In analysis of the movie ‘’Freedom Writers’’ the implications of social issues, learning and gender sensitivity guided me to opting a psychological perspective in understanding the film. The themes in the film reflect real life scenarios in society which are simply mirrored in works of art and literature. The main themes of the film appreciate how learning and interaction within different cultural environments inform social behaviour. This is critical since the society has ideals and stereotypes that compromise collective learning especially self-awareness and understanding of other cultures (McLeod, 2011).
The movie “Freedom Writers” has a balanced concept from a true story. Hilary Swank as Erin Gruwell plays the role of an inspirational teacher at Wilson High School. Her class comprises of different races and groups–African Americans, Latin, Asians, gang members, and students from poor families. On the first day of teaching, she is very uncertain and intimidated, but feels the need to stop the racism in the class as well as the attitude of her students towards life in general. Despite the great struggle to communicate with her students and lack of interest to participate during class, Erin finds interesting means to communicate her message to the students. A racially motivated group of criminals goes shooting as witnessed by a Latina gang member in Erin’s class, and an unfriendly racial cartoon that Erin identifies during class; shape her awareness and her relationship with the teaching environment. These events spark a transformation in the classroom, and new engagements happen as the relation to the issues relevant to the lives on the streets come to light. Erin begins to connect with them. She brings in music which those kids relate to and literature like The Diary of Anne Frank, and among other tools she invites her children to the experience the context of suffering throughout the world and the struggles of those outside their own communities (McLeod, 2011).
Gruwell eventually goes bottom down-close-to the students as they write down their experiences and feelings. These strategies really make the students connect with each other and provide an outlet for them as well. The rest of the movie depicts Gruwell teaching the students through the rest of their years in high school and encouraging other people to interact with her students. Gruwell then takes all the entries and compiles them and names it “The Freedom Writers Diary”. The conclusion of the movie ends with a reassuring note saying that Gruwell was successful in bringing students to graduation and lead them to higher institutions of learning (McLeod, 2011).
In social learning theory the outcomes of this film are evident. According to Bandura the key tenet of social learning is that behaviour is learned by observation. Thus, Gruwell, undergoes experiences that challenge her awareness of the issues of concern to her students and learns the gap between them and school. Through this realization, she actually learns self-awareness by identifying with her students. In fact, she has a positive and presumptive attitude when she embarks on teaching which eventually translates to a frustration at first before adapting to the environment and the racial factor that the students have to grapple with.
In real life scenarios, people experience cultural shock as well as estrangement from their peers to cultural issues such as racism and poverty which some people cannot relate to due to difference in cultural backgrounds. However, through social learning, individuals eventually manage to raise their awareness and accommodate other people’s views and concerns.
I thought that in the movie the mentor’s approach (Hillary Swank) with the students was successful and also wanting to some degree. In the movie Gruwell has a lot of struggles with connecting with her students. She came into the classroom expecting that all of her students would be willing and eager to learn, but she learned quickly that was not the case. She had to learn that she shouldn’t assume anything until she gets to know the situation. So that is an example of an unsuccessful approach. However, Gruwell provided a successful approach when she realized that she could reach her students by connecting with what really mattered to them and showing a genuine interest in them (Clutterbuck, 2004).
She has to decide if she wants to do what is right and tell the truth or not tell the truth and make her gang and family members happy. As a mentor it’s important to realize that sometimes there may be multiple things happening in the mentees life that may be affecting the way they are acting and the decisions they are making. In the movie, the teacher –Gruwell- is rather less self-aware and less mindful of her environment (Nutting, 1994-2009), but progressively improves over time throughout the movie and relates to her environment much closely. In fact, at the beginning Gruwell does not have a clear direction pertaining to her own biases and the reality of her surroundings. She had a general idea of her role, but during the various scenes of the movie she was really challenged by her students and also her peers as well, which consecutively led to increase in her self- awareness. She manages to relate to her students the racism issues to which she responds constructively and effectively. The same case applies to the students in the film. The students were not really aware of the implications of racism and the distress it caused the school commas a whole; however they learn and appreciate the experience to improve on their relations and promote co-existence through practical activities such writing journals what they truly felt in realizing a better self-awareness (Eagan, 2009).
In conclusion, movies are interesting and educative. This particular movie brings out feminine behaviours as well as male chauvinism and how gender issues are different today. This has changed now as we face equality between men and women. However, in modern day filming gender issues is no longer weighed in favour of one gender. The modern movies depict feminine behaviours as well as masculine behaviours. Their teachings still applies to current times, especially in terms of characterization playing different roles. Thus, these movies have stood throughout time, and some of them still apply to the current generation.
Modern movies show the evolution of sex and sexuality in Hollywood. It is evident that there is the emergence of varied approaches to films in which women too assume critical roles such as in the case of “Freedom Writers” whose main theme edified the society on social and cultural differences. There is masculinity crisis especially at the beginning of the 1970s onwards. This is because there is a gender revolution all over the world. Every woman wants equality. Many countries have enacted laws to provide equal opportunities for both men and women. Many states have also enacted laws to protect the rights of the girl child. Many states consider rape a serious offence to either gender. This aimed at protecting females from rape. Nowadays rape cases have reduced tremendously since the enactment of laws to combat rape. Nowadays women can file for divorce if they are no longer interested in marriage. This gives women freedom to choose what is good for them, which is contrary to the earlier period where patriarchy was the mainstay with regards to decision making. There is also a great drive to equal representation of women and men in government. Many states apply affirmative action to ensure women representation in government (Eagan, 2009).
Clutterbuck, D. (2004, June). Mentors and Mentees- The Competency Conundrum.
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