Discussion Questions for Billy Elliot (Stephen Daldry, 2000)

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Contextualizing the film

Collect some information about the following and discuss how they contribute to your understanding of the story and the characters: the 1984-85 miners’ strike in Britain / Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher and her economic policy, e.g. privatization / trade unions in Britain / privatization / social mobility and social classes in Britain

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Questions for classroom discussion

  1. Discuss what role the setting of a working-class Durham plays in Billy Elliot.
  2. Make a list of the conflicting views/situations/parties in the film, and discuss how these conflicting views a) affect both the community in general and an individual’s life b) help you analyze the film (e.g. what dance means to Billy and what it means to the father).
  3. What does the boxing hall signify in the film?
  4. How would you describe Billy in the film?
  5. Find examples of how Billy struggles with his father and with himself to break free. What metaphors does the director employ in depicting this struggle?
  6. What is the role of Mrs Wilkinson in the film?
  7. What is the role of Michael in the film?
  8. What could Billy’s kissing Michael on the cheek before he leaves for London signify?
  9. Discuss the concept of emasculation by relating it to the film.
  10. What does the classical ballet Swan Lake symbolize in the film?
  11. Examine the ending of the film with regard to the concept of social mobility in Britain.
  12. To what extent does the film manage to challenge masculine stereotypes?
  13. In her article “Cinderella Dances Swan Lake: Reading Billy Elliot as Fairytale” (2006), Judith Lancioni argues that there is a Cinderella theme in Billy Elliot. Discuss to what extent this can be considered an accurate interpretation.
  14. Discuss the poem below (source and authour unknown) in light of the film:

How are little boys made? Take one new baby, Poke it and toss it, force it and push it, Leave it alone a lot, and never speak softly to it. How are little girls made? Take one new baby, Cuddle it and coo at it, soothe it and calm it, And never let it stray. What are little boys made of? Scrapes and pains, fears not shown, Lessons learned the hard way, Loneliness ingrown. What are little girls made of? Questions and dreams, secrets never told, Trusts nurtured and betrayed, Life waiting to unfold.

More about Billy Elliot – click here © Ali Nihat Eken, İstanbul, April 2008 Photo credit: Billy Elliot – Official Website