Remember the Titans

In movie theaters around the country, audiences exiting Remember the Titans are reaching for more than their car keys. They're reaching for tissues. They're crying but they're also cheering, and even giving the film standing ovations. As Brian Callaghan of General Cinema told USA Today, theater manages are comparing the film's impact to that of Rocky twenty- five years ago. As he put it, "it's a movie that has struck a chord with just about everyone who sees it." That's because, unlike so many contemporary films, Remember the Titans has an uncompromising moral core. Remember the Titans is based on a true story. In 1971, the city of Alexandria, Virginia, just across the Potomac from Washington, was under a court order to integrate its schools. This included merging its two high schools and their football teams. As a result, the popular head coach of T.C. Williams High School, Bill Yoast, who is white, was replaced by a black newcomer, Herman Boone. To put it mildly, Boone faced a daunting task. If he lost a game, he'd be in deep trouble. So, to keep his job, Boone had to do two things. First, he had to turn two teams into one. In the film's pivotal sequence, Boone convinces Yoast to remain as his assistant. Their cooperation became a symbol for the way black and white players could come together. But getting players to look beyond race and respect each other wasn't enough. Boone had to instill a sense of discipline in his players. They had to learn the value of hard work and setting aside their personal need for gratification. Well, he succeeded. The T.C. Williams Titans won the Virginia state championship. And the story of how they did it is so compelling that, even knowing how it turns out, audiences still cheer during scenes of the championship game. Reviewers have called the film a "feel-good" movie. But that misses the point. A large part of the movie's appeal lies in what you and I might call its "moral universe" -- the things that it assumes are good and true. For instance, our postmodern culture, which segregates people by cultural identities, tells us that it is next to impossible for people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds to communicate with one another, much less work together for a common purpose. This film says, "Not so!" It's also a welcome respite from the egocentric mess that sports have become. If you watch NFL games, you'll see that every pass reception or tackle becomes the occasion for a display that yells, "Look at me!" The fact that this is what the players are paid to do goes unnoticed. And, if a player actually scores a touchdown, he often carries on as if he were a conquering hero. Remember the Titans reminds us that individual glory and gratification can (and should) take a back seat to doing your best for the sake of the team. Most people want to believe this is still true. And that's why they cheer. The film is rated PG-13 for some profanity. But, if you can get yourself past that, you will see a great lesson -- that hard work and sacrifice do pay off. And the tears viewers shed remind us that our neighbors don't mind being reminded of that fact. There is still hunger for virtue in American life. For further reading: Anderson, G. L. "Remember the Titans -- A Feel-Good Movie that works on Many Different Levels." Idaho Falls Post Register, 6 October 2000. Puig, Claudia. "Diverse Crowds turn out to Cheer Titans." USA Today, 5 October 2000, final edition.


Chuck Colson


  • Facebook Icon in Gold
  • Twitter Icon in Gold
  • LinkedIn Icon in Gold

Sign up for the Daily Commentary