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The Outsiders Movie Critique

Updated February 18, 2022
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The Outsiders Movie Critique essay

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Ponyboy Curtis, a fourteen-year-old narrator, and orphan lives with his older brothers Sodapop and Darry, after their parents, passed away in a tragic automobile accident. Since their passing, Sodapop and Ponyboy are allowed to stay under Darry’s guardianship as long as they behave themselves. They are all members of a lower-class group called Greasers, meaning they are viewed as young juvenile delinquents with greasy hair from the poor side of town. The Greasers share the common economic struggles but also have a major problem with their rivalry group the Socials or Socs for short, meaning they are a group of young privileged kids from the West Side of town. Ponyboy and his brothers have a group of friends that also belong to the Greaser group that includes Johnny, Steve, Dallas, Dally, and Two-Bit. The movie begins with Ponyboy walking home after he just saw a movie at the movie theater, where he then is jumped by the Socs. The Socs threaten to kill him and beat him up, until members from his gang witness Ponyboy being attacked and run them off. After they bring Ponyboy inside, Ponyboy and his oldest brother Darry get into an argument about his life, which they are known to get into disagreements and put their other brother Sodapop in the middle of it.

The next night Pony and two other members from the gang, Dallas and Johnny decide to go to a drive-in movie. When arriving they meet Sherri or Cherry and her friend Marcia, who recently left their Soc boyfriends at the drive-in because the boys were drinking, and the girls did not approve. Dally who is very stubborn and impulsive bothers the two girls and won’t leave them alone until Ponyboy and Cherry finally tell him to stop and to leave. After Dally leaves, Two-Bit joins Pony and Johnny and offers to walk the girl’s home after the movie. While walking them home, the girl’s boyfriends who are drunk show up and threaten to fight the greasers and questions why the girls are hanging out with the opposite group.

In order to prevent the group of boys from fighting each other Cherry and Marcia agree to leave with their boyfriends. Johnny and Pony both then decide that they aren’t ready to go home yet and go to a vacant lot to hangout before going home. Not keeping track of time, the boys accidentally fall asleep and wake up around two in the morning. Pony then rushes home where Darry is waiting for him because it is past his curfew. Darry is furious with Pony and they both begin to argue where Darry accidentally hits Pony, in the heat of the moment. Ponyboy is very upset and storms out of the house where he returns to the abandoned lot to find Johnny. Pony contemplates on running away from home, but the boys decide to go to the park to calm down before heading home. While at the park Cherry and Marcia’s boyfriends reappear, where they have continued to drink more since they saw them last.

A group of Socs gets out of the car where Johnny and Pony seem to be outnumbered, and the Socs grab Ponyboy and shove him face-first into the fountain, holding his head underwater to drown him. Once the boys that were beating up Johnny stop and join in on helping the other boys drown Pony, Johnny panics realizing that Pony is drowning and pulls out his pocket knife, and kills Cherry’s boyfriend, Bob. In complete shock, the boys decide that they have to run away to avoid being arrested for murder but seek help from Dally. Dally decides to help them and gives them $50 and directions to a location outside of town where they can hideout. The boys hop on a train and find an abandoned church where they wait for Dally to come for them. Because they are in a rural area the boys feel like outsiders with their greasy, long hair and frumpy appearance so they decide that in order to avoid being noticed they must cut their hair, and Pony bleaches his hair blonde for his disguise. To pass time while waiting for Dally in the church, they play cards and spent most of their time reading Gone with the Wind.

After a week, Dally finally shows up to the church and takes them to a Dairy Queen to eat. Dally tells the boys that Cherry has been spying for the Greasers and helping them even though she is from the wrong side. She also agrees to testify that Bob was drunk the night of his death and that she was sure that Johnny was acting out in self-defense. Johnny believes he has a chance of not getting in trouble and decides that he wants to turn himself in. When arriving back to the church they discover that it’s on fire and that a school group is there. Realizing that there are still kids trapped inside the burning church Ponyboy and Johnny race inside to rescue the kids. As they are getting the kids out, the roof begins to collapse. Ponyboy barely makes it out but a piece from the burning church falls on Johnny, burning him badly and breaking his back so he can’t move. They are now seen as heroes rather than criminals and immediately are rushed to the hospital where Pony is reunited with his brothers. Johnny was burned severely that he wasn’t able to recover and died at the hospital.

