Throughout the 171 minutes of Hoop Dreams, there are various documented instances of agency within William and Arthur’s lives. The filmmaker, Steve James, decides –whether he intended to or not– to portray these instances in different…Read more
In the film “Hoop Dreams,” we have to wonder why the two main characters are compared to each other the way they are. William and Arthur start off in similar situations where their lives spiral…Read more
Throughout Steve James’ Hoop Dreams, the main characters, Arthur Agee and William Gates, had many tough decisions to make. They were faced with the everyday challenges that come along with living in the inner-city, as…Read more
One of my favorite TV shows from young, couch potato-ing days was “Hey Arnold!” Airing on Nickelodeon from 1996-2004, “Hey Arnold!” was an animated TV series which followed the adventures of the title character, Arnold,…Read more
In the last few years, there has been lots of news about graffiti artists showing in galleries and museums because currently there is a new visibility, respect, and cool factor to the art form. For…Read more
The documentary “Hoop Dreams” is a good representation of the extent individuals can exhibit agency within their environment (or the lack thereof). The protagonist’ in the documentary, Arthur and William, start out as…Read more
Growing up in downtown Brooklyn, one of the greatest rites of passage in the neighborhood was being able to walk to school on your own. Most kids accomplished the goal of convincing their parents that…Read more
As a child growing up in the early 70’s, I was surrounded by adults who smoked. Besides my parents, extended family, and neighbors, the actors and actresses on the television were smokers too. Everywhere you…Read more
Steve James’ documentary Hoop Dreams was released in 1994 and tells the story of two African American boys, William and Arthur, and their struggle to reach their dreams of playing pro basketball. Throughout the entire…Read more
According to a news report from The Guardian, more than a month has passed since the killing of 17 year old Trayvon Martin occurred in a gated, middle-class community near Miami, Florida.
Trayvon Martin was walking back…Read more
A recent article by Leanne Italie reveals how children (mostly girls) across the nation, after seeing The Hunger Games, have enthusiastically taken up archery. There has been an obvious sales increase in archery-related products as girls, inspired by Katniss’ deadly skills with a bow, continue to flock to archery stores to purchase bows that resemble the one in the movie. The article gives various accounts of girls’ experiences with the unique sport, the majority of which seem positive. One girl likes “the fact you can ignore the world around you and just focus on where the arrow is going to go.” Parents seem to be on board with their children’s fascination with archery, claiming “they’re a little more dedicated” than with sports that primarily consist of chasing a ball.
Katniss in action. This image, among others, has inspired thousands of children to take up archery.
Compared to the article we discussed in class that asserts underlying immoralities in The Hunger Games, reading this article was refreshing. I say this because its information is based on a large number of actual reactions rather than Timothy Noah’s sole opinion of the movie (instead of the book). In class we established that The Hunger Games novel contains a good deal of information that was cut from the movie. Contrary to Noah, Italie presents numerous positive outcomes of children (girls in particular) seeing The Hunger Games. Because of Katniss, thousands of girls have taken up a hobby that exercises focus, dedication, and confidence. Archery offers an alternative to team sports. As someone who played high school football and hated it, I can understand why some kids would rather take up a sport that focuses on individual skills. After reading this article, my standpoint is that most children do not search for underlying themes concerning morality in movies like The Hunger Games. They search for identity in a virtual space that will never be available to them in reality. As this article clearly demonstrates, thousands of young girls have found identity through Katniss’ heroic archery skills. In conclusion, I think its okay for children to see The Hunger Games with parents since they are evidently more likely to imitate impressive qualities in the characters than to contemplate the human potential to do evil deeds.
When I was in middle school in South Korea, it was winter, friends and I enjoyed the freedoms from end of finals! Middle school in korea, students go to school for one or two weeks more even final is over. During this time period, students usually bring movie video to watch. However, in my memory, that day was unusual day because I had big culture shocks from the movie “Battle Royale”.
According to website,battleroyalefilm.net, the movie “Battle Royale”, a film by the veteran Japanese director Kinji Fukasaku, tells the story of a dystopic future in which each year, a randomly-selected 9th grade class is kidnapped and sent to a deserted island where they are equipped with weapons and are forced to kill each other until one survivor is left. The movie, which premiered in Japan on December 16, 2000 amidst much controversy, is based on a bestselling novel by Koushun Takami.s. Movie rental cost two dollars, but it was rated R, so i don’t how my friend brought this movie. We discussed about this movie many times, and in society, movie brought issues.
