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Belonging Essay on Strictly Ballroom & the Sister’s Anthology Essay

“An individual’s interaction with others and the world around them can enrich or limit their experience of belonging.” The intrinsic nature of mankind strives for a sense of belonging; this sense of belonging is fulfilled when one has reached a physical or emotional affinity with an entity. One’s sense of belonging emerges from positive and negative experiences and notions of identity, relationships, understanding and acceptance. Moreover, positive connections allow one to feel security, acceptance and input meaning into their lives. In contrast, negative connections are the reverse; one may feel alienated, depressed and feel a need to create or deteriorate a personal or cultural identification. Positive and negative interactions, imparting an essential role in influencing one’s sense of personal, familial and social belonging is effectively explored in Baz Luhrmann’s romantic comedy film Strictly Ballroom (1992) and the anthology Sisters. An authority figure, head of an organisation, expectations of conformity by followers negatively affects the followers’ or one’s sense of personal belonging.

Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom effectively undertakes the exploration of this idea through the portrayal of the young ‘non-conformist’ Scott Hastings struggle to win the Pan Pacifics competition by the pursuit of his own personal dance; a rebellious action ensured to disrupt the natural order of the Australian Dance federation or ballroom dancing world, operated by the corruptive Barry Fife. As Scott throws his polka dot t-shirt in a corner of the studio revealing a simple shirt underneath, this is a simultaneous suggestion of his ‘breaking away’ from his old ballroom partnership with Liz and reliance on ‘flashy clothes’ to self-express himself in ballroom dance; further suggesting that his sense of belonging towards traditional ballroom dance has been shifted into feeling a sense of belonging towards his own personal dance. An agreement on a partnership ensues when both Scott and Fran, a girl with a Spanish background, share similar desires to dance non-federation steps at the Pan Pacifics. However, Barry attempts to deceive Scott into dancing the traditional federation steps at the Pan Pacific’s.

He asserts: “We are hoping you will win the trophy that he could not. He wouldn’t want me to do this, but I’m begging you, dance with Liz.” The natural lighting on Scott and his long-sleeved, loose cotton white shirt effectively capturing his youth and grace and illustrating a sense of freedom contrasts to Barry, as a dim light surrounds him and he is wearing a formal black suit that hints towards self restriction. Lurhmann has intentioned this to foreshadow what style of dance will prevail in the Pan Pacifics and to demonstrate the freedom that follows with choosing not to conform, and, to highlight the imbalance of power, encouraging audience empathy for Scott. After Scott does not see through the deception and familial belonging drives him into agreeing to dance federation steps instead of pursuing his own personal style in the Pan Pacific’s he is inevitably affected in a way, as his sense of personal belonging received through his personal non-federation dancing is limited.

An individual who has undertaken a physical transformation into a more appealing image by another individual can positively influence their sense of social and physical belonging. This notion is effectively explored in Lurhmann’s Strictly Ballroom (1992) through the portrayal of Fran’s progression from a meek unattractive woman into the ideal representation of a female ballroom dancer. Luhrmann’s constant use of high power shot when filming her on her parts by herself and the symbolic meaning of her glasses of meekness in comparison to the norm, reflect on her little power. Fran’s unattractiveness as a result of her neglected like state makes her a representation of reality in the ‘unrealistic’ and ‘fake’ world of traditional ballroom dancing reliant on flashy costume and heavy make-up, and is what successfully separates her from it.

Therefore, as a result of her appearance, her sense of belonging is limited. However, pressures and expectations placed on her to conform to the ideologies of ballroom dancing women instigate her transition from an unattractive woman into a more appealing woman, where she becomes no longer a representation of reality. Liz compliments Fran’s more appealing appearance: “You look lovely Fran. You have been using that Buff puff I gave you haven’t you?’’ Second person device and rhetorical question is used to reveal to the responder that her physical transformation was a result of living up to the ballroom dancing pressures and expectations of conformity, and not an act from personal decision.

Within this scene, medium shot is simultaneously used to emphasise Fran’s now surpassing beauty than her elders and the shot positioning Fran of equal height to Liz, Les and Doug suggests that since now she is at a higher attractive level the balance of power is equal despite age, rank and gender. As they converse, the positive expressions on Fran’s, Les, Liz and Doug’s face and Fran’s open and confident stance illustrates that this physical transformation into a more appealing image has enriched Fran’s social and physical belonging. (These two paragraphs and conclusion done all in Biology)

The restriction’s placed on an individual due to the unavoidable interactions with others and parts of the world limits their sense of personal belonging and can be dealt with escape and interaction with the wider world. The nonfiction extract from Sisters, an Anthology, undergoes the exploration of this idea through the reflection of a narrator’s relationship with her two sisters, Mary and Phoebe and her best friend, Beth. The narrator articulates that the inevitable differing perspectives of her blood-related sisters lead to an incomprehension which further leads to a state in their relationship where “too much cannot be spoken” as “too much hangs on whose version prevails”. Hence, this imperfect relationship is contrasted with her relationship with Beth where “there is not a sliver of difference between us” and “where I cannot imagine the life I lived before, a world without the most perfect of sisters” to draw out the imperfection and forced nature in terms of the bonds of sisterhood.

She has an exile to enrich her sense of personal belonging that is limited at home and finds it with interaction with the landscape and experiences with the world. “I had a life brimming over with sparkling stories which I sent to them on the back of postcards of shinny harbours and bright reefs. They had drizzle and guinea pigs to bury, and dogs to drag out of the river.” The positive connotation of “shinny”, “sparkling” and “bright” highlights a key and unforgettable moment of the narrators life to the responder whilst these words contrary to death, indicate her feelings of youth and vitality, and hence belonging, which is further contrary to the negative connotation of ‘drag’; that relates to a restriction of choice and images of death.

Also, the great vastness, lighter colour and greater height of water of the ‘reef’s’ and ‘harbours’ juxtaposed with the restrictive nature, dullness of the ‘river’ highlights her feelings of freedom and reiterates her vitality and hence again, greater sense of belonging. Overall, this reflects the narrator’s greater sense of belonging in interaction with the wider world, allowed from her exile, rather than the restricted space of sisterhood or unavoidable interactions with others. The conception of family, appearance and expectations of conformity by the authorities and the world around them negatively and positively affects an individual’s sense of personal belonging.


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