Belonging in Strictly Ballroom and two related texts Essay
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Explores the notion of belongers – people obsessed with belonging who prefer not to think for themselves. This Shows the pain felt by those excluded from the group, eg Fran. Fran: I understand. You’ve got your Pan Pacific’s to win and I’m back in beginners where I belong.
Shows the disastrous effect conformity and fear have among belongers who gain their place inside the group at the price of conformity. Shirley Hastings, for example, lives a “life half-lived” cowering before what Barry Fife will say or think.
She has let the Federation so dominate her that she has no respect for Doug and can only see her son Scott in terms of winning competitions
Can be seen as a parable about multicultural Australia. At first the Anglo-Australians control the Federation, make the rules, delegate Fran (“Franjepannydellasquiggymop”) to role of abused outsider and close ranks against any possibility of change. The last scene reverses all this as both Doug and Fran’s grandmother are included in the dancing.
The clapping of the crowd – started by Doug, then picked up by Fran’s father and grandmother – is carried on by the crowd, enabling Scott and Fran to dance at the crowd’s insistence, no longer under the control of the corrupt Barry Fife.
Explores the contrast between authentic belonging where people speak and act from the heart and an artificial, rule-obsessed style of Belonging. Likewise dance as romantic, authentic, joyous activity is contrasted with the conservative rule-bound world of Barry Fife and his committee that decides what is “strictly Ballroom”. Fran and Scott symbolise true belonging where dance and passion flow naturally together and are set in contrast with the highly artificial dancers like Ken, Tina Sparkles and Liz.
Could be read as a cheerful, upbeat, satirical parable tracing the shift from a world of false belonging dominated by conformity, fear and the cynical manipulations of the ultra-sleaze Barry Fife, towards the iconic last scene where the line between spectators and professional dancers blurs and is dissolved as Scott dressed in Spanish-matador costume and Fran in Spanish-style red dress put passion back into dance, rescuing it from the deadening effect of the old brigade. Arguably the last scene enacts a vision of a more inclusive Australia that has gained freedom by including its newcomers and learning from them.
Belonging does not equal individuality in the ballroom dancing world so, in order to belong, you cannot be an individual. Not belonging does not equal exclusion from every group. So, finding a group to belong to is the key to happiness. A community can make its members feel either accepted or rejected if they fail to conform to the accepted norms. If enough people work together to challenge powerful or corrupt influences, then a new sense of belonging can emerge. This is often the case with generational change.
To belong is to be accepted, to be recognised, and to connect with others whether it may be with family, friends or culture. A sense of belonging is an instinctive human need in all of us as it gives us security, emotions whether they would be true or fake, and a connection or bond with others. Accepting or resisting belonging creates characteristics which define the individual.
They are shown to have different forms of relationships with others in their life. Ultimately, these relationships whether based on artificial or real emotions, give the character a sense of identity and a sense of where they belong. Although it is seen as a vital requirement in everyday life, to belong is difficult as there are many barriers, and whether or not an individual can overcome these obstacles, it will essentially determine where the individual belongs. The experiences faced by the individuals also define their concept of belonging. There is always a place where everyone belongs.
Being based on the conformist ideas of ballroom dancing, Strictly Ballroom, an Australian film directed by Baz Luhrmann in 1992, clearly expresses the effects of wanting to belong and not belonging through several characters. The protagonist of the film, Scott Hastings struggles to express his individuality in the ballroom community. Due to his desire to be the pans-pacific champion, he is forced to dance his own style in the opening scene, which is seen as arrogant, by the ballroom community and as a result, he isn’t accepted for the way he is. Instead he is isolated from everybody because he resists to conform to their ways.
That is until a beginner dancer by the name of Fran, seen as a nobody that has been alienated due to her major differences with her appearance, dancing skill and confidence level compared to the professional dancers, embraces Scott even though at first he doesn’t identify her as a possible partner. Due to her instinctive need to belong and seeing this as her chance, she convinces him by telling “ I want to dance with you, your way. ”
Ballroom dancing is strict competitive lifestyle, where an individual must revolve their life around it. It is seen as being flamboyant and flashy. However this world is fake and to fit in you too must be artificial in a way that you have to have false emotions. False emotions like love is shown through the ballroom style of dancing as Scott explains the Rumba to Fran as feeling “like your in love”.
