Coming of Age - Teaching Billy Elliot to German Teenagers

Zwischenprüfungsarbeit, 2008

13 Seiten, Note: 2,3



1. Introduction

2. Aspects of genre

3. Selected scenes/ film analysis
3.1 First example (0:22:25 – 0:29:44)
3.2 Second example (1:06:28 – 1:08:13)

4. Exemplary lesson plan

5. Conclusion

6. Bibliography

1. Introduction

“Lads do football”. This quotation by the main character´s father in Stephen Daldry´s film “Billy Elliot- I will dance” is particularly significant for the understanding of manliness of the time this film takes place. The father´s statement demonstrates that for a long time it seemed to be certain and irrevocable what kind of behaviour was considered to be manly and what kind of behaviour was not: “Billys Wunsch Tänzer zu werden, hat den [...] sozialen Konflikt zur Folge, aber darüber hinaus bringt er ein gesellschaftliches Vorurteil ans Licht, dem gemäß Tanzen eine Sache für Mädchen und schwule Jungs ist“ (Brenneisen, 2002, p. 5).

Against the background of the coal miner´s strikes situated in Northern England during the years of 1984/1985 and the difficulties caused by drastic actions of then prime minister Margaret Thatcher´s governance Stephen Daldry´s film “Billy Elliot- I will dance” deals with various possibilities and occurrences of manliness. Those are demonstrated by the conflict between eleven years old Billy, the main character, and his father as well as his brother: “Darüber hinaus thematisiert er [der Film] den sozialen Konflikt, das Gefühl der Entfremdung, möglicherweise den “Verrat” an seiner Familie, seiner Klasse, weil der Tanz Billy unweigerlich aus seinem Milieu, aus seinem Dorf hinausführen wird” (Brenneisen, 2002, p.5).

Employing and using this film in an English language classroom provides several opportunities to foreign language teachers. First of all, the film is generally applicable to discuss the specific difficulties and problems younger people are faced with during their own period of coming of age. While watching and receiving the film learners can put themselves in the main character´s position. They can possibly compare it to their own life situation and their own experiences. This effect can be regarded as highly motivating for the learners, since it is a topic that affects most of them. They are able to bring in and talk about their personal experiences which will probably lead to authentic discussion promts that are encouraged among the learners.

Besides, the film “Billy Elliot- I will dance”, just as many other foreign- language films, offers the opportunity of increasing the learners knowledge in terms of intercultural competence as well as intercultural awareness, because: “Fremdsprachige Filme liefern anhand von anschaulich geschilderten fiktionalen Einzelschicksalen Vorstellungen von lebensweltlichen menschlichen Erfahrungen und vermitteln aufgrund ihrer “Erfahrungshaltigkeit” fremde Lebensweisen, Werte, Normen und Weltsichten” (Surkamp, 2004, p.3).

First of all, when watching the film “Billy Elliot- I will dance” the learners get to know and learn about specific life conditions which were typical for the time the story takes place. The learners are able to relate to the problems and difficulties that affected people during that time. They are presented background information, such as the particular political situation, which is very important and essential to understand Great Britain´s political and historical development. Secondly, the learners get impressions of the region the story is situated. The film shows conditions and problems typical for that region in Northern England such as the bounded possibilities and choices in terms of career choice as well as the higher unemployment compared to other regoins.

Despite the various advantages of using the film in an English language classroom presented so far there are also certain disadvantages that have to be mentioned. Since the film is situated in Northern England its characters speak with a broad and traditional accent. This is an important feature of the film for it makes the film appear especially genuine and realistic. However, on the other hand, this fact will in all likelihood cause problems in terms of understandig. Learners that are mostly used to standard English so far will have extrem difficulties to understand all of what the characters are saying. This problem might be solved, however, by making use of the film´s subtitles which allow the learners to read those parts of the text they have not fully understood before. Another advantage of this strategy might be the learning of new vocabulary: “[...] das zusätzliche Einblenden von z.B. englischsprachigen Untertiteln, was das Verstehen erleichtert und auch das Lernen neuer Vokabeln fördert” (Surkamp, 2004, p.3).

Specifically, one can state that the film „Billy Elliot- I will dance“ is suitable for the use in German classes, because it combines different aspects that are relevant to the requirements in German schools today. On the one hand, german syllabi require to acquaint the learners with information and facts about the country the target language is spoken in. By that, a raise of the learner´s intercultural competence and awareness can be achieved. On the other hand, more general aspects, such as discussing problems of coming- of- age are relevant for the needs of teenage learners today.

2. Aspects of genre

When discussing films and classifying them into certain categories it is very important to be aware of the specific genre the film can be allocated to. According to the definition the term genre can bedescribed as “ [...] a type of film that has become recognizable as such because a sufficient number of films of that kind have been made, and identified in that manner, over a period of time” (King, 2002, p.118). Genre films always have certain features in common. Studios as well as producers tend to stick to established genres, because obviously they have no interest in investing money in a project that will not pay off in the end: “As primarily a business, Hollywood has tended to repeat formulas that have prove successful at the box office” (King, 2002, p.118). So, studios and producershave alsways sought to create some kind of commercial stability. If a certain type of film works well and is accepted and appreciated by the audience it becomes a genre which is”[...] familiar and relatively easy to recognize” (King, 2002, p. 119).

Another feature of genre is the fact that is also of particular importance for the viewers. Therefore, “the attraction of genre to the industry is closely linked to its presumed appeal to the viewers” (King, 2002, p. 119). If a film is attached to a certain genre, or possibly to different types of genre, this might help the viewer to decide whether he or she will be interested in watching the film or not: “Filmgoers generally like to have a broad idea of what to expect fom any individual picure. Genres are constituted not just by bodies of film but also by the established expectations of viewers” (King, 2002, p. 119). To conclude, one can state that “a genre label is an implicit promise” to the viewers (King, 2002, p. 120).


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Coming of Age - Teaching Billy Elliot to German Teenagers
Universität zu Köln
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
379 KB
Coming, Teaching, Billy, Elliot, German, Teenagers
Arbeit zitieren
Julia Selbach (Autor:in), 2008, Coming of Age - Teaching Billy Elliot to German Teenagers, München, GRIN Verlag,


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