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A couple of weeks before the new school year starts as well as the new football season, an accident shakes the apparent tranquility of the town. A black boy is killed by the store owner for being suspected in stealing goods from the store. This accident is the turning point from which the true story takes its start. The event causes even more tensions in the segregated community of the town and sharpens the racial conflict, sleeping underneath for generations. It is with strong opposition and reject that the community sees the newly appointed Afro-American football team coach Boone in. The team players are ready to sacrifice their football careers if their former coach Yoast is demoted to the assistant. The coach Yoast himself would reject the perspective of working under the new coach at first but would eventually accept the assistant role observing Boone's work and finish by getting involved in the great unification plan himself.
The coach Boone comes to win as he declares from the very start; it is nothing less than perfection that he seeks to obtain through hard work. It is not evident however from the beginning which ambition is dominating the coach, but what is sure is that this force will lead the whole town to the revolutionary change of the segregated mentality of town's people and bring the kind of victory that will leave a forever-lasting echo in people's souls. The mission of the new coach seems to be a no-win situation and hard as might be- to make the two hostile groups of young players work as a team. It is no secret that being a part of the team implies abandoning oneself, one's own ambitions, trust in the co-players and work for the common target to achieve the victory. However the racial prejudices are so deeply rooted in the minds of the boys, that it is through dictatorship that the democracy can be restored. The coach takes the wise decision to extract the team from their habitual environment and to bring them to the camp for the two-week intense training. This isolation from the society influence gradually lifts the heavy weight of the prejudices off the young men's minds and makes them drop their preconceptions realizing the futility of the hatred and its destructive power. The very first night in the camp starts with a massive fight in response to which the coach sets clearly the target, "We will be perfect in every aspect of the game". Indeed coach Boone "flirts with a fine line between being tough and crazy". (Boaz Yakyn, Remember the Titans, DVD) Despite the nearly army style of exhaustive training being a mixture of the boot camp and groups sessions, the coach realizes that it is not merely the physical shape that needs polishing, but the humanity that needs to be identified and uncovered. It turns out that when asked basic questions about their room-mates, carefully chosen by the coach to be of the opposite race, they had no clue as to who their room-mates were and where they came from, but they already hated them. In order to make the young men realize this the coach assigns daily homework to spend some time with all the team-mates of the opposite race until everyone would know the basic information about their team-mates' origin, family situation, likes and dislikes etc. It is by being forced to get to know each other that the Titans were beginning to discover the real humans behind the appearances and find the similarities that created the bonds instead of the differences that separated them. Of course every speech of the coach Boone to the team was and outstanding example of leadership and contained a message of wisdom, but there was one which stood out of the rest which he delivered at the Civil War battleground. It was a powerful calling, inviting the "Titans" to listen to the message of the dead, to listen to the souls, destroyed by the ongoing fight over racial differences, "If we don't get together now, we too, we'll be destroyed. I don't care if you like each other or not, but you will respect each other and may be we are going to play this game like men" (Boaz Yakyn, Remember the Titans, DVD). Indeed as they progress in putting into practice that lesson, they start to act more mature and more human. At times the boys are surprised themselves how easy it is to break the non-existent walls and to construct the solid bridges instead.
In the general context of the racial conflict there is a particular tension over leadership recognition between Gerry Bertier and Julius Campbell, two key players of opposite races. Gerry is the team captain and Julius is an individualist refusing to recognize the authority of the first. They are rooming together in the camp and their first day starts with the fight over a poster on the wall. They look at each other with fear and repulsion but learn to respect and accept each other to the extent of becoming sworn brothers. "Are you blind? Cannot you see family resemblance? He is my brother", - Gary says to the nurse at the hospital as Julius enters. They have learnt how to see another's soul instead of the skin color. Not only have they overcome their fears and healed the conflict but they have shown to others what a strong bond can be created when one looks past the appearances.
The leading characters are shown factual, humanistic and more sensible to simple human values than they initially believed they were. While some were humming "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" others were dancing to "Act Naturally". These are not only the coaches that teach young men to know before making their opinion of someone, Louie Lastik (white team member) seems to be integrated in the team acting as a live example of the lesson to be learnt:
Big Ju: What you doin' man?
