Billy Elliot Themes: Class Oppression that Impacts Gender Roles

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Billy Elliot
Themes: Class Oppression that Impacts Gender Roles within
Community and Family
1. Describe the movie: Billy Elliot takes place in a small coal-mining village in England where many
people work very hard for very little money. In order to protect their health and their ability to make
money, the miners decided to form a group, or Union. The Union helps the miners stick together
because a group of voices agreeing to be protected is stronger than one voice seeking protection. In
the movie, the miners refuse to work because the owner of the coal-mine is demanding that the
miners work for less money and do more work. When the miners refuse to work, they call it a
Strike. The coal miners and their Union stand up to the owners, and go on Strike, but it is difficult
and there is violence between the miners and the police. Some of the men in the village decide to
not Strike and work under the bad conditions. This also causes fighting between the families in the
village. Billy Elliot is an 11 year old boy, who lives in this village with his grandmother, father, and
brother. Billy’s father and brother are coal miners and have decided to Strike, or not work. This
causes the family to not have money and struggle to heat their home and eat food. Billy’s mother
died when he was younger, and his grandmother needs special care because she has trouble
remembering where she is and who her loved ones are in the family. Billy and his friends go to the
local community center where the boys learn how to Box, and the girls learn Ballet. It is there that
Billy sees a Ballet class for the first time and wants to learn Ballet rather than Box.
2. Describe the clip: In the first several scenes, we see what a day in the life is like for Billy. Pay
attention to all of the ways in which Billy cares for his family and how his family and community
who are coalminers are threatened when they protest for unfair wages.
In the second clip, Billy and his friends go to the local community center to take boxing lessons, but
Billy has other inspirations and dreams. In the third clip, Billy’s father comes to the community
center to watch him box, and finds Billy in the ballet class. In the fourth clip, Billy and his friend,
Robert, go to the community center to dance. Robert decides to dress as a ballerina in a tutu, and
play the female part to Billy’s male role when Billy’s father finds them. In the last clip, Billy
auditions, and is accepted to the school. Billy becomes the first person to leave his village and go to
the exciting city of London.
3. Questions for Reflection and Dialogue :What were all of the responsibilities that Billy had for his
family even though he was still a teenager? Whose presence was the most/least obvious in the
streets of the village? What actions, facial expressions, and body language did you notice the
children and adults of the village show when the police were present? What do you think Billy
meant when he told his friend that he felt like a sissy for liking ballet? What did you notice happen
when Billy’s talent for dance was found out by his ballet teacher, his friend, and his father? What
did you think about the conversations between Billy’s dance teacher and father in deciding if Billy
could dance? Is there anything you would change about that conversation from either Billy’s dance
teacher or his father? In the scene where Billy and his friend dance together, Billy’s friend, Robert,
wants to wear the tutu because he likes it. If Robert wore his tutu to school, do you think his
classmates and teachers would embrace him or say mean things about him? Or even use violence
against him? What do you think changes Billy’s father’s mind after he finds Billy and his friend
Robert dancing ? How do you think Billy got the courage to dance with confidence in front of his
father? Can you describe Billy’s reactions when he is accepted to the school? Were his reactions
connected to leaving his village and saying good-bye or having misgivings about going to the new
school?
4. Instructional Activity
The Pyramid of Power and Improv. Strategies will be used in this module. Pyramid of Power
Tool: Start the dialogue and reflection by taping the Pyramid of Power to the floor, or draw it on a
flip chart that is large enough for the children to interact with around their answers. Ask the children
to place the characters of the movie on the Pyramid and explain their choices. Have them decide
whether the characters they have placed on the pyramid decide who make the rules and who get to
break the rules in this coal-mining village around how people make a living, and how they get to
dream about their future?
Improv : These improv exercises are designed to help the children put their dialogue and inquiry
conversations into action. The exercise will help the children connect larger societal class messages
and access to resources with the experience of communities, families and personal lives of children.
