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The Sociological Concepts Presented in the Gridiron Gang by Phil Joanou

Gridiron Gang

Gridiron Gang, a sports/drama movie released in 2006, tells the story about Sean Porter, a counselor at a juvenile detention center and how he works to turn the young inmates into a football team. This movie is actually based on events that happened in real life. The movie not only shows the different steps that the counselor takes to turn the young inmates into a football team, but the movie also shows the personal lives of some of the inmates and how they came to be in the juvenile center. The main purpose of the counselor trying to make the young inmates play on a football team is so that he can help them learn about social responsibility and get a sense of respect not just from the outside world, but for themselves. However, the counselor faces many problems throughout the movie from both the head of the juvenile center and the coaches of the opponent teams; they do not feel comfortable letting players with criminal charges play on the field. He also encounters many issues between the young inmates, with them always arguing with one another and trying to establish a sense of dominance on their team.

There are many sociological concepts that this movie portray, specifically deviance and social control, due to it taking place in a juvenile center. Deviance is when a certain behavior is conducted that violates the standards of conduct, or the social norms in place. Crime is considered a more formal sort of deviance, not only subject to social sanction but also punishable by law. This juvenile center takes the necessary measures in order to enforce the rules and acceptable behavior from the inmates. To give an example of deviance from the movie, a good scene to point out would be the story of how Willie Weathers (one of the main characters) ended up being in the juvenile center. Willie was a member of a gang, and he was caught robbing and shooting a gun in a convenience store. This falls under the sociological concept of deviance because Willie broke the law, violating the standards norms in place.

Social control is defined as the techniques and strategies for preventing certain deviant behaviors in a society. In this movie, the counselor is trying to use football in order to socially control the inmates. He feels that by employing the techniques and strategy that come along with football, such as teamwork, responsibility, maturity and discipline, this can help prevent the inmates from acting in aggression towards one another and form a sense of self-respect. An example from the movie would be when Sean Porter first gathered the inmates around and told them they were going to form a football team. A famous quote from the movie is said by Sean Porter, while he is addressing them inmates, “You do it my way, not your way. Your way got you here and you’re here because you lost. Right now you are all losers, but if you accept this challenge and stick with the program, you are all going to be winners at the end.” What Porter says here is that he is in charge and he establishes the rules and that if they stick with him, they will be better and stronger people, and people will look at them differently.

Another sociological concept that can be applied to this movie is the concept of social cohesion and socialization. Social cohesion is the social bonds and how well people relate to one another and get along with each other. Socialization is the process by which individuals understand the values, beliefs, and norms of a certain society and learn to function as members of that society. In the movie, Gridiron Gang, many of the inmates generally did not get along with one another; there was no sense of social cohesion or socialization. The best example of social cohesion being established between the inmates, Willie Weathers and Kelvin Owens. These two characters were both part of gangs, but they were rivals. Throughout the movie, they would buck heads and make threatening comments, due to the intense rivalry between their gangs. As they began to play with each other on the field, they began to form a small bond with one another, but only while they were on the field; off the field, they were not friends. One day, as the inmates celebrate their win and journey to the playoffs, a member of Willie’s gang shows up and shoots Kelvin in the shoulder. As the member of the gang is just about to shoot Kelvin again, Willie tackles his fellow member and stops him from shooting Kelvin again. Kelvin was shocked that Willie would even help him, let alone save his life. Ever since that moment in the film, social cohesion began to spread throughout the whole team, because if two rival gangs can set aside their differences and be friends, then everyone else should be able to do the same.

With socialization, as the team becomes more comfortable playing with each other, they formed a sense of socialization amongst one another. They were able to understand one another and work as a team in order to win the playoffs and prove to the people of the outside world that they are capable of redemption and being better people. Sean Porter was able to create a football team from a group of inmates and turn them into respectful, well-disciplined, responsible young men. At the end of the movie, it says where the real people that were portrayed in the movie are now, and Willie Weathers made it to the NFL and did not commit any crimes after he left the juvenile center. This movie shows that just by understanding people and being able to relate to their situations can change the way they behave. Also, it shows that using sports can socialize and create a sense of social cohesion amongst people.

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