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The Road From Hoop Dreams To Realities

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 lights according to who was the focus of the situation and who was wielding the power.

When the documentary focused on William, his success at St. Joseph’s are attributed to the positive choices he makes –the agency that he has; William works hard to increase his reading level; William doesn’t allow himself to be intimidated by others and as a result, gains self-confidence; William works hard to get his ACT scores high enough to qualify for a scholarship: William chooses Marquette over all the other colleges. These exercises of academic agency set William up to be a hard working young man who can do great things with his future for the better…when the opportunities arise –and they do not seem to come by as often as they should for him. In contrast to the agency that positively affects William in the classroom, the agency that puts him at the mercy of someone else outside of tends to provide hardships for the promising young man. His father is not involved in raising him so the burden of raising a son in a toxic neighborhood is placed solely upon his mother; the coach at St. John’s rides him and holds him responsible for the success of the team, which leads to the coach requiring so much of him even while he has a messed up knee; his family is portrayed as living out their dreams through him. There are instances in which an outside agency changes William’s future for the better. St. John’s helps him find a wealthy benefactor so that he can remain at  their school. In short, when William is at the mercy of outside forces, those forces are portrayed as either harmful or with their best interest at heart which poses William as a victim more often than not.

With Arthur’s experience with agency, there is one instance that stands out. Towards the end of the film, Arthur’s father discusses what led him to finally quit drugs and he reveals that watching himself buy crack with his son a mere basketball court away shamed him because his son tried to do things to better his life and follow his dreams and as a father he was a failing to provide a positive role model. Arthur managed to have agency over his father and affect him positively. This shows hope for his future if he continues to strive for the most positive outcome for himself, he can not only better his life, he can inspire others to do the same with theirs.

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