The team will divide the flip chart into three columns. One column is titled Community Challenge,
the next is titled Dream, and the third is titled Action. Have the children make suggestions that
identify obstacles they see in their communities similar to what Billy Elliot experienced. Then have
them list dream opportunities and jobs they would want to be a part of. In the third column are
actions that will help overcome these challenges and achieve their dreams. This improv is a
“controlled” game where the team is in control of how the action will flow. The team writes down
all the suggestions on slips of paper. Give each child a “dream” suggestion. Try and give dreams to
the boys and girls that will challenge gender 24 roles.
The team will “set the stage” by choosing a “community challenge” suggestion. The team will
explain what is happening in this community and that one special boy or girl has an incredible
talent. The team will then ask one child to come forward and act out their dream. The other children
have to guess it. The team will ask the children to come up with questions for the volunteer that will
ask how their community, family and friends feel about their talent. The team will guide this
discussion to help the children give suggestions how to achieve the talent by utilizing the allies in
the community, like Billy Elliot did. Keep rotating this exercise so all children can participate.
Little Miss Sunshine
Themes: Gender, standards of beauty and societal vs. parental rules
1. Describe the movie.
This is a story of a young girl named Olive who, like every other boy and girl, has a dream. Her dream is to
be in the “Little Miss Sunshine” beauty contest. Olive has a family who loves her. Her family consists of
her mother, father, older brother, uncle and grandfather. Olive and her family travel a long way to California
for Olive to be in the contest. Even though her father loves her, sometimes he pushes her too hard, and
encourages her to win, and that leaves Olive unsure of whether she will be able to reach her dreams. This
movie shows the journey Olive takes with her family to achieve her dream.
2. Describe the clips.
The first clip shows Olive getting a phone call during dinner, and finding out that she can enter the beauty
contest. Her father asks her if she thinks she can win this contest, and when she says yes, he agrees to let
Olive take part in this contest, and they decide to take a road trip to California. The next clip is the family
sitting at a diner, and Olive ordering ice cream. The dad quickly tells her that ice cream makes people fat,
and that none of the women in Miss America pageants are fat, and that if she wants to stay nice and skinny,
she should not eat ice cream. On hearing this, the mother dismisses the father’s comments, and tells Olive
that it is okay to be skinny, and it’s also okay to be fat. Olive’s grandfather, brother, and uncle all support
Olive’s mother by diving into the ice cream. Olive quickly chooses to eat the ice cream she ordered. The
next scene is with Olive and her grandfather practicing for the talent show part of the beauty contest. Olive
asks her grandpa if she is beautiful, and tells him that she does not want to be a loser because her father
does not like losers. Her grandfather replies by explaining to Olive that she is beautiful inside and out, and
that the only people who are losers are people who do not even try. In the next scene, Olive meets Miss
California, and asks her if she eats ice cream, and Miss California says she “loves ice cream!” In the last
scene, the father and brother tell Olive’s mother that she is not beauty queen material, and that she should
drop out of the pageant. The mother’s response is that Olive has worked too hard and come too far, and
therefore it is Olive’s decision. She then tells Olive that no matter what her decision is, the family remains
very proud of her. Then, Olive is shown walking towards the stage and continuing with the “Little Miss
Sunshine” pageant.
3. Reflection and Dialogue.
What were the different messages Olive received from all of her family members? How did the grandfather
encourage Olive to try her best to reach her dream? What were the differences and similarities between
Olive and the other girls who participated in the beauty pageant? What would you define as beauty, and can
girls and boys both be beautiful?. What were the rules in Olive’s family and at the beauty pageant that were
positive and those that were negative? Did you see a difference between Olive’s dream and that of her
father? When people make decisions do you think it is a good idea to stick by that decision or is okay to
change your mind?
4. Interactional Activity:
First use the Traditional Male and Female norms and have the children identify all of the norms that
describe Olive’s behavior, the other contesters, and each of her family members. Then choose the scene at
the diner. Have each child pretend to be an object at the diner, like the napkin, the plates, the ice cream, and
they witness a conversation of a young boy telling his father that he wants to enter a beauty contest. Have
the children/adolescents then all describe what it felt like for them to witness this conversation, and what
they imagine happened between the father and the son after this conversation?
