children and mother imply that he’s anything but that. By looking at him more closely, the reason for that can be easily identified.
The death of his wife changed him completely. In the film, pictures of him and his wife are shown which display a happy and smiling Jackie Elliot. This shows that Billy’s mother’s death led to a behavioural change in him. His wife’s friendly and loving traits infected the whole family with these characteristics and formed a happy family. It seems as if their own sunshine has left the Elliot family.
This can also explain why the sky is filled with white clouds throughout the whole film. Her character can best be explored by reading the letter she wrote for Billy. She tells her son that “[She’s] proud that [he was hers]” and that “[She’ll] love [him] forever.” This letter reveals the fact that his mother knew she was going to pass away and therefore wrote this letter to her son, which is not something many parents would do.
Especially when Billy’s and Tony’s father starts crying for the first time during their Christmas celebration because he had to destroy his wife’s piano for firewood, his grief and devastation becomes clearer. Maybe Jackie would have been a different type of father if the miner’s strike didn’t take place. The mixture between the grief and frustration resulted in his strict way of raising his children.
Another scene from the film shows that Jackie is in pain that’s caused by his wife’s death as well as the strike. When he permits Billy to play his mother’s piano, Billy states that “[his mother] would let [him]. “ Jackie’s following reaction indicates that he realizes that Billy prefers his mother’s decisions to his father’s which caused him to feel like he failed as a good parent in this situation. Although his wife is dead, she plays an important role in this film and contributes to Jackie’s character enormously. It is safe to say that with her being still alive, the strike, as well as the conflict between Billy and his father, wouldn’t be as intense as they are in the film.
Jackie Elliot’s behaviour towards Billy’s passion for ballet can also be a result of his fear of failure as a parent. As mentioned before, he tries everything he can in order to protect his family from the dangers of the strike. From what the viewer knows from his wife, she can be described as a quite exceptional mother.
Throughout the movie, Jackie wants his sons to listen to him. When Tony attempts to sneak out the house to vandalize, his father tells him to “Get back to bed” and eventually has to become violent to stay in control of his sons. Fathers in general have a certain kind of pride. They are the ones who are usually responsible for the family’s income and standard of living.
This explains why they want to have control over their family and want their children to be successful in life. Their ideology is that this can only be achieved by having their children conform to the parent’s expectations. When Jackie finds out that Billy is doing ballet, his countenance reveals his fear of failing as a father. He wants Billy to become a coal miner just like himself, but according to his ideological perspective, Billy’s passion for ballet will influence his son’s future negatively.
Jackie’s fear and also anger is shown when he tells Billy that “[He] can forget about the ballet.” He also fears that Billy would keep doing ballet secretly if he allowed him to keep boxing, He then permits him to do boxing as well. No parent wants their children to struggle in life. A strict father like Jackie doesn’t intend to be a bad father, but to set the path for his children that will lead them to a good future. It might not be the most favoured parenting style among children, but sometimes it can have a positive impact on individuals.
The fear of failure as a parent has a big impact on parenting. However, stereotypes are what influence parents the most. Especially during situations like the one described in the film, stereotypes contribute to Jackie’s decisions enormously. Ballet is thought to be a sport for girls only because of its attributes. It’s a soft, quiet and sensitive sport.
One wrong move can lead to having to do the dance all over again. A widespread stereotype about girls is that they’re soft and sensitive. This automatically formed a connection between girls and the sport of ballet. On the other side, boys are thought of as tough and strong individuals. This thought is then associated with activities such as football, hockey or boxing. In the film Billy Elliot, Jackie is portrayed as a person who believes in stereotypes.
He strongly believes that boys should do “manly” activities that would help him become a better man when he grows up. Billy gets to hear his father’s opinion about ballet when he says that “[Ballet is] all right for your Nana, for girls. Not for lads, Billy. Lads do football… or boxing… or wrestling. Not friggin’ ballet.” This quote perfectly confirms Jackie’s opinion on a boy doing a sport that is labelled as “girls activity” by society. Furthermore, fathers follow these stereotypes because they want their sons to be strong and tough men that will help their family out in the future.
Especially during the strike and the fluctuating economy in the 1980’s, Jackie wants two physically as well as emotionally strong sons by his side to overcome the difficulties they are facing. In his opinion, ballet wouldn’t help Billy become that type of male, but the exact opposite. In society, males who do female activities are often labelled as homosexual. Jackie had the same point of view because society taught him this way of thinking. However, Billy proves that that doesn’t apply to every male.
He says that “Just because [he] likes ballet doesn’t mean [he’s homosexual]…” These stereotypes were an important part of the film and are a crucial reason why Jackie is a strict father. It’s important to realize that those stereotypes are still existent in today’s society and that it is and will be extremely challenging to remove them from this world’s minds.
The film Billy Elliot by Stephen Daldry contains numerous different ideas about almost any aspect of life. Especially the idea of conflict is explored. Parenting skills have a huge impact on whether there will be conflicts about certain topics between the child and parent or not. Whether the family is struggling financially, a family member passed away, a parent is scared of failing as a life mentor or stereotypes influenced parenting, strictness will occur if those factors come into play.
Especially the pursuit of a child’s personal desire and the parent’s expectation to conform can lead to immense problems within the family. The big question is, will all this benefit the family in the future? It’s hard to answer that question, but it is important to accept the fact that everyone in the family has to be able to pursue their dreams with help and support of the family.
At the end of the day, a conflict is just a clash of two different ideas. As Donatella Versace said, “Creativity comes from a conflict of ideas.” By looking at it this way, conflicts will lead to a better tomorrow, where creativity is increased and experiences are shared with the world.
Quotes from Billy Elliot by Stephen Daldry
“We Need You!” Billy Elliot Quotes. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Oct. 2013.
BrainyQuote. Xplore, n.d. Web. 08 Oct. 2013.
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