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Defying Gender Stereotypes In The Film Billy Elliot

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Stereotypes for men still seem to linger around in todays society, even though the gender equity movement has made a pretty impactful mark on how we view genders now, the stereotypes for men still seem to have its way with society today. A film that breaks these barriers is a 2000’s film entitles “Billy Elliot”. Starring Jamie bell and Trevor Fox the story of an 11-year-old Billy Elliot, a coal miner’s son in Northern England, is forever changed one day when he stumbles upon a ballet class during his weekly boxing lesson. Before long, he finds himself in dance, demonstrating the kind of raw talent seldom seen by the class’ exacting instructor, Mrs. Wilkinson. With a tart tongue and a never-ending stream of cigarettes in her hand, Mrs. Wilkinson’s zest for teaching is revived when she sees Billy’s potential.

Billy Elliot is set in the 1980s, where homosexuality was still a fragile topic to discuss compared with today. Gender stereotypes are explored through homophobic comments by family members. The film stresses that Billy is not actually gay, like his family members think. With a short pillow fight with the dance teacher’s daughter we see Billy falling for the girl and proving to the audience that he is actually interested in girls. It is through Billy’s friend Michael that the homosexual topic is raised. He is not a ballet dancer himself, yet confidently cross-dresses and helps Billy with his dance routine.

Gender definitions and divisions are shown in the gym scene where the boys box and girls attend ballet lessons. As Billy’s father simply puts it ‘lads do football, boxing, or wrestling, not friggin’ ballet!’ However, Billy wants to dance. Through a beautifully conducted tracking shot of the dancer’s feet, the different genders are clearly presented. Not only can we see his masculine, stumpy feet, but the choice of colour the pink ballet slippers for girls and the blue boxing shoes for Billy depicts the stereotypical colours of both genders.

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Throughout this film we as the audience are presented with many stereotypes, victimising men and women. The way this was done is when we are introduced to Billy Elliots family. Billy lives with his widowed father, Jackie, and older brother, Tony, both coal miners out on strike, and also his maternal grandmother, who has Alzheimer’s disease and once aspired to be a professional dancer. Even while meeting new characters like Billys friend Michael, who is a homosexual in the film also seems to believe there’s a correlation between his interest in ballet and his sexuality.

The stereotypes presented in his father are his attitudes towards his activities. His father believes boxing to be more appropriate for men as it is a way of showing their manliness. Where as Ballet on the other hand is considered more feminine and something in which only women should participate in. Billy does not believe in this and he goes ahead to fulfil his dream (Ballet). Despite the fact that he is a male and that his father and brother believe that Ballet is inappropriate for men.There was a scene in which Billy eventually gives up on Boxing and gives Ballet a try. When he goes to attend his class his fathers sees him learning ballet and not attending his boxing lessons. Seeing this Billy’s father gets very angry, yells at Billy and tells him that Ballet is for girls. Even though Billy does not lose hope, he continues to take Ballet lesson without his father knowing.

However, through all the gender stereotypes being exploited, Billy Elliot still provides the audience with a sense of hope as even though Billy has a more direct view point on what men and women should do and with a brother much the same, Billy still continues to break these stereotypes and barriers and continues to dance. This act encourages audiences and hopefully gets a message across. Billy Elliot is able to shape societies knowledge on UK history from a working-class perspective. The film reflects societal values and attitudes of the miner’s strike, homosexuality and gender roles of the time in which the film reflects. Billy Elliot creates a source of clear understanding for the time, through Halls’ screenplay and Daldry’s directing, a clear projection of the UK in the 1980s is reflected in the film.

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Defying Gender Stereotypes In The Film Billy Elliot. (2021, August 31). Edubirdie. Retrieved October 2, 2023, from
“Defying Gender Stereotypes In The Film Billy Elliot.” Edubirdie, 31 Aug. 2021,
Defying Gender Stereotypes In The Film Billy Elliot. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 2 Oct. 2023].
Defying Gender Stereotypes In The Film Billy Elliot [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2021 Aug 31 [cited 2023 Oct 2]. Available from:
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