There is a number of factors that can impact a movie’s popularity, and one of them is the degree to which the plot reflects social and personal problems affecting the target audience. Yakin’s (2000) Remember the Titans is an award-winning movie that sheds light on the history of racism in American sports in the 1970s. The work was so popular that its worldwide box office revenues were more than four times larger than the film production budget, and it was positively accepted even in the countries where racism against black people was not an urgent problem. The story of the football team’s and its new coach’s success is reflective of many concepts, including segregation, opportunity structures, race-based prejudice, and conflict.
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The sociological concept of conflict is central to the plot of the movie being discussed. The work by Yakin (2000) is based on real events taking place in the 1970s, when the Titans, an American football team consisting of the members of both races, paved its way to success due to the concerted efforts of its new coach and players. In the field of sociology, a conflict can be defined as a process, in which the representatives of the opposite groups defend their interests that are often mutually exclusive.
First of all, the conflict occurs between white and African American players in the team. After years of racial segregation in educational institutions, many white students are unwilling to lose their privilege and accept the fact that all athletes are to be treated equally (Yakin, 2000). Moreover, they do not want to see an African American man as their head coach. In their turn, racial minority players engage in this conflict by acting in a mirror-like manner, and the presence of mutual aggression becomes especially obvious during the team’s trip to Pennsylvania (Yakin, 2000).
The conflict demonstrated in the movie involves the unequal distribution of power, encouraging black people to find original ways to protect their dignity. For instance, in one scene, the opposing team’s coach calls Mr. Boone a monkey, but after his team’s victory, the offended man takes a banana and throws it at the racist coach (Yakin, 2000). Therefore, making use of their position, white players and coaches sometimes overstep the mark, which makes the race-based conflict manifested at different organizational levels.
The next sociological concept that can be used to explain the movie’s message is prejudice. Since the majority of characters are male, the topic of prejudice on the basis of gender is not fully addressed, whereas there are numerous examples illustrating race-based prejudice in everyday life. The concept can be defined as the presence of negative attitudes to some racial groups that manifests itself in inaccurate preconceptions and the inability to evaluate some people objectively.
The most illustrative example of race-based prejudice from the movie is white players’ reaction to their new head coach who is expected to replace Mr. Yoast. Having learned about the new coach, white players want to boycott training sessions, thus urging the college management to alter the decision (Yakin, 2000). Judging from the most conservative players’ views on social hierarchy, African Americans are not supposed to lead white people due to the lack of necessary abilities and other factors. Some of the white characters do not make efforts to conceal their prejudiced opinions about the African American population.
For instance, in one scene, the girlfriend of Gerry (a white team captain) greets all guys but ignores a black team player and avoids shaking his hand (Yakin, 2000). Although the particular motives of her action are not explicit, this demonstrativeness can result from the criminal stereotype of the African American population. It is also possible that she sees the representatives of the ethnic group as inferior to white people in terms of intelligence and personal dignity or cannot disregard her negative experience with particular people.
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Segregation is another sociological concept related to the movie and the real story behind it. In general, this term can be understood as the systematic separation of people based on some characteristics (for instance, race) that can impact different groups’ access to resources. In this movie, the problem of racial segregation in coaching is thoroughly presented. For instance, the decision to make Mr. Boone a head coach initially presents an attempt to throw a sop to the Black community and manage their negative attitudes toward segregation (Yakin, 2000).
This concept is also demonstrated in a variety of everyday situations – thus, there is a scene, in which African American men are not allowed to enter a restaurant (Yakin, 2000). Also, white people’s positive perceptions of racial segregation in coaching become clear from other coaches’ attitudes to Mr. Boone and his chances to achieve success.
Some events depicted in the movie also illustrate the concept of opportunity structure. This term can be defined as the presence of social factors that increase or reduce the chances of individuals or groups achieving success. During one important game, people from the local football hall of fame try to use their authority to make the referee mark Boone’s team badly to prove his poor professional skills (Yakin, 2000). Although the team finally wins despite these under-the-carpet battles, this example clearly demonstrates that opportunity structures can influence people, especially the oppressed groups, in any field of activity, including sports.
The movie contributed to the popularization of the topic of football, especially in the context of interracial communication. After its success nineteen years ago, many other movies and TV series devoted to the topic were released. As an example, Remember the Titans influenced such movies as We are Marshall and Friday Night Lights, both of which feature intra-team conflicts, including race-based ones, that prevent football teams from achieving success.
Although Remember the Titans were not the first cinematographic work about racial tensions in college athletics, it is often listed among the best movies about football, which explains its impact on the world of art. In particular, the positive feedback from movie critics can be related to the brilliant use of artistry and imagery. The director wants to demonstrate that cultural differences are not a barrier to effective collaboration.
Concerning particular representations supporting the message about cohesion, Mr. Boone is depicted as a wise and patient man, whose influential speech finally encourages team players to distract themselves from differences and see that they have a lot in common – at least the desire to win. With masterly skills, he combines comedy scenes and the depiction of open conflicts to convey this message and show how team players gradually proceed from mutual unfriendliness to togetherness.
To sum it up, Remember the Titans presents an interesting topic for analysis from the sociological viewpoint. The story of the head coach illustrates a wide range of sociological concepts, for instance, conflict, race-based prejudice, segregation on the basis of race, and opportunity structures in college sports. The director’s message about the need for cohesion despite overemphasized differences is conveyed with the help of blending elements from different genres and the main character’s wisdom and persuasion skills.
Yakin, B. (Director). (2000). Remember the Titans. The United States: Jerry Bruckheimer Films/Walt Disney Pictures.