Disney+’s ‘Chang Can Dunk’ follows the story of the titular character who wants to revamp himself going into the new school year. He gets a haircut, ditches his glasses, and makes different fashion choices. This is his new and improved version. Things get exciting when he meets Kristy, the new girl at school who also plays in the band. He feels a connection between them, but before that can be explored, Matt comes in between.
Things had been rough between Chang and Matt since elementary school. Matt was everything Chang was not. He was popular and confident, and good at basketball. When Matt comes between him and Christy, Chang confronts him, which leads to the challenge. Matt claims that Chang could never dunk, but Chang proposes that he can do it in eleven weeks. This leads him on a grueling journey that tests him physically and mentally. If you are wondering whether he succeeds in his goal, here’s what you should know. SPOILERS AHEAD
Does Chang Dunk?
At the film’s end, we find Chang playing for the school team. Despite being good at basketball, he’d never actively tried to get into the team. This time, he goes to the tryouts and ends up playing for the team. In the final scene, his team plays in the championships, and the coach decides to send him to the court. In the film’s last moments, we find him approaching the basket, and this time, he aims for a dunk.
Before we can find out what happened, the camera cuts to black, and the credits roll. This leaves us hanging about whether or not Chang succeeded in dunking. It is a pivotal moment in the film because, before this, Chang had not dunked once throughout the film. The one time that he did, he cheated, so that doesn’t count. His dedication and hard work in preparing himself for this moment make it so exciting.
Even though it is not shown, we believe Chang made the basket. The sound that follows right as the credits start is that of a basket being scored. We also hear the crowd cheer, which confirms that Chang did dunk. Considering how important it was to him and how the entire film had been building up to this moment, one wonders why it was not shown. Why did the filmmakers decide to give this win to Chang off-screen?
To understand the reasoning behind this decision, we first need to know why Chang wanted to dunk in the first place. The film begins with Chang revealing that he has had a makeover. Following this, we discover his desire to be accepted, especially by the popular kids in the school. He is jealous of Matt because the latter is everything that Chang wants to be. It turns out that they used to be friends at some time, but their paths diverged after elementary school.
Chang becomes concerned when Matt approaches Kristy, though what sets him off is when Matt tells him that he’ll never be able to dunk. This hits Chang because dunking is what Matt does well. This is one of the things that has made him so popular at school. So, when he says that Chang can’t dunk, Chang interprets it as him getting called a loser. Never being able to dunk means that he will never find acceptance, that no matter how much he revamps himself, he’ll always be seen as the same unpopular kid by everyone.
Throughout his training, people ask him why he wants to dunk. Why is he giving his time and hard work to this one thing that doesn’t even matter in the bigger scheme? It’s not like he is preparing for NBA; he doesn’t even play basketball in school. He is not training to be a good basketball player. He is training for one single act in the sport— dunking. To others, it looks straightforward, but to Chang, dunking represents the acceptance that he wants. He believes that if he can dunk, he will finally get people to see him as he wants.
Over time, it becomes clear that dunking itself doesn’t matter to Chang. What matters is that people should know that he can do it. He isn’t beyond cheating when creating this fake perception of himself for himself. He wants to be the kid with the followers, who hangs out with famous people and gets to represent his school on TV. If dunking really mattered to him, he’d never have lowered the bar for himself. He wouldn’t have cheated.
Eventually, Chang learns his lesson. He realizes that his mother is right. He spends too much time thinking about what others think of him. When he changed his looks, it was to change people’s perception of him. It had nothing to do with what he wanted and how he saw himself. By the end, things become clearer, and he accepts his folly. He lets go of this obsession of projecting himself as something he is not. It would only lead to him lying to himself.
In the final scene, the Chang we see is the one who has learned from his mistakes. When he plays, he doesn’t do it to show or prove anything to anyone. He does it for himself. When he works hard, he does it for himself. So, whether or not he dunks doesn’t really matter. His reasons have changed; his intentions have changed. He has realized his self-worth and doesn’t depend on others for it anymore. This is why we don’t see him dunking in the final scene. He is not doing it to gratify anyone else, including the audience, making it so impactful.
Read More: Is Chang Can Dunk Based on a True Story?