Hoop Dreams follows the lives of two inner-city Chicago high school basketball stars trying to make it into the big leagues. Along the way, they boys are dragged through many different obstacles, but also given extraordinary opportunities when offered the chance to play at St. Joseph’s. The boys faced both self-created obstacles, and obstacles which were far beyond their spectrum of control throughout their high school lives, and all of these factors affected their chances to make it or break it in the competitive world of basketball.
Both Arthur and William make choices which affect their eventual chances of reaching the NBA or getting drafted into a stellar college basketball program. Be it Arthur’s too low test scores and failing grades, or William’s decision to keep and help raise a baby, the boys are subjected to managing their basketball careers around their self-made challenges, making it overly difficult for themselves. Arthur was a few points away from eligibility to play at a NCAA four-year school, but his lack of effort held him back from ever getting the chance. William, on the other hand, had the scores to get his college letters, but continually had to manage his life around his child. In these ways, the boys had self-inflicted challenges to keep them from their dreams, but they also faced many challenge in which they had no control.
Both boys came from inner city schools with very little family money to pay the cost of an expensive private school education. A father’s drug addiction and unemployment only further worked against the boy’s dream of reaching the NBA and getting recruited at a top-tier basketball college. Returning to the inner city schools with an inability to keep up with tuition only further deteriorate the chances of reaching their goals. The financial issue seems to be the most pressing uncontrollable issue against the success of both boys, and regardless of their self-inflicted challenges, the issue of money was always going to hold them back from easily attaining their hoop dreams.
Reiner Hanewinkel of the Institute for Therapy and Health Research in Kiel, Germany, recently published the results of a study determining the connection of alcohol use in TV and Movies and binge drinking among kids and teens. This study is reminiscent of our class discussion over whether or not TV shows and Movies teach children behaviors.
The study surveyed 16,000 students from Germany, Iceland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, and Scotland. Researchers asked the students to pick out at least 50 movies or shows they had seen from a list of 600 released between 2004 and 2009 in those countries. The members of the Institue for Therapy and Health Research found 86% of the chosen medias to have at least one scene in which characters drank alcohol. The research team then asked the students about their own binge drinking habits and found that 27% had done it at least once. 10 to 20% of the students who had the lowest exposure to alcohol on screen had participated in binge drinking, whereas 40% of the study participants who had seen the most alcohol in TV and movies had drank excessively.
The researchers concluded that, although, movies and TV shows may make alcohol use seem cool and mature, there is still no definite link between exposure to drinking in media and underage use of alcohol. Other factors that could be linked to child and teen alcohol use include, “their risk-taking behavior, how well they did in school and how much their friends and families drank.” Lesley Smith of Oxford Brookes University in the United Kingdom, does not think that study’s results should make parents panic over the movies their children are watching, but instead should make them think about changing their own alcohol related behaviors in the house.
Below is a trailer for a new movie about a wild, high school party, that shows gratuitous use of teenage drinking, “Project X”
One of my all time favorite movies is A Little Princess. It is based on the 1905 book by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The story line follows a young girl named Sara Crewe who is born and raised in India to her wealthy soldier father. He sends her to an upscale London boarding school to receive a formal education. The headmistress, Miss Minchin, is cold and cruel to say the least. Then, when she receives word that Sara’s father was killed in the war and would not be paying for Sara to stay at the school, she tells Sara her only choice is to live in the attic as a servant or else she will be kicked out on the street. Sara never loses hope or the ability to see the good in everything. Her father always told her elaborate stories about princesses in India and she used those stories to keep the other girls at the boarding school feeling positive. They would meet her in the attic nightly and secretly listen to her optimistic stories. Miss Minchin does everything in her power to keep the girls from using this power of imagination. She believes it to be a waste of time and that they should be doing more productive things with their time. She even takes Sara’s locket, the only part of her father she has to hold on to. (Spoiler alert) In the end, she finds that her father is much closer than she thought. He is alive and recovering from an explosion with the help of a friend from India. They are reunited and Sara takes one of her new orphaned friends with her and her father back to India after ensuring that Miss Minchin is fired.
Needless to say, the moral of the story is that imagination is a powerful tool that makes life better and can help you through hard times. Another main point is to never lose hope in yourself or others. This is a powerful message to send to children considering, the issues we have been discussing in class. Combining my love for this movie and my new knowledge from class, an idea from our Chudacoff reading came to mind. “Advertisers quickly learned that they could merge a “backstory” of fantasy with a product to create a meaningful relationship between product and child.” (course packet) I realize this is not necessarily a product advertisement but this movie is definitely pro-imagination and the writers use this dramatic story line to drive home the point that children need imagination in their life.
We discussed in class whether or not children should tap in to this source of creativity when they play or if play should be focused more on productive ideas like easy bake ovens or toy work benches. My answer is no. The ability to be optimistic and make light of a challenging situation begins with the ability to see the good in everything. I believe this starts with the ability to be creative and expand the definition of real life.
A very important line from the movie is when Sara says “All girls are princesses”. This brings to mind the Free To Be You and Me readings and discussions. I believe this movie is very relevant to this piece. The story, “Ladies First” seems to say that girls should not claim to be ladies or princesses based on the entitlement that comes with it. However, this movie shows that this gender idea can be used for good to make a young, troubled girl feel special and loved.
