Remember The Titans Essay Samples
Most people enjoy watching movies. Whether the characters and storylines make us laugh or cry or just provide us an escape from our everyday lives for a few hours, movies are a tool many of us use to help us traverse life. Movies are also a gateway into another world, they provide us insight into lives and experiences we may not be privy to. The movies that seek to do more than just entertain us, to make us more aware of the world and question our views and opinions, can be a powerful tool to help us better understand the realities of cultural conflicts. We cannot look to our own lives to understand what people experienced in the past when dealing with cultural conflicts but we can watch a movie that portrays those experiences so we can have better understanding of what brought our country to where it is today. The movie “Remember the Titans”, directed by Boaz Yakin and written by Gregory Allen Howard, is an example of a movie that teaches viewers lessons about cultural conflict: “Films can transport students to times, places, and situations that would be impossible to expose them to otherwise. For instance, Remember the Titans offers students images of life in the Civil Rights era, with relevant music, language, and culture.” (Collett & Sobolewski, 2010) “Remember the Titans” depicts a story about how cultural differences influenced perceptions of cultural diversity and the differences between perception and reality.
“Remember the Titans” takes place in the early 1970’s in Virginia, a state that had just desegregated the school system. The desegregation led to two very different cultures mixing together and resulted in a multitude of conflicts. The conflicts occurred between students, teammates, coaches and the community. A major contributing factor to these conflicts was the impact cultural differences had on people’s perceptions of cultural diversity. When Herman Boone, an African-American, is offered the job of head football coach he makes the choice to offer the prior coach, a white man named Bill Yoast, an assistant position. Yoast is initially insulted by the offer and rejects it only to change his mind when he learns that the white players will boycott the team if he is not a coach. Yoast’s cultural background led him to believe that the best man for the job should be given the head coaching position rather than selected by race, this belief influenced his perception of cultural diversity because he believed the inclusion of diversity caused him to be demoted. He didn’t believe Boone was a more talented coach, he believed Boone was offered the job based on his race. At the beginning of the movie, Yoast has a negative perception of cultural diversity due to his background and this perception makes it difficult for him to trust Boone. While Yoast’s perception of diversity impacted how he interacted with Boone in an overt way, it interfered with how he treated the African-American football players in a far more insidious manner.
Coach Boone is very hard on the players. He pushes them physically, intellectually and emotionally. One of the players Boone is particularly hard on is an African-American named Petey. Petey is a cocky, arrogant player and Boone tries to knock him down a peg by taking him out of a game. Yoast’s cultural background has instilled in him a sense of pity for African-Americans, he thinks they are victims in need of coddling. This belief gives Yoast the perception that his role in the cultural diversity of the football team is to protect the African-American players from the harm of Boone’s aggressive tactics. This perception leads Yoast to undermine Boone’s attempt to teach Petey humility by giving him a new position and nurturing him. When Boone calls Yoast out on his actions Yoast responds with his belief that some boys don’t respond well to public criticism and humiliation. Boone points out that Yoast only coddles the African-American players and that his actions are doing the players a disservice because the world doesn’t care about how sensitive these kids are. Yoast’s cultural background led to a perception that the African-American players were not as capable of dealing with difficulties as the white players which led him to treating Petey in a fashion that actually harmed more than it helped. While the characters in “Remember the Titans” tell us a story about how cultural differences influence perceptions of cultural diversity, they also help us understand the differences between perception and reality.
Yoast had the perception that Boone was offered the job of head coach based only on race, he didn’t believe Boone was the best man for the job. It turns out that in one fashion Yoast’s perception was correct, Boone finds out after training camp that if he loses a single game he will be fired. He was given the position as a political maneuver. That being said, Yoast’s perception that Boone is an inferior coach is very different from the reality. Yoast learns that Boone is the best coach for the circumstances because he knows how to bring out the best in all the players regardless of race and he brings the team together. Yoast could not have done what Boone did because of his perception of the African-American players, he would have coddled them too much and he wouldn’t have been able to accomplish what Boone accomplished. Yoast also learns that his perception that the African-American players were in more need of coddling than the white players is also proven wrong in reality. The African-American players persevere throughout the season, even Petey finds the inner resources necessary to get him through. On the other hand, it was a white player who quit the team when he didn’t get his way. The African-American players were less in need of coddling than Yoast surmised, the reality differed from his perception. The movie “Remember the Titans” caused me to re-evaluate my own perceptions of the cultures the movie depicted.
My perception of the African-American and white cultures during the Civil Rights was fairly limited before I really started thinking about it. I hadn’t put a lot of thought into the notion that the cultures those folks experienced were very different from today’s African-Americans and whites. Before I put much thought into it I believed that most southern whites were racist and hated African-Americans based solely on the color of their skin. I believed those people were ignorant and bigoted and immoral. As for the African-Americans, I believed they all wanted desegregation to happen and were strong and courageous in the face of hate and violence. Now that I have put some thought into that time period I realize my previous perceptions were far too simplistic. I don’t think the white culture in the south during the Civil Rights era was motivated by hate as much as by fear. Even the hate was motivated by fear. It must have been very frightening for the white culture to have to adapt to embracing African-Americans because it was so different than the world those people were used to. I also wonder if there were some African-Americans who didn’t want desegregation; perhaps there were some African-Americans who thought “separate but equal” wasn’t such a bad thing. Maybe the Civil Rights movement was more about political maneuvering and less about doing what was in the best interest of either the whites or the African-Americans. Regardless of what the true feelings and motivations of the white and African-American cultures were, I am much less judgmental of both cultures than I used to be. I think then, just as it is now, people were doing the best they could under difficult circumstances. It is challenging for different cultures to mix and conflicts are bound to arise, whether they are the small conflicts of a white assistant coach of an interracial football team or large conflicts that result in death. “Remember the Titans” is a reminder that people of differing cultures can overcome their perceptions and find ways to effectively deal with one another. And maybe even find that we have more in common than we originally thought. As the characters in “Remember the Titans” learn, we all love, hurt, laugh and do the best we can to manage the human existence no matter what our culture is.
Collett, J. L., Kelly, S., & Sobolewski, C. (2010). Using Remember the Titans to Teach Theories of Conflict Reduction. Teaching Sociology, 38(3), 258-266. doi:10.1177/0092055X10370117
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