Overcome with grief and anger, Dally decides to rob a grocery store and flees from the police and calls Darry from a telephone booth, asking him to pick him up and to hide him. As the gang arrives at the lot the police chase Dally down to the lot and begin shooting him once they see him pull an object out from his waistband. As time went on, Ponyboy still had to show up to court and face trial. With the help of Cherry’s testimony, Ponyboy is found not guilty and is able to still live with his brothers. After the trial, the events and deaths that occurred traumatized Ponyboy to where it started affecting his grades at school. Darry tells him he needs to get his act together and Pony has to decide what to write about for his semester theme in English class. He then decides to write The Outsiders as a way to help other boys that face the same kind of problems and uses it as a warning to help change their lives before it’s too late (The Outsiders, 1983).

Erik Erikson’s was an ego psychologist who developed one of the most popular and influential theories of development. While his theory was heavily influenced by psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud’s work, Erikson believed that Freud misjudged important aspects of human development. The main difference between Erikson and Freud’s theories is that Freud’s purpose focused on human behavior in sexual stages, whereas Erikson’s purpose for human behavior is based on the impact of social experience across the whole lifespan. Erikson believed that we develop “in psychosocial stages, rather than in psycho-sexual stages” like Freud believed. According to Erikson, one’s personality develops through a series of eight stages that at each stage has an impact on the development of human behavior. The first psychosocial stage, Trust versus mistrust which occurs between birth and one year of age. During this stage, an infant develops trust based on dependability and attachment to the child’s caregiver.

The second stage, autonomy versus shame and doubt occurs in late infancy and toddlerhood. After gaining trust in the caregiver, infants begin to assert their sense of independence where they start to perform basic actions on their own and make simple decisions based on what they prefer. The third stage, Initiative versus Guilt happens during the preschool years. During this stage, children begin to assert their power through social interactions and copy the adults around them. The fourth stage, Industry versus Inferiority takes place approximately during elementary years. At this time children are capable of learning, creating and accomplishing new skills and knowledge. The negative aspect of this stage is that children may develop a sense of inferiority. The fifth stage, Identity versus Role Confusion which occurs during adolescent years. During this stage, individuals face the struggles of finding out who they are and what they are going through in life. In the sixth stage, Intimacy versus Isolation occurs during early adulthood. At this time, young adults seek intimacy and satisfying relationships.

If unsuccessful, isolation will result. The seventh stage, Generativity versus Stagnation occurs during middle adulthood. During this stage, individuals take on greater responsibilities and control of their lives. The final developmental stage, Integrity versus Despair is experienced in late adulthood. During this stage, an individual reflects on their past and some can feel integrity while others can have a sense of despair, reflecting on their experiences and failures. In the movie The Outsiders, fourteen-year-old Ponyboy Curtis falls right in Erikson’s Identity versus Role Confusion stage. After Ponyboy and Johnny kill Bob, a Soc that tried to drown Pony’s head under a fountain they are not able to face the consequences and realize what they have done and find Dally to help them run away. While hiding out in an abandoned church the boys decide to cut their and Pony bleaches his hair blonde to avoid being noticed. During this time, Pony is very unsure with if his family still loves him and doubts his self-worth. Once Dally returns for them they come across the church on fire with a school group but notice there are still children inside, so Johnny and Pony rescue the burning children and are now viewed as heroes from the public.

Ponyboy now realizes that he is starting to accept his new behavior and decides to put his actions in the past. After the death of Johnny and Dally, Ponyboy finds a hard time accepting the traumatic events he’s experienced but copes by using writing as a mechanism to get through the hard times. Although Ponyboy doesn’t have an intimate relationship with Cherry, I still believe he experiences the stage of Intimacy versus Isolation. While at the drive-in, Ponyboy sticks up for Cherry and her friend when Dally won’t leave the girls alone. After the incident, Cherry and Pony begin to develop a personal relationship. Due to them being from opposite sides of the town Cherry is hesitant to be seen with Pony because she’s scared what it’ll do to her reputation. Throughout the course of the movie, Cherry decides to be a spy for the Greasers when Ponyboy and Johnny are running away from the cops for murder. She mentions that she would testify to help the boys even though it would look bad on her part. Erikson strongly believed that it was vital that people develop close relationships with other people.

