Billy Elliot is an excellent and emotional British film from 2000, directed by Stephen Daldry and starring a young Jamie Bell. On the surface, it may seem like a musical drama about a boy who has to fight against his environment and his family’s prejudices to achieve his dream of becoming a professional dancer, but in reality, it hides important life lessons about the dire consequences of Marxist ideas.
In a deeper analysis, we discover that this story actually tells us about the 1984-1985 UK mining strike and, indirectly, about Margaret Thatcher’s struggle against Marxism, even though the “Iron Lady” does not even appear in the film.
The story takes place in a fictional mining town in County Durham, England, where young Billy Elliot, 11, lives with his family in an environment of poverty. Motherless, Billy lives with his father, his older brother, and his grandmother who is now ill with Alzheimer but in her youth, she wanted to become a professional dancer —but was unable to do so.
Billy’s father, Jackie Elliot, whose father was also a miner, is a respected and veteran coal miner. He wants Billy to grow up to be a miner, like his older brother Tony, who is also the delegate of the mining union. Both are two prominent leaders of the miners’ strike, demanding better conditions and wages. They are organizing violent protests and picket lines, scolding and attacking the comrades who decide not to go on strike and go to work.
Tacitly or explicitly, violence is present on different levels throughout the first half of the film. In the background, one can constantly observe the policy of Margaret Thatcher’s conservative government trying to calm the tense atmosphere that prevails in the town. The police presence, far from calming the violence, causes the tension to escalate.
Margaret Thatcher, with the aim of taking power away from the unions —the miners’ union was one of the most powerful in the country— was one of the first to promote and support ideas on climate change in order to make counter-propaganda, exposing the corrupt connections between these unions and the Soviet Union, as well as the alleged illegal funding of these groups by the Libyan government.
In the film, we not only witness the violent disturbances during the demonstrations but also witness low-intensity situations. Like when Billy’s father and brother in the supermarket barely have enough money to buy food, and they are harassing and insulting a miner who is working and can afford to do the shopping.
In the more private sphere of Billy Elliot’s family life, violence is also present in all his relationships. Billy’s father constantly argues with his older son and they even punch each other. The son wants to confront the police in an increasingly violent manner, while the father favors more peaceful protests.
Billy Elliot’s father, who has no income because of the strike, makes real efforts to pay his young son for boxing lessons, but Billy hates them. In one of the rooms next to the boxing gym, teacher Sandra Wilkinson gives ballet classes to the girls from the neighborhood. One day Billy becomes interested in these classes and, hidden from his father, leaves boxing to go to dance lessons.
When his father finds out, he strictly forbids Billy to continue with the ballet, as he considers it a gay thing and insists that his future has to be boxing or mining. However, Billy Elliot’s passion is so great that, despite his father’s threats, he continues clandestinely with private dance lessons from Professor Wilkinson, who, seeing the boy’s enormous talent, decides to teach him for free behind his father’s back.
Thanks to his efforts and his teacher’s trust, Billy Elliot manages to audition for the Royal Ballet School in London, although he misses the exam, as the night before his brother Tony is arrested for violently attacking the police during one of the demonstrations.
Mrs. Wilkinson, frustrated and angry, decides to face Billy Elliot’s family to beg them to allow her to develop her dancing skills, but again both Billy’s father and brother impose their judgment and forbid the boy to pursue his own goals. Father and son seem to operate similarly in everything: they forbid Billy to develop, they forbid the teacher to help the child, they forbid the other miners to work, and even among themselves they try to impose their views in a coercive way.
When all seems lost for Billy Elliot, there is a turning point in the film, with an enormous symbolic charge. One night, while his father is getting drunk with his union friends, Billy and a friend sneak into the gym to dance. The father, drunk, discovers them, and although at first it looks like Billy is going to be beaten up, the boy is not intimidated and starts dancing in front of his father, who for the first time observes his son’s great talent.
Regretfully, the father rushes to Mrs. Wilkinson’s house and asks her if his son really has a chance of passing the entrance exam to the Royal Ballet School and how much this will cost him. The teacher assures him that he does and that it will be expensive, but that she could help him financially. The father refuses the help and decides to take on the responsibility of paying for his son’s education.
When he returns home, Billy Elliot and his older brother are sleeping in the room they share. The father sits on Billy’s bed and behind him can be seen the Karl Marx poster that his brother Tony has on the wall. It is almost imperceptible and subtle, but full of symbolism. Before the admonishing and threatening look of the bearded philosopher, the father turns his back on him and all his doctrine, telling Billy that he will abandon the strike and go back to work in the mine in order to pay for his ballet classes in London.
From this point on, the film changes its tone completely and the violence dissipates. The father first finds himself insulted and harassed by his comrades and his eldest son, who brand him a traitor to the cause. But gradually everything gets better, the strike is called off, and they even end up taking up a collection to help with Billy’s tuition in London.
The story ends with a 25-year-old Billy Elliot triumphing as the first dancer at Swan Lake in London, under the excited gaze of his father and brother in a crowded Theater Royal Haymarket.
Billy Elliot unmasks socialist ideas of equality
The film is a perfect metaphor for the devastating consequences of Marxism, showing that it only generates violence and leads to a life based on resentment, envy, and coercion for those who do not think in Marxist terms. It can be said that the story of Billy Elliot’s family proves Margaret Thatcher right in her famous last speech about what lies behind the mask of equality.
As Henry Hazlitt (1894-1993) said: “The whole gospel of Karl Marx can be summed up in a single sentence: Hate the man who is better off than you are. Never under any circumstances admit that his success may be due to his own efforts, to the productive contribution he has made to the whole community. Always attribute his success to the exploitation, the cheating, the more or less open robbery of others. Never under any circumstances admit that your own failure may be owing to your own weakness, or that the failure of anyone else may be due to his own defects — his laziness, incompetence, improvidence or stupidity.”