I introduced Billy and Jean to you in the previous post and also gave you a trigger warning, so we’re going to jump right into the heart-wrenching parts of the film now.
Billy enters the film protecting the wild mustangs from Bernard Posner’s father and co. (nothing more villainous than big men with guns hunting helpless animals, amirite?) and then moves on to Barbara, the fifteen-year-old pregnant runaway who’s brought to Jean’s Freedom School after Barb’s father beats her up.
While there is general mistrust when it comes to Jean’s school and her hapkido fighting friend Billy, this is the conflict that brings out the catastrophic events in the film.
Hiding Barbara at the Freedom School puts Jean and Billy in jeopardy, and then there’s that ice cream shop scene (if you don’t want to watch the video, basically what happens is the shop owner won’t serve the Native American kids and Bernard, piece of shit, takes it upon himself to pour flour down all the native kids’ faces to turn them white. Billy shows up, tries to stay calm, and then kicks the shit out of Bernard and his friends.)
There’s a lot more to it all then this, but I’m trying to sum it up so I can tell you more about Jean. In brief, there are bad bad guys in town and Billy gets into fights, while Jean tries to calm him down for the good of all her students. A Native boy gets murdered, Barbara miscarries her baby, and here’s the kicker; Bernard rapes Jean at knife-point.
At this point in the movie, you’re aching for Billy Jack to wreck havoc upon Bernard’s life. You want the rapist dead, and you want his friends dead too. You hate Barbara’s father, you hate the corrupt politicians in town, and you desperately want a happy ending.
I don’t want to give the entire plot away (because you need to go see this movie; its awesome) but here’s why Jean’s the hero. I know it, you know it, and most importantly, Billy knows it too.
After the rape, one of the students finds and unties Jean, and cradles the woman in her arms while the two weep. This scene’s raw heartbreak is sickening and powerful. The student has gritted teeth, spewing hatred against Bernard and calling for vengeance, and Jean tells her to stop it. Jean, battered and vulnerable, hurt and defeated, strokes her student’s hair and softly cries, begging the girl not to tell Billy about it. She explains through shaky breathes that if Billy found out, he’d kill Bernard without a second thought, and the Sheriff would then have more leverage to shut down the school. If the school is closed, Jean says, everything she’s worked toward and fought for will be for nothing. She reminds her trembling rescuer that the students have nowhere else to go.
“Don’t rob me of this opportunity to turn the other cheek,” Jean weeps.
See, Jean is a woman who believes in something greater than herself. She values her mission over her well-being. Her love for her students outweighs her need for vengeance. Jean has her eyes set on the greater good and the future of her loved ones and, honestly, racial reconciliation in general. Bernard’s crime is a hate crime and she looks at it as so, and begs her friend not to fight fire with fire.
Jean is, as I said, a badass.
I watched this movie with a bunch of my women friends the last time and two had to leave the room while the rest of us just wept. Sexual violence is something every woman deals with in some way or another. I’m not saying men and boys aren’t raped as well, I’m just saying its more prevalent for the ladies. There is a special hatred reserved for women and there seems to always have been. In Billy Jack, its not even that Bernard is attracted to Jean; he’s angry with her for her activism, for the fact that she’s a pillar of inspiration to the counter-culture kids, and because she’s a friend of Bernard’s primary enemy, Billy Jack. Rape is a war tactic.
Billy, of course, finds out about it all and does indeed kill that rapist some of a bitch, and like Jean predicted this unleashes a full-on war between Billy and the townspeople, culminating with Billy wounded and defiant inside a church and surrounded by police and news crews.
Jean is there and the cops let her go inside to try and convince him to surrender a couple of times. These scenes are pivotal, and showcase their two characters so perfectly. Billy is sweating, bleeding, waxing poetic about Indians not being afraid to die, and how he and Jean’s souls are so different from each other’s.
And Jean, resident badass of the film, calls bullshit and tells him why. She tells him how she hates just as fiercely as he does, and reminds him that she was the one brutally raped, not him, and that she’s the one living with that memory. She tells him she’s killed Bernard a million times a million ways in her mind, every night. She explains through gritted teeth how easy it is for him to die a martyr while she’s got to keep trying. Billy’s shoulders slump and Jean reminds him that she’s in it for the long-haul, and that those children worship the ground he walks on, and he has no right to take himself from them.
Jean destroys the ridiculous misconception that pacifists don’t get angry. She’s furious, she’s hurt, but she’s made a choice to do the right thing no matter the cost.
Jean is the band’s roadie. She’s the sound guy. She’s the tech person. She’s behind the scenes. She’s the parent working doubles at a shitty job so the kids can go to college. She’s the unassuming stronghold behind the heart-stealing antihero with the sexy motorcycle.
Billy is the swashbuckling warrior and Jean is the actual agent of peace. She believes in something and she’s not only willing to die for it; she’s willing to live for it.
Is Billy? That’s his challenge. Is he willing to be handcuffed and put in prison, or will he go out in a blaze of glory?
Find the movie. Watch it. Its seriously so good and you won’t be able to get those first flute notes from One Tin Soldier out of your head for weeks.