As alluded to earlier, I want to tell you about the movie Billy Jack, a childhood favorite of mine and the film that awakened my interest in social justice at a very young age. (Pretty sure its rated R, but my dad weighed the pros and cons of us watching it as kids and totally turned off Rugrats one night and said, ‘hey, I wanna show you kids something.’ Billy Jack quickly became the patron saint of my siblings’ and my childhood.) I brought it to Hope House a while back and begged all my friends to watch it, and this time around noticed something; Billy isn’t the hero and never was.
Obvious Spoilers ahead, and for those of you who want it, a trigger warning as well. I don’t really know how I feel about trigger warnings because they don’t exist in the real world, but for the sake of Internet Etiquette here it is; there is brutal sexual assault in this movie, a murdered protagonist, a miscarried baby, domestic violence, and some gnarly old western shootouts. There’s also the bit where a horse falls off a cliff and that sucks.
This movie is, as we like to say, intense.
And wonderful. It will give you heroes and renew your sense of social responsibility, and you’ll wish you could’ve gone to Jean’s “Freedom School”.
The 1970’s movie centers around this counterculture school, where the only rules are 1. no drugs. 2. you have to be contributing something creative.
Its all very hippie dippie and right up the Hope House folks’ alley.
The woman who runs and operates the Freedom School is Jean Roberts. She’s a badass.
She’s not married, she’s childless, and she’s the hero of this movie. She’s wise as she is compassionate, shrewd in dealings with the judgmental townsfolk and kind with her students. She rides horses, is a pacifist, and Billy Jack is in love with her.
He never says it but he is.
Billy Jack, now, is an ex Green Beret with anger problems.
(also potentially my first movie crush. Hot damn, Billy Jack.)
He’s half Native American and the protector of the Freedom School, which gets a lot of fear-based flack from the conservative townspeople. They don’t like how integrated the school is (red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in Jean’s sight) and they don’t trust the lack of traditional structure. Billy’s trying to learn to turn the other cheek, but as we see in the iconic Ice Cream Shop Scene, injustice just makes him go berzerk.
The juxtaposition of his character and Jean’s is the underlying movement of the film and its genius as it is heartbreaking.
These are the two main characters. Jean’s the film’s narrator, and Billy the central protagonist. You can’t help but love him. You want to see him crack some skulls. You can’t watch the abuse heaped upon the Native American kids in the ice cream shop scene without outrage, and relief when Billy shoes up. He is the hand of justice and you’re furiously wanting it to come down hard against the racist assholes in town.
But he isn’t the hero.
I’ll show you why in part two. Peace and love to all of you from Southern California in the meantime, and here’s the film’s famous theme song to listen to while I write up the how’s and why’s and Jean’s awesomeness.