Save the Last Dance Essay

In the movie Save the last dance the film explores various issues current in the United States as well as all over the world. The movie explores peer pressure especially in a black dominant school population. Themes of Violence, adolescent pride and interracial relationships were greatly represented in the film. Also it touches on early parenthood, pressures of a low income environment, racial status, racial stereotypes and prejudice as well as loyalty to friends. Psychologically the movie represents Memory, Learning, Thinking, Motivation and emotion, Development, Sex and gender as well as Social realm.

The movie’s success depends on using dated stereotypes: “angry black woman,” “thuggish black man,” and “innocent” white women. White men, with few exceptions such as Sara’s father, barely register in that inner-city flick. The movie is set in South Side, a predominately black area of Chicago. She’s taken in by her jazz musician father who barely figured in her life. His home, in contrast to his daughter’s large, decorative suburban house, was a small flat. The apartment building where her estranged father Roy lived, was dilapidated and in desperate need of repairs.

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His apartment was no better. It was sort of unkempt, keeping with the stereotypes of bachelor and artists not having a care in the world. Meanwhile, blonde Sarah is trying to adjust her life in the inner city, going to Wheatley High, a predominantly black high school where students check in going through metal detectors, which were absent in Sara’s old school in Lemont. That says a lot about the racial/class disparities of two neighborhoods. It was at Wheatley where Sarah met a gifted young man named Derek. Derek is a very hardworking student who is also college-bound.

He’s going to Georgetown to study pediatrics so he can become a doctor. Sarah becomes friend with bold teenage mother Chenille (Derek’s sister) who shows her around. Chenille takes Sarah to a club where Sarah realizes that she can not dance to hip hop. Derek and Sarah became good friends after starting on the wrong foot; Derek encourages her to go back to dancing ballet. This is very difficult for Sarah since she blames herself for her mother’s death. He also helps her with her hip hop dancing which in the end increases her creativity in the audition.

From the very beginning of the movie we see Sarah’s past through her memory. Memory is the system or process by which the products or results of learning are stored for future use. Sarah committed her mother’s death into memory specifically to her long term memory. This is memory storage that has the largest capacity and there information can remain permanently. Also more specifically explicit memory which are the memories that we are constantly aware of such as personal events; they can be subdivided into semantic and episodic memory (personal memory).

In Sarah’s case her mother being very close to her was personal. Sarah will always be aware of her mother’s absence and all this lead to her refusal to dance ballet. The situation was very emotional and surprising for Sarah and can be referred to as Flash bulb memory. Sarah not only remembers her emotions of the event but she recalls every detail of the episode. She clearly remembers her demanding that her mother be there and on time. Hence her mother was speeding to get to the audition when the accident occurred. Sarah was not focused due to her mother’s absence and fell during her performance.

Sarah vividly recalls the vehicle toppled over and the ambulance and policemen surrounding the accident. Another significant aspect of memory in the movie is procedural memory. These are the memories we use in making responses and performing skilled actions. Though Sarah stopped dancing she did not forget how to dance. Her skill of dancing remained with her. In the movie Sarah learned to associate her mother’s death with her ballet. First of all, what is learning and how did she achieve combining the two? Learning is the relatively permanent behavior or the potential to make a response that occurs as a result of experience.

Classical conditioning is learning that occurs when two stimuli- a conditioned stimulus (originally a neutral stimulus) and a unconditioned stimulus are paired and become associate with each other. Sarah was not afraid of ballet or anything to do with ballet before her mother’s death. However because she blames herself for it and it occurred on the day of her audition she associated her mother’s death with ballet. As a result she refused to dance or watch ballet. In the movie Derek takes her to this ballet show and she almost ran off because she was so emotional when she realized where he was about to take her.

Sarah also had classical conditioned attitudes as a result of her classical conditioning. Sarah felt upset whenever Derek or anyone questioned about her mother or her term ‘used to dance’. She became annoyed or uninterested that was an attitude she learned to have due to the event. Sarah also acquired motives through her classical conditioning (leaned motives) where she avoided ballet or placed a mental block between her and dancing ballet. Throughout the movie a lot of thinking mainly decision making is done by the characters. In the movie the actors are finishing up school so they can either go to college or get a job or something.

It’s the stage in the young adult’s lives where they decide what is best for them and what future career they would like to pursue. The brain enables us to process a lot of information quickly and accurately. As human beings we make good decisions at times and bad ones at others times. Derek decides that he wants to become a doctor and so he tries to excel in school to do so. Also he applies for a college that he believes will benefit him in his future career. Chenille decided that she would take care of Christopher (her son) no matter how difficult it was on her own.

Derek decided that he won’t accompany Malachi to the shooting, he used framing and the negative outcomes that could occur due to the shooting lead him to walk away. Sometime we base decisions on a one time experience. This is wrong and can lead us into serious trouble it is better known as confirmation bias. For example Malachi decides to use violence to solve his problem. He goes to the shoot out even after Malachi pleaded him no to. Sarah decided that she would not dance ballet again after her mother’s death. Creativity is an aspect of thinking that was noticed in the movie.

Black men and women are creative in their dancing and dressing. Creativity is the ability to produce work that is both novel and appropriate. It is unique to the rest of the world. From the movie the hip hop dances in the club shows not only difference in culture but blacks skill in dancing. Sarah’s performance was regarded as creative because she combined ballet with hip hop not every one can do that. Also, she worked hard, gave her undivided attention to the dance steps and with Derek’s help persevered regardless of her obstacles. Derek was Sarah’s greatest motivator.

Motivation is the physiological and psychological that account for the arousal direction, and persistence of behavior. Derek kept encouraging her to dance he used love and their relationship to motivate Sarah back into dancing as well as her success in the audition for Julliard. Save the last dance is heavily based with emotion. Emotions are psychological changes and conscious feeling of pleasantness or unpleasantness, aroused by external and internal stimuli that lead to behavioral reactions. Sarah is afraid of dancing, she feels guilty because she believes that she was the cause of her mother’s death, her demand that he had to be present at her audition. Sarah is angry at her father not being a part of hr life until after her mother’s death. Now it is difficult to form a relationship under such circumstances. Also feels anger toward Nikki (Derek’s ex girlfriend) because of the horrible things she said and for attacking him during gym class. Sarah felt a combination of hurt and anger at Chenille for making the statement that Sarah being white and always right feels that she is suppose to take one of the few black men with ambition (Derek) away from black women.

She also feels hurt and jealous when Derek dances with Nikki and the way she danced with him was very seductive. She felt that she did not belong and that was a black people things she knew she could not dance like that. There were a few instances when she was afraid. For example when Malachi shoved her against the bathroom wall and threatened her “you see nothing, you know nothing” Sarah also experiences grief in response to the death of her mother which in turn results to her body reacting through tears. Culture and race may influences physiological changes as a result of emotion.

Sarah was jealous when Nikki interrupted their dance and went aside feeling down. When Nikki saw them dancing she simply interrupted and made the dance about her. The difference is Nikki is black and Sarah is white. Chenille is angry at her baby’s father not supporting and spending time with his son. In the movie you could see and almost feel the rage she had when he came over for Christopher. In the movie Derek and Sarah love each other and have sex as a result of expressing that love. Also another type of love between Sarah and her father is seen toward the end. There are a few times when joy is seen in the movie.

For example when Derek gets accepted into the college they all cheer and congratulate him because they were happy for him. Also, when Sarah feels accepted by the blacks when she dances with Derek in the club after she learns their type of dancing, also when he appears at the audition and when she is accepted in to Juilliard in the end. Social skills are initially learned from parents; the as interactions with other children become more frequent newly acquired behaviors may be tested on parents. Sarah went to the club with her friends and does not inform her father of her where she is going and gets home late.

Thus the peer group can foster the development of self esteem and a sense of autonomy. Peer groups can be negative as well. True Sarah was taught to be bold and she learnt to dance and was part of a new culture. She was exposed to abuse, gang violence, drugs and alcohol. However some of the black children can not be blamed because most of them came from low income families and knew the hard realities of life. Most of them have fewer books to read and their most dominant teacher is the television which exposes a lot of corrupt behavior.

Also some of these students experience family abuse or neglect and do not have the support they are suppose to. In the movie Sarah is intimate. Intimacy refers to the ability to make a strong commitment to other people. An individual who can not establish intimate relationships remain isolated. Adolescents who have developed a strong sense of personal identity and worth are better prepared to make the compromises and sacrifices required in a successful relationship. Sarah was able to form a relationship with Derek even if he was black. She showed no racial prejudice and became friends with many of them.

Death brings numerous emotions, changes, and adjustments for those who are left behind. Roles change a wife becomes a widow, a husband a widower and a child an orphan. Children whose parent or parent’s dies must learn to live in a new environment with strangers or a family member. Bereavement is the term used for losing someone through death and the person whose emotions changes is the bereaved. Grief consists of the emotional and psychological reaction to bereavement whereas mourning is the way grief is expressed. Complicated grief is grief that lasts longer than usual and much more debilitating.

The nature of the death, nature of the deceased, bereavement context and nature of the bereaved affects the impact of grief. In Sarah’s case her mother experienced an accident and she saw her mother in the vehicle after the accident. Also her mother was young and she lived only with her mother who had supported her dancing one hundred percent. They were very close and Sarah is young and needed her mother to continue to raise her. Sarah struggled greatly in moving past her mother’s death because of this. Sexual orientation had a small part to play in the movie.

Sexual orientation is the term that encompasses the erotic and emotional feelings a person has for the same sex or opposite sex. It is because of sexual orientation that Sarah and Derek had all these feelings and felt the need to express them through sexual intercourse. Also it is also the reason Chenille had Christopher and Nikki got jealous of Sarah and Derek’s relationship. The Social Realm is the male and female differences in social behaviors and communication. It is noted that men and women view communication differently. For most women communication is primary way to establish and maintain relationships.