Even though Cherry and Ponyboy are from separate parts of the town, they still develop a close personal relationship throughout the course of the movie. Lastly, I believe that Ponyboy in some way experiences the Integrity versus Despair development stage. During this stage people look back on the events and experiences of their lives and determine whether they are happy with the life they lived or if they regret their past. In relation to the Outsiders movie, in some way I think that Ponyboy experiences this stage when he looks back at all the things he’s gone through, such as, the death of his parents, the murder of Bob, and the death of his two closest friends, Johnny and Dally. These experiences leave Ponyboy to feel guilty and despair, but Pony uses writing to cope and uses his past experiences as a way to show others that it’s not too late to change their lives (John W. Santrock, 2018).

There are many theorists that believe that the development of behavior is influenced strongly by environmental factors. Bandura’s social learning theory emphasizes the importance of observational learning, imitation and modeling. Social cognitive theorists believe that people acquire certain behaviors, thoughts and feelings through observing other individuals’ behavior and that these observations are important to our human development because it shapes us as individuals. In the movie The Outsiders, there are two social groups, The Socs and The Greasers. Both are complete opposites and have distinct characteristics that define them as a group.

Bandura’s theory is shown in the movie when Ponyboy is noticeably an outcast in his gang because Pony is very quiet and reserved while the other members of his gang are very obnoxious and are always looking for trouble. However, his theory of how environmental factors playing a role in one’s behavior is true to Ponyboy’s behavior because although he is reserved and not like the others he still observes and imitates their actions to fit into the group. For example, because everyone in the gang fights and smokes, Ponyboy observes their behaviors and will pick up on their mannerisms and smoke and fight as well to not be considered an outcast. From Bandura’s theory, throughout the whole movie Ponyboy demonstrates this theory based on his environmental factors and how he uses it to his ability to not be considered an outsider by observing, imitating and modeling other behaviors (John W. Santrock, 2018).

At a young age, Ponyboy had experienced many tragic things. From the death of his parents and death of his two best friends to being economically in trouble and having trouble in school. If done differently to prevent these things from happening the environmental factor would have to change. I believe that because Ponyboy was raised in a lower-class part of the town that he was forced into the wrong crowd. Due to their being a constant rival between two social groups that involves violence this makes it hard for Ponyboy to act so rebelliously. If Ponyboy was raised in a different state or somewhere that didn’t have gangs, I feel like his grades would’ve been better because he wouldn’t have to worry about being in a gang all the time, he wouldn’t have to worry about losing the people he loves from violence.

In regards to economics, I feel like in order to prevent Ponyboy and his family from being economically in trouble that one they would need to move somewhere that’s safer and has better job opportunities but also if Pony’s parents were to have taught him and his brothers the importance of saving and money management that they would’ve been fine financially even after the passing of his parents. Ponyboy doesn’t experience many positive outcomes in the movie, however, the one thing he does that has been impactful in his life is building strong relationships with people. He is very close with the members of his group and considers them all like family. He also develops a friendship with Cherry who is from the opposite side of town. In order to further his development and maintain this positive factor in his life he must continue to be open to meeting new people and building new friendships outside of his gang and to stay in touch with his friends so that he can continue to have the support he needs throughout the development of his life.

In my opinion, I think that this movie is accurate portraying the child development and issues children and adolescents face because like the movie, children and adolescents face financial problems, deaths, gangs and violence and social groups through the course of their life. I think that the movie itself is exaggerated of what children and adolescents go through at least in this time period because we don’t necessarily use violence all the time when we see someone from the opposite social group and instead of staying at a place that has no job opportunities or isn’t a good area people nowadays will move somewhere to where they believe will be more beneficial to their families. I believe that because this movie was set in a different time that times have changed, and we still face the same issues, but it was harder back then because of the limiting factors and social groups.

In relation to my own development, this film is not quite similar to my own development because I don’t face the struggles of worrying about violence and social groups that influence how I act and how it affects my development. However, like most people I do relate to this film because I sometimes struggle financially and experience deaths. I believe that these experiences help shape a person and help people learn from their experiences so that they can better themselves.

References

Santrock, J. W. (2018). A topical approach to life-span development (9th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill
Coppola, F. (Director), & Hinton, S. E. (Screenwriter). (1983). The Outsiders [Motion picture on DVD]. United States.

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