“The function of sociology, as of every science is to reveal that which is hidden. “(Pierre Bourdieu). The film Freedom Writers has hidden themes that can be explained by the three theories of sociology. The three theories of sociology: Structural Functionalism, Conflict Theory, and Symbolic Interactionism explain the behavior and experiences of the students in room 203. The students’ lives are filled with gangs, crimes, racism, domestic abuse, income inequality, poverty, unfair treatment, and lack of education. With regards to Structural Functionalism, gangs, and education can be understood.
Structural Functionalism states that our lives are guided by social structures, which are correspondingly stable patterns in social behavior. In other words, a social structure such as a religious community would have certain rituals, such a handshake. This ritual gives structure to everyday lives, as it is a repetitive action that gives an individual stability. In relation to Freedom Writers, each student of room 203 belongs to a gang based on their culture. The gangs are Little Tijuana for Latino students, Cambodia for Asian students, Ghetto for Black students, and Wonderworld for White people.
The student’s behavior is guided by their gangs, as their gangs feel like their family and it influences them. Their gangs give them stability and in many ways a home. Structural Functionalism theorizes that different parts of society serves a purpose as a whole and each part has a specific job. Every individual must do their job for the society to function. Each gang in Freedom Writers is similar to a small society. Everyone has a role and loyalty. As said in the movie, “Die for your own. Die with respect”. The students had complete loyalty to their gangs, but as the movie progressed they started to stray away.
Ava, a student part of the Latino gang, was called as a witness for a crime her gang committed. It was her job to protect her gang member and lie in court, but she couldn’t. This showed her lack of loyalty She was beat up and her father didn’t talk to her because her failure to play her part could cause the gang to not be united and fall apart. In addition, Structural Functionalism emphasizes that social structures are based mainly on shared values. This explains why the gangs in the movie consist of members of the same culture, as they have the same upbringing and all value respect.
Moreover, in the movie. , ducation is a theme that can be explained by Structural Functionalism. Room 203 starts to give structure to the student’s daily lives. The classroom becomes a place of refuge, where they use their journals to express their feelings.. Erin teaches them core values and their progress in learning makes them feel proud and part of something bigger in life. On the subject of Freedom Writers, gangs, racism, income inequality, and domestic abuse can be explained with the Conflict Theory. The Conflict Theory focuses on the relationships between different groups.
Its stresses how privileged groups hold more power and ave more advantages. It expressed that the social conditions of each group causes a struggle for power. The students in room 203 all hate each other because their gangs are rivals. The gangs are constantly fighting for the most power, that is why many of them kill one another. In the class, constant fights would break out between the students and when Erin changed up the seating plan, the whole class was disgruntled about being integrated with one another. The racism displayed towards The Freedom Writers can also be explained with the conflict theory.
The students of class 203 are subjected to discrimination as the hite teachers and students are strongly against the integration program. Ava and the other students hate white people because they are privileged in the aspects of money, power, and opportunities. The class disliked Erin and Ben in the beginning because of their skin color. The students feel as if the white students and teachers have more power because white students get a better education, and the white teachers do not want to give the multiracial students books or resources, and are not allowed field trips.
There is a constant struggle for power between the white teachers and the students of class 203, which s why they constantly act out. They want to be treated fairly. In addition, the conflict theory explains income inequality. The movie shows that people with more money are of a higher class and they have more power and opportunities. All of the students comes from poor backgrounds and are treated unfairly. They do not have the opportunity to attend university or start new, different lives. The students financial situations lead them to bad behavior and crime, such as selling drugs.
They perform illegal activities to obtain money to be able to live and gain more power. Furthermore, domestic abuse is displayed n the movie through some students in the class. The Conflict Theory explains domestic abuse, as the abuser has the power over the person who is being abused. Being abused at home has an effect on the behavior of the students. Those being abused act out in school to be able to obtain power from somewhere and to release their anger. For example, one boy who witnesses abuse in his home, sells drugs and fights in class.
The Conflict theory explains behavior with regards to power, but Symbolic Interactionism explains what circumstances, stresses, communication leads to behavior and reactions. Regarding Freedom Writers, Symbolic Interactionism explains what effect domestic abuse, poverty, and unfair treatment has on behavior. Many students experience abuse at home, their circumstances and stresses cause them to act out in class because they need to express their feelings somewhere. At home they are treated badly and with no respect.
Moreover, Symbolic Interactionism analyzes society by focusing on the meanings society imposes on objects, events, and behavior. In Long Beach, crime is apparent among the students. Their society portrays crime as a way to make money. Andre sells drugs to improve his financial situation. It is probable that he does not realize the consequence because his society makes his actions seem normal. Since Symbolic Interactionism states that communication impacts reactions, the unfair treatment communicated to the students of 203 impacts how they act.
The multicultural students of Woodrow Wilson high school are treated like they are worthless. The teachers, other that Erin, believe that they have no chance of attending university, no future other than the gangs, and will end up dead or in jail. Erin brings a guest speaker that tells the students, “You are heroes everyday”, but before Erin came into their lives, the students hought of themselves as nothing. They didn’t believe that they were heroes. The other teachers treated them, as if they were unintelligent.
As Mrs. Gruwell says, “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that if you tell kids they’re stupid–directly or indirectly–sooner or later they start to believe it. ” This treatment brought out bad reactions in the students. They were not respectful to the teachers and school property. Symbolic Interactionism, along with Structural Functionalism and the Conflict theory helps to explain the events and behavior in Freedom Writers. In final analysis, The three theories of Sociology explain the hidden meanings of the events in the movie.
The students of room 203 experience gangs, crimes, racism, domestic abuse, income inequality, poverty, unfair treatment, and lack of education in their lives. These themes are understood by Structural Functionalism, the Conflict Theory, and Symbolic Interactionism. The Freedom Writers is an impactful film, that sociologists can use to display the causes of problems in society. As Erin Gruwell said, “No matter what race we are, what ethnic background, sexual orientation, or what views we may have, we are all human. “, and Sociologists are needed to explain what makes us human.