Strictly Ballroom (1992)

Strictly Ballroom (1993) directed by Baz Luhrmann was about a young man’s quest to win the “Pan Pacific Grand Prix Championship” in a group of obsessively competitive ballroom dancers. These are the people who have closely tied their social identity with ballroom dancing where winning was everything to them while failing to win means failing themselves. This seemingly crazy and obsessive attitude of the group is also reflected by high contrasting colors* and heavy make-ups that were used on several actors.

Additionally, this group is governed by the ADF (Australian Dance Federation) that regulates the competition by imposing rules and regulations to sustain the standards of ballroom dancing. In the movie, the Federation, particularly Barry Fife was unhappy of the new steps that was presented on-stage by the lead actor Scott Hastings that beg to differ from the rest. This is because new moves impose changes that lead to uncertainties (certain dance moves may become obsolete; the DVD sales of Fife’s Cha Cha dance tutorial) and also challenge the power of the federation (they may not be experts to judge new dance moves). Hence, Fife (the antagonist) opted many social influence method such as conformity, compliance and obedience either directly or indirectly to stop Scott from doing so. Each of the social influence that was expressed in the movie is discussed as follows:-

Conformity

Conformity refers to the influence in a group, where individuals adjusts their actions and behaviors according to the group norm. Group pressure can be very influential as it affects our sense of belonginess and self-esteem when we are accepted or rejected by others. In the film, as the President for the ADF, Fife purportedly made Scott’s rival the winner that reinforces the group’s norm that new steps are unacceptable while only conventional steps are favorable. As a consequence, Scott was blamed and given cold shoulders by his partner, coach, and mother as a cause for losing in the competition. His coach even commented his behavior in the competition as “…flashy-crowd pleasing stunts”. Should Scott won the competition at the beginning, the group’s reaction could have differed.

Compliance

On the other hand, compliance refers to an act that fulfills the request of another person. Compliance is most effective when the request is made by someone who has authority or well respected, or gained through rational persuasion. In the movie, Fife decided to meet Scott and tell him the “truth” about his father’s past after hearing rumors that Scott has been practicing dance new steps with Fran despite opposition from others. As the president of the federation and also a senior to Scott, he persuaded him that the ultimate way to win the grand prix championship is through reserving himself to the conventional steps. He rationalized that Scott’s father is a living example for becoming self-obsessed by dancing his own moves that consequently loses in the grand prix.

Obedience

However, after knowing that Scott has no interest in the championship title in the grand prix, Fife resort to his last straw of influence by creating the sense of guilt on Scott through obedience. Obedience is more powerful than compliance technique whereby the individual has no choice but to adhere to the orders given. In the movie, Fife cunningly framed Scott to think that he has the obligation to fulfill his parents’ dreams to win the grand prix, considering competition as such are very selective and rare, and he could be the only hope his parents have. Hence, Scott was put in a position where should he continue to perform new steps with Fran, he would be the son who failed his parents which leave him no choice but to oblige to Fife’s request.

Additional observations & critic


I did not liked the part of the movie where Fran become more and more charming and beautiful as the movie progressed when she started to dance better. Fran started off as someone who looked rather comical and dressed sloppily and someone with no major importance in the film. Although the movie may attempt to create yet another ugly-duckling who was all time looked down upon, turned into a beautiful swan. I wonder how the effect of the movie would be like if Fran did not evolve in terms of her appearance throughout the film, while her dancing skills improved. Can the portrayal of more positive personality outrun one’s physical

appearance? Perhaps this movie has reinforced the stereotype that only people with certain looks can excel in life. On the other hand, I do not deny the possibility that Fran become more and more beautiful according to Scott’s perception about her considering this movie is filmed based on his perspective.

Nevertheless, how often we witness in movies that portray someone who are not good-looking as the leading character in movies? Certainly, good-looking characters has been blew out of proportion than what reality is.

*Extras: According to an online source, due to the vividness in the colors and expression portrayed in this movie, researchers is now using Strictly Ballroom (1993) to monitor changes in the brain activities on colors. Link: http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/lifestyle/analysis-of-strictly-ballroom-leads-to-colourful-conclusions/story-e6frf00i-1225940896638

Watch Full Strictly Ballroom (1993) Here

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