However men tend to view communication as a way of exerting control, preserving independence, and enhancing status. For example in the movie Chenille is trying to let her baby’s farther know that he needs to be here for his son but he just gets upset and goes on about he does not have to take this from her and he won’t take this right now. The entire conversation swayed of his son to him and his status. Sarah makes friendly conversation with Chenille about her family and mother. That’s their way of developing a relationship however Malachi and Derek ramble on about the boys who shoot at Malachi and how they plan on getting them back.

Women speech seems indirect and less powerful than men. Also, women are generally the care takers and are expected to take care of the infants, elderly relatives, sick or disabled. In the movie Chenille demonstrates this when in various parts of the movie she cares for her son Christopher changing him and taking him to the clinic. Men are typically associated with higher levels of aggression than women. Majority of the crimes committed in the United States are by men, who are responsible for more violent crimes. There are two important types of aggression expressed in the movie; physical aggression and relational aggression.

Physical is more dominant in men because it entails attacking another person. Relational involves social insults, rejections and harm social connections. Nikki demonstrates this when Sarah and Chenille just enter the club. She insulted Sarah and said that she did not belong made fun of her clothes. Through out the movie social themes that are connected to psychology were also seeing. Stereotyping is one of the major ones. Stereotype is a set of beliefs about members of a particular group. Blacks are often portrayed as poor, lazy, very religious, criminals, and violent.

In the movie the blacks were the violent ones the boys committing all the crime. The children in the movie were not rich and they were black. Also the whole idea of blacks being bolder or more aggressive was seen through out the film in contrast to Sarah. Positively, whites are stereotyped as intelligent, socially diverse, and generally non-dangerous and unlikely to commit crime. This is exactly Sarah’s personality in the movie the naive girl who sees the world through her eyes. The realities of the difficulties the blacks endure around her do not seem to top the loss of er mother. Violence is the expression of physical or verbal force against self or other, compelling action against one’s will on pain of being hurt. Worldwide, violence is used as a tool of manipulation and is seen throughout the movie. Malachi beats up this boy in the club and Derek tries to separate them and runs out with his friend. Also Malachi goes on the shoot out after they shot at him and his boys on the court. Malachi beats up the girl in the females bathroom is another example. Sarah and Nikki get into a fight at gym class and as usual the black girl started the fight.

The girls displayed verbal force at the club when Nike tried to insult Sarah but Chenille stood up for her friend and ‘put Nikki in hr place. Adolescent pride is demonstrated by Malachi. No matter what Derek said to him he refused to let the shooting on the basket ball court go. Malachi’s pride leads him to believe that he had to get back at the shooters. He could not stand to think that his pride was being attacked. Interracial relationships is simply reaching out to those from different racial backgrounds and forming relationships in a given community.

Loving across racial lines continues to prove challenging, as racism and thus opposition to interracial relationships. In the movie we see an intimate relationship forming between Sarah and Derek. The society is not yet ready to accept this union and Nikki feels betrayed that Derek would put this white girl over her. Even when they were on the bus the white lady was lost looking at them. She did not approve of their relationship and conduct on the bus. She muttered curse words under her breath and represents what the society thinks about relationships across the races.

Chenille made a point about white women and black men that upset Sarah. Chenille let Sara know clearly that white girls like her who steal the best black men from under black women’s noses aren’t always cool. She told Sara at an inner-city doctors’ office full of black single mothers with children that she doesn’t understand black women’s’ frustration with interracial dating, that Sara, being white, is taking away the decent black men after jail, drugs, and death and that she is using her white privilege in dating successful men of color.

However Chenille does make a valid point that love conquers all and sees no prejudice, meaning that she and Derek are blessed to love each other beyond race. The movie explores the theme of absentee fathers. In the movie wee see Sarah’s father was never really a part of her life until her mother’s death. This made it difficult to build a relationship at this point in her life. Also we see Chenille trying to avoid Christopher raising him without a relationship with her father. Christopher’s father like many black men is afraid of responsibility especially at such a young age.

He must realize that this is his son too and the sooner he learns to develop a relationship between them the better. The movie touched a bit on single teen parenthood with Chenille’s baby and the difficulties in taking care of him. The movie also explores loyalty in friends. Chenille stood up for Sarah at the club against Nikki, Derek separating Malachi from the fight and departing with him, Derek attending Sarah’s audition. All in all, the movie Save the last dance creatively addressed various issues that result the union of two races in the United States as well as all over the world.

The film touched on the sensitive themes of peer pressure especially in a black dominant school population. Themes of Violence, adolescent pride and interracial relationships, early parenthood, pressures of a low income environment, racial status, racial stereotypes and prejudice as well as loyalty to friends. Psychologically the movie represented and expressed Memory, Learning, Thinking, Motivation and emotion, Development, Sex and gender as well as Social realm.