Coming down the stretch, Junuh and Bagger are working well
together, and Junuh walks with a newfound sense of confidence, but
when he addresses his golf shot on the final hole, he causes his own
golf ball to move. With only him and a young boy seeing what
happened, Junuh does the right thing by claiming a one-shot penalty on
himself. This act of maturity and integrity makes Bagger realize that the
golfer does not need his help anymore. Realizing that his work is done,
Bagger walks off on the last hole prior to Junuh finishing, knowing that
Junuh will be all right on his own. While he can’t win on the last hole,
Junuh sinks a most unlikely putt for par to tie the match three separate
ways among Jones, Hagen, and himself.
The fact that Bagger Vance is a black caddie changes the cultural
implications of the movie. Caddies are in service to the player for whom
caddie. For that reason, many critics argue that this movie is demeaning
to the power of black people in film, especially because the movie is
based in a time period and location where segregation was the norm. I
beg to differ, however. I believe that while Bagger Vance does caddie
for Junuh, he becomes his caddie to give Junuh wisdom from his
position as a teacher rather than as a servant. Coming to the troubled
man in his time of need and then leaving Junuh on his own time as well
as not expecting much pay for his help, Bagger is a very empowering
black character in the film.
While caddies are often looked at as unimportant, they are vital
to the success of their players. Caddies deal with many different factors
throughout a round of golf, elements far greater than the weight of
carrying a set of golf clubs. Just like the many unlikely teachers
throughout film, caddies are a subset of teachers that are looked past in
Hollywood. Whether it is a parent teaching their child to walk, a
basketball coaching his team or a professor teaching his students,
teachers are found throughout nearly every movie in Hollywood.
Through films like The Greatest Game Ever Played, Seven Days in Utopia and
The Legend of Bagger Vance, Hollywood portrays the lessons caddies instill
in their players, spanning far past just their success on the golf course
and into their lives on and off the course.
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