In the film, there is another world that is also explored in which the individual connects with family and culture. It is a world where everyone is connected despite their differences, it is the real world with real emotion, real passion and real feeling. Fran has a place in this world with her culture and family. In this case, when Scott chases after Fran he meets her family living on the outskirts of town possibly implying that they are outsiders. However, the roles are reversed.
Fran is now somewhere she belongs, and Scott is excluded due to various barriers including language barriers and cultural differences. Scott is humiliated as he doesn’t perform the Paso Doble correctly due to the fact that he dances with the desire to win. As a result of not belonging he is taught by Fran’s family to dance from the heart to express authentic feeling. His instinct tells him he needs to belong with this world, in order to express his individuality.
Belonging is defined in the film through two worlds, family, and ballroom dancing which completely contrast each other. Baz Luhrmann creates an understanding of belonging through various techniques that differentiate the people that belong and don’t belong. The costumes of the ballroom dancers are all colourful and flashy, while the outfit Fran wears is bland and plain, clearly showing that she doesn’t belong.
As the film is ending, Baz Luhrmann uses the song “Love is in the Air” to not only outline the relationships between the characters but also to create an understanding of Scott recognising and accepting Fran for who she is. After the many experiences faced by the characters, Fran and Scott finally understand where they belong. They belong with each other. It is an instinctive need for people to belong which is evidently shown through the closing moments of the film, as everyone starts dancing, everyone belongs despite their differences, and everyone is accepted.
The Lion King
Disney’s The Lion King picture book written by Justine Korman relates to the idea that you do belong somewhere, but whether you accept it depends on the experiences the individual has faced. Inspired by the Shakespearean play, Hamlet, the storyline outlines where the characters truly belong. The main protagonist, Simba, is blamed for the death of his father who is King of the PrideLands, which was caused by his power hungry uncle, Scar. He is told to “run away and never return”.
The idea is that Simba has been exiled and is better off not belonging with his pride. But as seen as in Strictly Ballroom, there is always a place where you belong, and its only instinct that the individual would want to belong. Simba is soon saved from possible death by a friendly duo that take him in to their jungle, into their home. They nurture him till he becomes a fully grown adult lion giving him a place to belong and feel secure.
Soon after, Simba is confronted by a childhood friend named Nala, who sparks old memories and experiences of life with his pride. At first there are barriers because he doesn’t want to return and face his past but after guidance he remembers where he belongs, He remembers who he is, He remembers that he is King. Upon returning home with his friends, and defeating Scar and saving all the lions, Simba’s instincts allow him to fit in with his new pride.
Belonging is defined in this picture book as being accepted, and no matter where he goes, Simba is accepted due to his instinctive need to feel safe, and have real emotions, real friendships, and a real place to belong.The illustrator, Don Williams shows this acceptance through various scenes expressing emotions on characters faces, as well as through body language.
Scott Monk’s novel, Raw relates to Strictly Ballroom, as the story implies that there is always a place where an individual belongs. Belonging is defined in this text as having people that you can rely on and have a good relationship with. Sam, the owner of the Farm, a correctional facility, commits himself to always being there and always being a reliable person to all the members of the Farm.
Although at first the protagonist, Brett Dalton resists help and care from Sam, he cant stop his instinctive need to belong and have a connection with the members of the farm, such as having a friendship with Frog, Josh, and Sam. Scott Monk creates an understanding of belonging in this novel with imagery and dialogue, for example the scene where due to Brett’s actions, the whole Farm suffers and has to go on a long run, makes Brett feel isolated, like he’s being watched, and targeted, implying that he is an outcast and doesn’t belong.
As seen as in all texts, there is always an instinctive need to belong somewhere, whether it may be with family as seen with Fran, new friends as seen with Simba, and new hope as seen with Brett.