‘Remember the Titans’ focuses on the civil rights struggle, not just football
Published: Thursday, September 28, 2000
Updated: Friday, June 15, 2012 22:06
The weather is getting cooler, school is starting again and football season is in full effect. For many communities, high school football is everything. The one in “Remember the Titans” is no different. The year is 1971 and Alexandria, Va. is about to undergo a change. The local school board has to integrate an all-black school with an all-white school to create T. C. Williams High School. The whole town is put to the test, starting with the high school football team, the Titans. The man picked to lead the team is Herman Boone, played by Denzel Washington. Boone is chosen as head coach over local hero coach Bill Yoast, played by Bill Patton, who had led the team to several victories. Molding this group of boys isn’t going to be easy, however; they were raised to hate each other. Boone helps the boys integrate and eventually they learn to respect and like each other at training camp. One of the first boys to cross the line is Lewis Lastik, played by Ethan Suplee. Suplee is probably best known for being the big fat bigot in “American History X” and the big fat mall guy in “Mallrats.” Lastik has a lot of funny moments in the movie, from singing a Temptations song to his movements on the field. This is the starting point which creates a friendship between all the boys. They become good friends and by the time they arrive back in Alexandria, they are all singing soul songs — only to find their parents waiting for them on opposite sides of the street. Obviously, it’s going to take the town a bit longer to accept the team’s change of heart. The boys lose friends, girlfriends and the understanding of family members over their team. It takes just about the whole length of the movie before the town learns to accept the football team’s desegregation. But when the football team wants to go out and celebrate, they can’t go and eat at the same place. The white boys had no idea what their black teammates have go through. Such scenes are constant reminders about how far this country has come. Washington is probably going to be the main reason a lot of people will see this movie, but there are other actors who sneak in some punches. Besides Suplee, there is nine-year-old Hayden Panettiere. She plays Yoast’s daughter, Sheryl. An atypical nine-year-old girl, Sheryl plays with footballs instead of dolls. Her reaction to how her dad lost the coaching job is hilarious. Another person who steals some of the spotlight is the villain, Ray Budds who is played by Burgess Jenkins. Budds is the only one on the football team to disagree with the team’s desegragation, and inevitably does some things to make his feelings known. This was a controversial topic for a Disney movie. A typical Disney movie usually involves retelling a true story, but polishing it up so any bad facts are erased. There are no racist comments or actions in a typical Disney movie. There is usually no message or moral, just a bunch of cartoon characters running around and singing. It’s the total opposite in this movie. It’s almost shocking to hear such vulgar language in a Disney movie. Granted, the movie is rated PG, so some of the worst of the racist words won’t be heard, but it’s still a bit odd hearing them in a Disney movie. Football takes a back seat to the subject of civil rights in this movie. Football could have been replaced by any other sport, but because this is a true story, it fits, and certain aspects of the civil rights movement is depicted really well. This story might have not been as important as other civil rights stories, but this movie shows a bit of history with something just about everybody likes: football. This is a very powerful movie with a strong message. This movie has just about something for everyone in it. It has football, strong moral values and Denzel Washington. Go see this movie and root for those Titans.