Recently, I reminded this movie when I read the “Hunger games”. So I was curious that, “Will this movie bring many issues as Battle Royale did “? , because they may have different components, but main theme is same, kid kills kid. However I found that there are no big issues because of ‘kid kills kid’ theme. I realized that this difference reaction may be cause by culture difference. From the class discussion, classmates really didn’t mention about ‘kid kills kid’ subject, except me. They were more focused on other subjects. In Asian society, there are big imitation culture. When one trend hits, people imitate that trend to be one of most people because Asia culture is based on collectivism. Therefore many Asia countries worried what if the violence of movie “Battle Royale” cause imitated act from children. Even cultures are different, kid kills kid theme is suggestive, and everybody would think that, “what if i was there?. And answers for most them? Run.
If you want to read How these are similar and different? Click the Image.
On March 29, 2012, Mattel announced that it will release a bald doll for children who have lost hair due to cancer or other illnesses. However, discussions of this doll are not as recent. Over a year ago, a Facebook movement began, urging Mattel to produce a bald version of their famous blonde Barbie. Since then, the page has received more than 150,000 “likes,” the amount necessary to gain Mattel’s direct attention. The movement began with Jane Bingman, whose daughter has lost hair after undergoing chemotherapy, and Beckie Sypin, who has lost her own hair while going through non-Hodgkin lymphoma, both hoping for a doll that girls experiencing hair loss due to illness could relate to and aid in the coping process hair loss. Sypin says their goal was to get “the message out that being bald is beautiful and is no big deal. There’s no need to cover up.” Though the doll will be produced, Mattel has informed Bingman and Sypin that they do not accept ideas from outside sources. Mattel reports the doll will not be sold in retail stores for profit. Instead, they will be distributed through hospitals that treat young cancer patients where they can be of most help. These bald dolls will be “a friend of Barbie” and include hats, scarves, wigs, and other hair accessories to provide the “traditional” fashion play experience.
The creation of these new dolls who are designed to appeal to a specific audience that can relate is strongly similar to the studies of Elizabeth Chin in “Ethnically Correct Dolls: Toying with the Race Industry,” in which Chin examines the “ethnically correct” doll and how race and outside appearance is involved. In Chin’s studies, it was shown that, though the girls can play fine with dolls that are not exactly like them, they prefer to play will dolls they can relate to. This is why Natalia and Asia wanted dolls of their same skin tone and would braid the hair of the white dolls to resemble their own hair. Therefore, the production of this bald Barbie by Mattel, based on Chin’s studies, will actually make a more enjoyable playtime for children experiencing hair loss due to illness because they will be able to relate to them through appearance.
In the introduction to her book Raising Your Kids Right: Children’s Literature and American Political Conservatism, Michelle Abate briefly discusses conservative themes present in Young Adult fiction (9), but does not extensively discuss the genre. This exclusion led me to examine a topical Young Adult novel, Susan Collins’ The Hunger Games (and by extension, the recent film adaptation), and its relationship to conservatism. At first thought I was sure that there was little connection, but further investigation has changed my mind.
dystopian The first conservative connection agrees with Abate’s assertion of children’s literature affirming libertarianism. The novel is set in a future where North America is governed by a ruthless totalitarian regime that constantly oppresses its citizens sense of self and has direct control over all production and manufacturing. Throughout the book and series the main protagonist, Katniss, constantly rebels against the government, making her a compelling hero for a political group “concerned that the United States is rapidly drifting toward socialism and that the size and strength of government is infringing on individual freedoms.” (11) This theme of rebelling against big government is often seen in many YA dystopian novels.
Christianity has also been closely connected to the American conservative movement, especially since the rise of evangelical Christians in the 70s and 80s. Since the release of the novel’s film adaptation, several reviewers have cited elements of the film and novel that seem to connect to Christian themes. Reviewers at The Washington Times and The Christian Post point out the main protagonist’s self sacrifice asserts Christian ideals and connects her to Jesus. Another review connects another character, Peeta, to Jesus, drawing from “the Bread of Life” that he offers to Katniss, and the fact that he was left for dead, spent several days in a cave, and emerged “resurrected.” Although some of these connections may be a stretch, the fact that Christian groups across the nation are appropriating the novel and the film into sermons and bible study are evidence that some similar themes are present.
Perhaps it’s the fact that many of these stories can be interpreted in different ways that allows scholars to align them with specific ideals (although Help! Mom! There are Liberals Under My Bed probably can’t be argued many different ways). Conservative propaganda or not, Michelle Abate has definitely been successful in making me take closer looks at the literature children, and adults, are exposed to.
In Hoop Dreams, Arthur Agee and William Gates struggle with the dream to get out of the ghetto and make it to the NBA, but there is no one really in their lives to help them reach their dreams. It is all left up to their own agency in a lot of ways. However, in the documentary you can see that both Arthur and William have a hard time with larger outside forces that are outside of their control.
