Clark and I just finished providing you with the top ten movie scenes of all time. Actually Clark did most of the work. And by most of the work I mean I read it for the first time after he posted it. But it was a great list. I can’t tell you how many times I have watched a snow globe fall to the ground and break and followed it up by cryptically saying “Rosebud…” Actually, I can tell you how many times. Twice. Nailed it both times and I didn’t even get a high-five. But I’ve digressed.
Clark’s list got me to thinking about movie scenes that have been particularly memorable to me. I think we have all seen and loved the classic Disney football film, Remember the Titans starring Denzel Washington. I don’t want to make any blanket statements, but if you haven’t seen and loved this film then there is a strong chance you’re a heartless racist.
The film did so much for us. It featured steller acting, it showcased a football team that seemingly ended racism in a small Virginia town, it taught us lessons about perseverance and humility and it rallied us all against racists and drunk drivers (who are probably racist). But perhaps most notably, it provided us with a multi-racial locker room singing and dancing together to the Motown classic “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”
And that’s what I wanted to break down. Before I go any further let me allow you to refresh yourself with the scene:
Let me preface this by saying that I could watch this scene twenty times in a row. Just like anybody who has ever watched it, I am having fun for the entirety of the scene. Never mind that the Yo Momma jokes are average at best, the fact that their delivery is perfect makes me think “Awwww Shiiit” after each one. I’m pretty sure I was 10 the first time I saw this movie and I definitely still thought “Awwww shiiit.” It might have been my first “Awwww shiiit” moment (with four w’s, not five, I wasn’t a poser).
But let’s not pretend this isn’t an odd scene. After months of racial strife, the jokes along with the conveniently placed and conveniently timed radio, causes the team to break out into song and dance. This could very well be the climatic moment of the film that brings the team together.
In fact, perhaps the most gripping moments of multi-racial unity are begun with the words ,”Don’t leave me hanging brotha.” Which are followed up with the response, “Look at dis man here, he called me brotha.” And the seed was planted. The team went on to tackle the injustices of racism one opposing team at a time.
Not to mention that the scene also completely fails to acknowledge white males’ general reluctance to dance around black people without the help of alcohol and even more strangely features a vaguely homosexual encounter that is never again addressed in the film.
There are obviously a lot of great parts to this scene. Too many to count in fact. But I think the best part is easily the back and forth between Ryan Gosling and his friend on the bench. In order to really pull off a good back and forth without any actual dialogue the two characters have to have precision and chemistry. And these two nailed it.
Oh, I’m not done talking about these two. Let’s face it, this isn’t Ryan Gosling from Drive. This dude (character name Ryan Bosley) likes to dance. But his buddy (I can’t figure out which one he is on IMDB, but I want to say Frankie) is no-nonsense. It starts with a simple shoulder shake at 1:47 which Frankie quickly stifles with a nudge of his elbow. Then at 1:59 switch back to Gosling making eye contact with Frankie while he bobs his head. Ballsy. This time Frankie uses his open hand to push Gosling. Somehow the catchy riffs of “Ain’t no Mountain High Enough” have still not sucked the racism out of Frankie.
Then ish really hits the fan at 2:55 when Gosling is up dancing with teammates, both black and white. In response we see a stare-down by Frankie that is a mixture of fear, anger, and mental anguish. Please skip to 2:55 and take a look at this powerful gesture communicated through the screen. The brief stare is so intense that I usually halt my own dancing just in case Frankie sees me (by the way, at this point of the scene there is at least some form of dancing or body movement going on for me).
The point is that Frankie is really, really racist. The fact that the song is not bringing him the least bit of joy proves him to be a complete monster.
Now let’s get to the strangest part of this scene. The scene, which begins with the character Ronnie ‘Sunshine’ Bass stroking his hair in the mirror, is also broken up by ‘Sunshine’ kissing Gery Bertier on the lips. This is a lot to be going on in one scene. I was still reeling from my third “Awwww shiiit” from the Yo Momma jokes. Then as I’m in full sing and dance mode you’re going to hit me with some dude-on-dude kissing? It’s like putting me on some roller coaster of emotions.
