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In the 2000 film Billy Elliott, the character of Michael is 11-year-old Billy’s closest friend, who also happens to be gay, and quite open about it – almost certainly an anomaly in the lower-income blue-collar community in which they live and where Billy’s father and older brother, Tony, work as miners. Billy’s father and brother are socially primitive and believe in specific boundaries separating the genders; in effect, boys take boxing lessons while girls take dancing lessons, and any crossing of that boundary is met with scorn and derision (“Lads do football... or boxing... or wrestling. Not friggin' ballet”).
In contrast to Billy’s father, Jackie, who is, in the beginning, very rigid in his expectations of his sons, Jackie’s mother and Billy’s grandmother, Nan, exists, along with Michael, to provide the voice of reason and civility. They are the people in Billy’s life who are supportive of his ambitions of becoming a ballet dancer and, together with Mrs. Wilkinson, the ballet instructor, encourage the young boy to pursue his dreams and not give in to the archaic expectations of a life in the coal mines.
While Nan provides moral support for Billy’s aspirations, it is Michael who, as Billy’s contemporary and friend, provides greater legitimization of Billy’s desires to dance. The way Michael does this is through good-natured ribbing, often tinged with reference to his sexual orientation, as in the following exchange:
Michael: So you're going to ballet every week?
Billy: Aye, but don't say owt.
Michael: Do you get to wear a tutu?
Billy: f**k off, they're only for lasses. I wear me shorts.
Michael: You ought to ask for a tutu?
Billy: I'd look a right dickhead.
Michael: I think you'd look wicked.
The story makes clear that Michael is drawn romantically to Billy, but his affection is unrequited, as Billy is only sexually interested in girls. The importance of the relationship between the two boys, however, cannot be overstated. Michael’s support for Billy’s ambitions are essential for the latter’s ability to function while concealing from his family his dancing activities. While Jackie and Tony continue to struggle with the negative connotations surrounding Billy’s passion for ballet, it is Michael who, in the end, as adults, demonstrates the depth of his love and commitment for his childhood friend. In the climactic scene in which now-25-year-old Billy performs on stage in “Swan Lake,” Tony confronts the now older Michael at the theater:
Tony: What the bloody hell are you doing here?
Michael (Aged 25): I wouldn't have missed it for the world.
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