A few instances of agency for Arthur and William in the documentary are when the boys choose to attend St Joseph’s on partial scholarship. They make the 90-minute trip to and from school every morning so they can have a shot to make it out of the ghetto and in to the NBA like Isaiah Thomas did coming from the same school. However, William thrives more at the school than Arthur does by making Varsity is freshman year and finding a private donor that commits to paying the rest of his tuition at St Josephs. Both Arthur and William come in to St Joseph’s with very low education levels, but William works harder to keep up his grades and learn than Arthur does. Another case where William takes his future in his own hands and shows agency is when he decides, against the coach’s advise, to be a father to the baby he and his girlfriend have.
The two boys are also at the mercy of larger forces against their control. Arthur’s family is not able to pay the balance of the tuition at St. Joseph’s so he is forced to leave the school and go back to his neighborhood high school. The high school he attends does not have a strong basketball program, so when recruiting time comes around, the larger schools are not showing any interest in him. This is hard on Arthur because he wants so badly to make it, but he just does not have the chance to do so. William also struggles against larger forces when he injures his knee. The doctors tell him that he may have to sit out the year, and the look on his face shows the pain not only in his knee but also in knowing what that would do to his chances at the NBA.
I think that James depicts agency in this way because it shows that even though that no matter how much a person wants to have control over his own future and not matter how much he work to reach their goals, sometimes he just cannot triumph over the larger forces at work against him.
In class, we discussed the moral panic surrounding rap groups such as NWA in the 80’s and early 90’s. Older black and white people, and many middle class moms were disgusted by what they assumed was violent, vitriolic, gang-related, and purposeless music. They assumed the message was “kill the pigs”, and that it had no purpose beyond inciting violence in young black youth. Of course, as anyone who has listened to the classic, “Fuck the Police”, knows, these songs were political statements and testaments of the conditions these young man had been forced into. However, many people in the US looked at the music through a racially charged lens. Black men are scary. Black men yelling “Fuck the Police” are terrifying. It makes no difference whether or not their families are being torn apart by police violence; they are scary and dangerous, and they are the enemy. This belief, held by a large segment of the population, led to the message of the song being lost in the shuffle for a lot of people.
Unfortunately, here we are 20 years later, and these types of stereotypical beliefs are still causing problems. They aren’t leading to the banning of rap songs anymore, they are leading to the deaths of young black males. Some people in this country still fear the black male, regardless of where they are or what they’re doing. That fear led George Zimmerman to shoot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager walking back to his dad’s house. Zimmerman has not been arrested, and this has led to protests around the country, especially since the release of the 911 tapes show that Zimmerman may have had a racial bias when it came to his suspicion of Trayvon. Stereotypes and assumptions are bad enough when they lead to moral panics over rap music, but when they lead to the death of a teenager, they’re inexcusable.
Throughout the entirety of this documentary, William and Arthur were both used as agents of potential success for numerous parties. The most prominent of these parties being their own personal families and the coaches for whom they played basketball. The reasons for which I feel they hold agency are quite similar for each party, but provide a different end. For the boys’ families, success through basketball would mean financial success for every immediate family member. Essentially providing everyone in the family with the rags to riches story which most, who are not placed in this sort of harsh reality of coming to age, only see happening for themselves. Secondly, the coaches who coach these boys are under severe scrutiny, constantly, for whether or not they have what it takes, in terms of coaching skills, to take their potential, and turn them into lean, mean, basketball machines.
The only boys only had one choice to change their future: play basketball, and play it well. This was the only avenue to success for these boys who had come of age in distressed environments; drug infested, crime riddled, and hopeless. Arthur and William are totally and completely at the mercy of the coaches in both their separate college choices, as well as the coach they shared at St. Josephs. As painfully depicted in the film, Arthur was not only removed from the basketball team for not playing “well enough”, though he did play to his full potential at that time, but he was also removed from a higher learning opportunity, and placed back into a public school that looked at him as another Black boy in a system that doesn’t work for him anyways.
I think James chose to depict agency in this particular way because there is very little understanding of the role sports and recreational activities play in the lives of William, Arthur, and other boys like them. I think if it was one thing the director could have wanted us to learn from this movie is that what most people use to entertain themselves with (basketball here) is most certainly another thing in the lives of boys coming of age in distressed environments. Basketball is their livelihood; their way out, and even if they play to the best of their ability, their fate still lies in the hands of others. It is the sad, harsh, and unseen reality James really wanted to shed light on within this film.
WIlliam Gates and Arthur Agee, 03/05/2011, oddpedia.com
This is the course website for Rebecca Onion's American Studies seminar at the University of Texas at Austin, convened during the spring semester of 2012. You can see the website for last semester's version of this course at this link.