Louie Lastik: Eatin' lunch.
Big Ju: I see you eatin' lunch, but why you eatin' over here? Why not go eat over there and eat with your people?
Louie Lastik: Man, I don't have any people. I'm with everybody, Julius. (Boaz Yakyn, Remember the Titans, DVD)
However the realities of Alexandria haven't undergone much of a change and the racial tensions were even stronger than ever. As the new school year approaches, one black and one white school are closed down, the students are sent over to the mixed school under the federal mandate to integrate. The decision is met with the protest of the parents and the students.
"The Titans" are in front of the new season. The pressure gets stronger when the coach Boone is told that he would be fired should at least one game be lost. The training in the camp has done its miraculous transformations on the minds and souls of the young men and so they came back to Alexandria being a true team living up to their name "The Titans", who ruled their universe with absolute power, it is the force that has arisen once the old prejudices have been buried in the Civil War battlefield- the power of team-spirit and unification. Indeed the coach didn't have to speak about the victory when addressing his inspiring word to the team before the first play of the season, for they were already predetermined winners. The have won over their own ignorance. Although the surrounding was becoming more and more open to the message of humanity, "The Titans" were spreading around them; the townsfolk were reluctant to integrate the idea of unification. By the third game of the season they have decisively affirmed themselves as the "Titans" and marked the field not only with their extraordinary appearance but also with another victory.
It until the semi-final game that the role of the former coach Yoast is somewhat drawn to the back stage, taking observing and supporting position. He is definitely not the cliché coach, whose personal fame is above all. It is a pride-challenging decision to accept the demotion and get along with an assistant position after years of success and fame. He gives an impression of being that humble person who is searching to please everyone and chooses the path of least resistance. But the moment comes for him to make a stand, when he won't let the officials to fix the game against "The Titans" by threatening them to go public. It has cost him the nomination of the Hall of Fame, but the reward has outraged that loss, "I don't want them to gain another YARD, you blitz all night! They cross the line of scrimmage I swear to God I'm going to take every one of you out. You make sure they remember FOREVER, the night they played the Titans." (Boaz Yakyn, Remember the Titans, DVD) A beautiful fight on and off the field that the young men were brought to lead supported by their coaches was convincingly won by "The Titans".
In the era of emotionally empty personages, poorly written scripts and overdone special effects "Remember the Titans" pleasantly stands out. Although the movie has received a number of critical responses as to lightness of the presentation of racial relations, its message doesn't lack intensity. "Remember The Titans" is not about football, nor is it about the racism, it depicts the people's capacity to change, to act and think human. Coach Boone has forced them to one another, forced them to see and discover each other's world to become parts of it and it worked because they have let the change happen. The importance of the change is manifested through showing what the consequences might be if the change hasn't occurred. It is interesting to observe how people hold fast to the security of the known even if it is not right and how afraid they are of changes. But the change is necessary and the fear is possible to overcome, "I was afraid of you, Julius. I don't see what I was afraid of. Now I see I only hated my brother." (Boaz Yakyn, Remember the Titans, DVD). On the example of the Yoast's little daughter, we see the importance of one's upbringing when forming the attitudes and ideas of the child. The only passion of Sheryl was football and what mattered to her about people was how they played it. There is not a single moment when the little girl makes the reference to the racial belonging of the team-players. On the other hand we see how the characters are tolerant to their parents and close ones, who have been raised believing in the misguided convictions and need a very good reason to believe otherwise.
Most of events and characters are true to the real "Titans" although the Hollywood fiction has found its way into the original story but only with the aim to emphasize the conflict and render the message more "user- friendly" to the wide audience. It might be difficult for the present generation to realize how hard the integration process was back in 1970s and imagine all the struggles that surrounded it. The sports theme is well-chosen for it has been and will always be the bridge that people of all nationalities and backgrounds will cross in the name of the victory. Victory is another universal language by means of which the humanistic message is delivered. Although it is not bonded by the football field, no one can dispute the glory. Who knows if Virginians would believe that unification is the right to stand for if "The Titans" were not so glorious? But how could it be different? Coach Boone has forged the team of mixed races and backgrounds, for whom "no mountain is too high", who has abandoned the stereotypes and gave birth to the true team-spirit and a team like that is invincible.