So in order to really understand the peculiarity of this interaction, and how little is explained, you really have to read the words in your own voice. So I’ll transcribe this part for you (anything in parenthesis is my own addition).
Keep in mind this part of the scene happens as the climatic chorus of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” is just about to hit. There has to be some significance to that.
Gerry Bertier: Hey Julius I was thinking we could…
Ronnie ‘Sunshine’ Bass: He’s taking a shower. (Really? Cause he was literally just telling Yo Momma jokes and dancing at the beginning of this song which is just now about to hit the chorus for the first time. He must have sprinted to that shower. Also, what was Gerry thinking he and Julius could do? Am I the only one who’s wondering that? What was going to be the end of that sentence? “We could start a band”? “We could talk to talk to Louis Lasik about his weight. It’s really getting out of control.” It really seemed like he was about to open up.
Bertier: What do you want man?
Sunshine: You know what I want. Leans in and kisses him on the lips. (Wait, what?)’
…Bertier tries to punch him three times, but ‘Sunshine’ dodges each punch. On the third punch Gertier falls down breaking a table and hitting the floor. Looks painful.
At this point a character who IMDB refers to as “Big Ju” makes the claim that, “there’s too much male bonding in here man. I’m out,” and then jokingly punches Ryan Gosling on the chest on his way out. Probably improvised. I like it.
Julius: (I thought he was in the shower) What is going on here?
Bertier: (Barely able to speak) He kissed me man. Laughter all around.
But then… a menacing stare from ‘Sunshine’ as he walks out of the locker room. Dude makes mad eye contact. But what does it mean? Was that a “don’t eff with me” stare or a “you know you liked it” stare?
And then ‘Bam,’ his departure is followed up immediately by Gosling (who does not seem to be thinking ‘whoa, one of my teammates just kissed another of my teammates and one of our best players just broke a table and could be seriously hurt) dancing which is followed up by Frankie’s terrifying stare. That’s right, two killer stares in a matter of ten seconds.
So let’s recap: “Hey Julius,” “I’m not Julius,” Kiss, Fight, Stare, Dance, then Stare. I know, I needed to catch my breath too.
So ‘Sunshine’ walks away with that stare. But the kiss isn’t addressed later in the movie. They all just move on. It’s like the directors felt that the awkward moment of homosexuality somehow fit in perfectly with the interracial bonding that took place during the song.
So what was the intent?
Was Disney thinking “hey, we are doing a ton on race relations in this movie, why don’t we throw in the fact that gays are cool too”? Except I don’t think this would exactly be the most progressive message for the pro-gay cause. Most homophobic people live under the pretense that gay men are walking around trying to kiss gay men, which can make the locker room a place of prejudice against gays. In reality, I think most gay men would probably tell you they don’t go around looking for straight dudes to kiss.
But the message here (if Disney is indeed trying to take a pro-gay stance) would be, “Hey Bertier, this gay dude from California might try to kiss you when you’re least expecting it, but quit being such a hard ass, we’re trying to listen to “Ain’t no Mountain High Enough.” A noteworthy effort, but not exactly a big step for gay rights.
Or is that whole concept totally off? As YouTube commenter beautifulgirl425 suggests could it be that “The guy didn’t kiss him because he’s gay. He kissed him because the other guy’s a douchebag and he wanted to screw with him a little bit.”
Ahh the old ‘screw with the douche bag by kissing him’ move. Oldest trick in the book. Beautifulgirl425’s comment did get four likes so we have to at least give it some credibility, right? But then what is the point of that part of the scene if this is the case?
Perhaps it’s supposed to be a message of “not all guys from California with long hair are gay. In fact, if you make them cut their hair and play football then they can actually turn out to be pretty cool guys. Don’t you know anything Beriter?”
Obviously I did some research on this topic and found out that the real Ronnie ‘Sunshine’ Bass (the film is based on a true story) claims that the kiss never happened? Wait, wait, wait. The kiss never happened? Did the song even play in the locker room? I mean I know Ryan Gosling was dancing, right? What am I supposed to believe anymore?
All I know is that this scene is really pretty weird. But it’s
the reason I’m not a racist one of the most memorable scenes of my childhood. An all-time classic.