In this recent installment of the popular Fox News segment “The Unmentionables”, pundit Lou Dobbs attempts to convince viewers that Hollywood-produced children’s movies of recent times, specifically The Secret World of Arietty (based on the British, mid-century children’s novel The Borrowers by Mary Norton)and The Lorax (based on the picture book by Dr. Seuss), are rife with “liberal media bias”. Dobbs makes the argument that The Secret World of Arietty, whose story revolves around a miniature family scavenging the leftovers of full-sized “human beans” to create and sustain a secret world within our world, implicitly supports a sort of communistic mentality of involuntary wealth redistribution. He even draws a direct correlation between the animated film and the Occupy Wall Street movement, which he seems to view as an insidious coalition, though the protests associated with Occupy have largely pushed broader contemporary issues of governmental corruption in lieu of any well-defined agenda. Dobbs goes on to criticize the second children’s film, The Lorax, for extolling the virtues of environmental awareness in the attitude that this message is anti-business and thus counter-conservative. Read more
The Academy Awards were last night and the results were nothing short of exciting. For the first time since 1929 a silent film won best picture. The Artist took the film world by a storm this year, and rightfully so. For those of you who have never seen a silent film, this is a perfect place to start. The Artist takes us back to the beginning of Hollywood and the transition from silent films to talkies. Sure sometimes we just want to watch robots beat the hell out of each other, but The Artist brings us back to why we fell in love with movies in the first place. It is truly a work of art that has sadly been forsaken by the society that we live in today. Martin Scorsese’s film Hugo also deals with this time period. Taking a break from his traditional gangster films, Marty took us on a journey to Paris. Hugo is a film about George Milies, who was a wonderful director, filmmaker, and visionary. It was through this wonderful film that Marty reignited “movie magic” which has been lost for sometime now. These two films made a huge, and significant, impact on the film industry this year. The Artist left an impact on the Academy Awards winning three of the top awards which were best picture, best leading male actor, and best director. Michel Hazanavicius, the director of The Artist, actually beat Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen for this award. So hopefully the film industry will stop remaking movies from the 80’s and start making genuine films.
As a child, Grease was one of my most watched movie, mostly because it was one my grandma’s favorites, so I’d see it every time I went over to her house. The film was produced by Paramount Pictures and released in 1978. A PG13 film due to sexual content and references, teen smoking, and drinking, Grease exemplified many of the fears that were present in the delinquency and rebellion of the generation of adolescents. The film, although released in the late 70s is set in 50s America, traces the lives of a couple rebellious high school seniors, the T-Bird boys and the Pink Lady girls. Throughout the movie, the T-Bird boys are seen pushing their masculine and rebellious role, spending their time working in the school auto shop, chasing girls, and causing trouble along the way. The Pink Lady girls, on the other hand, are shying away from some of the more typically female characteristics, within the realm of maintaining their womanhood.
In the back, Sandra D sits in the pink skirt, before her rebellion; in the front, smoking, is the new Sandra D after the influences of modern pop culture have influenced her. Created by a Grease fan at fanpop.com
Most notably, Rizzo spends her time trying to act like one of the guys; chasing guys instead of letting them chase her, and promoting the “sexualization” of the teenager through her actions and dress. By the end, Rizzo has not only exemplified a change in the meaning of womanhood, but she has also transformed good-girl Sandra D into a rebellious girl like herself. The growing movement of female gender roles expresses the clear change that was occurring in the 50s. Parents were no longer able to restrict the pop culture of the generation’s adolescents. In addition to the importance of changing gender roles, the film expresses some clear moral panics of the ages through the story. The rebellious girls are able to take in Sandra D and transform her from a feminine ideal girl to a rebellious, sex-driven teenager, which exemplifies the fears of the previous generation of parents. Even the most feminine and traditional of girls could lose their way in modern pop culture. The film clearly shows the moral panics of the previous generation of parents and the ever changing gender roles of the newer generation in the 1950s.
Growing up in a very typical American family, I was very used to the idea of tradition throughout my childhood. Of course, we had many different traditions that we practiced each year, but the ones I always looked forward to were the ones that fell right around the Christmas holidays. One of the best parts of Christmas Eve was when my parents and my brother and I would gather around the TV to watch A Christmas Story before we all went to sleep. This movie has always been special to me, but I started thinking about it for a different reason after we watched the clip from Tom Corbett, Space Cadet in class.
A Christmas Story was a movie made in 1983 that showcased a typical 1940s middle-class family and their trials and tribulations they experience at Christmas time one year. This film stood out to me for two different reasons that pertained to our class after reading Spigel and watching the short clips in class on Monday. First of all, looking back and realizing how young I was when I started watching this movie was startling. There is definitely adult humor incorporated into the film, and there are also some parts that include curse words. However, the fact that this film is broadcasted on TBS for 24 hours straight on Christmas Eve and Christmas day makes me think I was not the only child being entertained by this movie during the holiday season.
The second reason I thought of A Christmas Story while watching the short clips is because there is a very similar scene to the one in Tom Corbett, Space Cadet where he is plainly advertising Kraft Dairy Fresh Caramels. The scene in A Christmas Story shows the main character getting very excited about receiving his Little Orphan Annie Decoder Pen to decode a message at the end of the radio show. He ends up being disappointed when the message is “Be sure to drink your Ovaltine.” This is another example of the very direct advertising technique used during the 1940s and 1950s. The product placement would have directly appealed to the younger generation since Ovaltine in primarily drank by younger children.
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.