Como Agua Para Chocolate
Tema: Normas tradicionales del rol de la mujer
1. 1. Descripción de la película:
Basada en el la novela escrita por Laura Esquivel, esta película relata la vida de una familia
durante la Revolución Mexicana. La madre, Helena, y sus tres hijas viven en un rancho alejadas
de los efectos de la Revolución. El padre muere cuando nace su tercera hija, Tita. Tita crece a
enamorarse de un joven, quien termina casándose con su hermana. La película ilustra las
costumbres y expectativas que la sociedad y esta familia tienen para las mujeres
2. Descripción de los segmentos:
En la primera escena, observaran al padre moribundo enterándose de rumores en los que se
cuestiona la paternidad de su hija Tita.
En la segunda escena, la niñera habla con Tita y la madre rechaza la idea de que ella se case.
Luego verán a Tita hablando con su mamá sobre Pedro, el muchacho de quién ella se
enamora. En esta escena, Mama Elena y Tita discuten sobre su futuro de acuerdo con la
costumbre de la familia.
En la cuarta escena, Tita habla con el espíritu de su madre después de haber tenido relaciones
sexuales con Pedro, su enamorado y prometido de su hermana mayor Rosaura.
En la quinta última escena, la segunda hija, Gertrudis, que abandonó el hogar y se convirtió en
una general en la Revolución, habla con un soldado analfabeta.
3. Instrucciones:
Utilice las normas tradicionales del rol de la mujer. Preste atención a las normas tradicionales de
género para las mujeres de esta época y como cada personaje acepta o rechaza las expectativas
que introducen estas normas.
4. Preguntas para dialogar y reflexionar:
Usando como guía las normas tradicionales del rol de la mujer, ¿cuáles de estas normas
tradicionales se reflejan en cada una de estas mujeres?
¿De qué manera es que cada personaje (Mama Elena, Tita, Gertrudis, Rosaura) acepta o rechaza
estas expectativas tradicionales?
¿Cuáles costumbres impone la madre en la familia? ¿Cuál es, en su opinión, la justificación que
se le da a estas costumbres?
¿Con base en estas costumbres, que opciones de vida tiene Tita?
¿Si Tita hubiese sido varón, que expectativas/costumbres se le hubieran impuesto?
Hoy en día, ¿qué costumbres mantienen o retan este tipo de costumbres/expectativas
tradicionales en las vidas de mujeres, y cuales son los costos asociados con retar las tradiciones?
Like Water for Chocolate (Como Agua Para Chocolate)
Theme: Traditional Female Norms
1. Description of the Movie:
Based on the novel by Laura Esquivel, the film tells the story of a family during the Mexican
Revolution. The mother, Helena, and her three daughters live in a ranch far away from the
effects of the Revolution. The father of the family dies after his third daughter, Tita, is
born. Tita grows up and falls in love with the young man her sister marries. This movie
illustrates the customs and expectations that society and this family have of women.
2. Description of Clips:
In the fifth and last scene, the second daughter, Gertrudis, who left her home and became
a general in the Mexican Revolution, is speaking with one of her soldiers who is illiterate.
In the second scene, the housekeeper talks to Tita and her mother rejecting the idea that she will
get married one day
In the third scene, Tita is talking to her mother, Mama Elena bout Pedro, the boy she falls in
love with. Mama Elena and Tita discuss her future according to the customs of the family.
In the fourth scen, Tita speaks with her dead mother'spirit after she has had sexual relations with
Pedro who is her older sister Rosaura's husband.
In the fifth and last scene, the second daughter, Gertrudis, who left her home and became a
general in the Mexican Revolution, is speaking with one of her soldiers who is illiterate
3. Instructions:
Use the Traditional Female Norms. Pay attention to the female traditional norms that are
accepted by society and imposed by the family and how each character accepts or rejects the
expectations introduced by these norms.
4. Questions for Dialogue and Reflection
Which of the Traditional Female Norms are the women expected to embrace?
In what ways does each of the characters (Mama Elena, Tita, Gertrudis, Rosaura) accept or
reject these traditional expectations?
Which of the norms/customs does the mother impose on the family? What are the justifications
she offers in support of these customs?
If Tita lives by these customs, what might her options be for her life?
How would the imposed expectations and customs be similar or different on Tita if she were a
male?
Using the Traditional Female Norms, can you identify which of these impact the lives of
women and men today, and how are some challenged? At what costs?
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