Follow TV Tropes


Film / Freedom Writers

Go To

Freedom Writers is a 2007 drama based on a non-fiction book about a young teacher thrown into a class of at-risk students during the L.A. Riots of 1992. She's given an integrated class, which seems anything but, as each race sits with others of their kind. As the story progresses, the integrated class becomes what it was meant to be. The name comes from the fact the students are given diaries to write whatever they want in, that can be private or read by the teacher. They write about their family situations, their feelings, and being at-risk teens, the diaries are full of angst.

Gruwell wrote a followup, Teaching from the Heart, which provides the real-life context for the movie from her perspective.

Hilary Swank stars as that teacher.


This film/book provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Some students have these. Brandy writes about it in her diary.
  • Adults Are Useless: This is essentially what Erin's students initially believe, and considering their lives outside school, it's justified. Erin helps turn it around somewhat, but only in that they come to believe adults except Erin are useless.
  • The Cameo: The real Erin Gruwell can be seen briefly when Miep Gies (yes, the real one) is escorted into the Wilson High library.
  • Cool Teacher: Erin, naturally, although it does take awhile for the students to realize this. It gets to the point that when they find out her husband was cheating on her, they offer to send a message, written on his car.
  • Determinator: Two words: Erin Gruwell.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Erin's husband cheated on her because she was spending more time with her students than with him. The kids find out when they see him driving with another woman and get righteously furious.
  • Advertisement:
  • Establishing Character Moment: At the very beginning, Margaret suggests that Erin remove her necklace, citing that the kids were likely to steal it. She doesn't, believing in the best in the kids. She also rarely is seen without it, just like she never loses faith in her students.
  • Godwin's Law: A particularly epic subversion. Erin grabs a note while it's being passed, to discover it's one student's racist caricature of another. This is actually somewhat mild, considering many of the students spend their free time KILLING EACH OTHER in gang warfare. Gruwell spots the apt Nazi parallel, milks it for all it's worth, bakes it 'till it's cheesy, and shoves it down the students' throats. Massive group racial tolerance ensues.
    • The actual unity takes a while, but this moment is the first time she actually gets them to pay attention. One of them even asks what the Holocaust is. This is also the key to her realization of how she can reach them.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Eva, when she admits that someone from her gang killed a boy at a convenience store, after being inspired by Miep Gies—when the class gets her to speak at their school—to do what's right.
  • Heroic BSoD: Eva when she finds out how Anne Frank died after the class was assigned her diary.
    • Erin, briefly, after her husband leaves her.
  • Heroic Bystander: Miep Giles was this, hiding the Franks during the Holocaust. When they were busted, Miep grabbed all her valuables and offered them to the Nazis. It didn't work, and she says she wasn't brave or a hero, just doing what any decent person should do to save their neighbors.
  • Hot Librarian/Hot Teacher: Well, Erin Gruwell is played by Hilary Swank...
  • Inner City School
  • It's Pronounced "Tro-PAY": Eva will not hesitate to tell you it's pronounced AY-va. Which is Truth in Television, Eva in Spanish is indeed pronounced as that.
  • Jive Turkey: The gang-speak of the students.
  • Not So Different: The students. Shown especially with Eva and Sindy during the scene when they get ready to go out. Also done on purpose by Erin Gruwell with the 'line game.'
  • Older Than They Look
  • The Pollyanna: Erin goes through some hard times, but she continues on with a smile.
  • Precision F-Strike: An extremely jarring example coming from a teacher (after Andre gives himself an F).
    Andre: It's what I feel I deserve, that's all.
    Erin Gruwell: Oh really?
    Erin Gruwell: You know what this is? This is a FUCK YOU to me and everyone in this class. I don't want excuses. I know what you're up against. We're all of us up against something. So you better make up your mind, because until you have the balls to look me straight in the eye and tell me this is all you deserve, I am not letting you fail. Even if that means coming to your house every night until you finish the work. I see who you are. Do you understand me? I can see you. And you are not failing.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Jamal gives one to Erin, as do Marcus and Eva, out of the belief that she doesn't understand how they live. Erin hands one right back after discovering one of her Latino students has drawn a hateful, propaganda-like picture of a black student. Victoria, one of Erin's eventual students gives one to Margaret because the latter is part of a group that sees Victoria as a token inspirational black kid.
  • Save Our Students: The point of the film.
  • Shown Their Work: According to the real Freedom Writers, this movie gets pretty much everything that matters about the story absolutely right.
  • Token White: Ben.
  • Totally Radical: When Erin attempts to talk like her students.
  • Troubled, but Cute: Several of Erin's students. Specially Eva (female example).
  • Undying Loyalty: Eventually, the kids develop this for "Ms. G". They find out her husband was cheating on her and offering to get revenge. She convinces them that it's not worth it because she doesn't want them going to jail on her behalf.
  • You Are a Credit to Your Race: This is how Brian and Margaret view Victoria, an honors student who transfers to Erin's class after Brian asks her, the only African-American student in his room, to give "the black perspective" on The Color Purple. Victoria sums up her feelings about this to Margaret in an eloquent and respectful version of "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
  • You Are Not Alone: Teachers are people too.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: