I hated the original Footloose. OK, let’s be reasonable; I “didn’t like” Footloose. At the time, I thought it was about the dumbest movie I had ever seen. (Red Dawn wouldn’t come out for another six months.)
If you’re lucky enough to be unfamiliar with the movie, here’s a quick rundown: in a random small town in middle America, the local preacher has succeeded in banning dancing. Into town rolls a teenager (Kevin Bacon) with his single mother. Bacon is an urban tough guy who likes to dance. As a result of the ban on dancing, he ends up smoking angrily a lot, does late night acrobatics in the barn, and drives his VW Beetle very fast. He ends up challenging the preacher and his dancing ban, but not before getting hot for… wait for it… the preacher’s daughter! Because he is Kevin Bacon and not a frumpy town preacher, he wins.
I knew from the premise that I’d hate the movie, but everyone around me was chirping about the dancing. “But the dancing! The dancing!” This was a year after Flashdance, so there was a huge buzz around movies with dancing in them. But watch the trailers for Footloose and Flashdance and you can tell that they are very, very different movies. I knew I’d hate Footloose, but I went anyway because everyone – including my then girlfriend – was all hopped up on “the dancing.”
There wasn’t much dancing. After all, this is a movie set in a town that has banned dancing. What little “dancing” there was, was more like second-rate circus acrobatics made dramatic with lots of backlighting and angry smoking.
Then there was that whole “urban kid comes to a small town and shows them townies how it’s done” thing. As someone from a small town, who at the time was living in a smaller town, I resented that. Most egregious was the idea that there was a tough guy who likes to dance. When I was in high school there could not have been two things more mutually exclusive than “tough guy” and “likes to dance.”
Let’s imagine for a moment that Footloose was set in my home town, at the high school I went to. It would have gone down something like this:
Tough city guy who likes to dance rolls into town. As soon as he opens his mouth somebody yells “fag!” and a bunch of guys beat him up. High school “dance” carries on as usual, which is to say there is no dancing and it is entirely concerned with drinking, smoking, and trying to make out with girls.
Things are different nowadays. In the era of wall-to-wall So You Think You Can Dance, it’s OK for a fella to like to shimmy about and bust a few moves. Heck, I assert here and now that So You Think You Can Dance is one of my favorite TV shows. It’s a whole new world, where farm-boy yokels like Kent Boyd (from Wapakoneta, Ohio!) can magically develop world class modern dance technique while baling hay and shucking corn. But that begs the question; if the premise of a town banning dancing was absurd in 1984, how is it going to seem in 2010? And will there actually be dancing this time?