Remember the Titans
Denzel Washington plays coach Boone, a no-nonsense taskmaster sent to Williams High (the white school that the black school is integrating into) to replace the leadership of the much loved white coach Yoast. Despite their difference in coaching styles, and the less than ideal circumstances in which they are placed, these two men must battle their own pride and bigotry in order to lead their team of athletes not only on the field in victory, but also through the turmoil of life and a divided community.
I’m really not sure where to begin because honestly, this is one of the best movies I have seen in years. I’m not sure how this beautiful movie (and the real-life story) managed to evade me for so long!
Remember the Titans is a spectacular, powerful film that shows virtuous behavior, projects an old-fashioned respect for discipline, teaches integrity, honors the Christian faith, and depicts real character-building lessons throughout the movie.
We see coaches stand up to corruption and make choices as to whether they want to be men of integrity, or whether they are willing to compromise what is right in order to get what they really want. We see an injured player refuses to wallow in self-pity. We see boys become men, learn about real friendship, undergo tremendous personal growth—even minor characters experience growth.
The real focus of this film (character-wise) centers on the shoulders of Coach Yoast and Coach Boone, two men who were as extraordinary in real life, as they were in the film. However, this movie was filled with many other great characters, especially when it came to the boys on the football team. However, my favorite duo (besides the coaches) were Gary and Julius, two young men that start out the movie with nothing but hatred towards one another for the color of their skin, but quickly learn to respect one another and become much more than just fellow teammates. These two boys also provide great opportunity to discuss the type of team leadership that’s necessary to bring guys together for a common cause.
This film has no drug content, no sexual content, no crud humor, and next to no violence (other than the typical bruising that comes with the football turf). In fact, the only negative elements to this movie are as follows:
According to Walt Disney Studios chair Peter Schneider, Titans underwent severe rewrites after the script was brought to him. In the original script, every third word was the n-word, every fourth word was the f-word, and every sixth word was the s-word, which didn’t fly. Before the film was given the okay by Peter Schneider and the two real life coaches, Boone and Yoast, all that remained were less than a handful of mild profanities.
In addition to the profanity, Remember the Titans obviously has some racial issues surging through it. A brick is thrown through Coach Boone’s house window. His wife hurries the children into another room while Coach Boone grabs a rifle and prepares to shoot the trespassers. Nobody comes in, though; all we see is a car speeding away. This is not the only instance where racial violence is shown, but it should be noted that this movie does not support racism in any way. It boldly decimates the dividing lines between segregation and has several powerful scenes that deal with the negative effects of racism.
Since seeing Remember the Titans I have had several people say that they are surprised I saw the film due to the fact that it portrays a homosexual character. Because I know this is the reason why many people will not see this movie, I thought it was worth addressing in its own category.
Here is a quote from someone who saw the film and felt that Sunshine’s character promoted homosexuality: “Sunshine’s shower scene where he kissed another player in an attempt to seduce him was disgraceful. Disney’s attempt to include this behavior on a equal social level with racial concerns was disgusting and obviously in an effort to normalize and encourage acceptance!”
Now, I would like to point out that Sunshine does kiss another character in an attempt to “pay back” an offensive comment made earlier by the character getting kissed (Gerry). However, it was not sexual in any way, but rather locker room tomfoolery used to put Gerry in his place (though I don’t condone this use of tomfoolery).
Furthermore, I would like to point out that the character of Sunshine was not gay. When his father (a military man who has served with black men on the front lines and therefore he and his son “sunshine” have no tolerance for bigotry and racism) brings him to training camp, Gerry yells “hey you fruitcake!” Gerry makes this comment because Sunshine (who’s real name we never learn) shows up to camp with long blond hair (he and his Father just transferred from California where Sunshine liked to ride the waves).
Now, the thing to remember about this movie is first of all, the time period. This is the south in the early 1970’s. Long hair on a young man back then insinuated that he was a hippie, a drug addict, or gay. Therefore, upstanding young men like Gerry would not associate with someone who looked like Sunshine because of the association his hair carried. It was another form of discrimination, essentially.
Coach Boone offers Sunshine a place on the team for two reasons. 1.) he’s got good skills, and 2.) he comes from an environment that doesn’t tolerate racism, which would be a valuable asset to the team, especially considering their struggles with the topic. However, coach Boone has one requirement. Sunshine has to cut his hair, which he willingly does.
Sunshine is not gay. He’s not a hippie. He’s not a drug addict. He’s actually a really good kid, as everyone later learns when they give him a chance, and he stands up for what is right.
The incidents with Sunshine (who was a real person) are just another way that the filmmakers are trying to deal with prejudice on all levels. Even prejudice within one’s race, as was the case with Sunshine. And, just like with the racism, Sunshine was not who he was said to be, anymore than the black boys on the team were who the bigots said they were.
Remember the Titans is a must see movie. I was not only inspired by watching the actions of this team who not only changed their school, but also their town, but I also felt a huge amount of pride. Pride that good men still exist and they are still willing to stand up for what was right. As I began to watch documentaries on Coach Boone and Yoast (who are still very close even today in their old age) I found myself impressed with the filmmakers, too. They chose to listen to the stories told by these two men and truly portray them. As I listened to the two coaches talk about their boys and the struggles they went through, I could see the close parallels between their stories and the movie’s depiction of those stories.
There were many struggles involved with making this movie. Many people did not want it made. Others didn’t believe in the film and thus cut the film’s budget to the point where the movie could no longer be produced. But the men and women behind this film believed in it, and they believed in the story that needed telling. Several of the actors, including Denzel Washington, took heavy pay cuts in order to get the film back into production. And the end result was an amazing movie that earned its place on my favorite’s shelf.
If you watch this film, I promise you that you and your family will Remember the Titans.