Some stories are timeless and need to be retold to every generation.
Huckleberry Finn. The Jungle. The Grapes of Wrath. To Kill A Mockingbird. Each of these high school lit class favorites offers more than a snapshot of society during tumultuous times. Each is an insight into inequity, intolerance, inequality, injustice, and intransigent social mores.
But none are about dancing.
As a high school senior when the original Footloose was released, I didn't plunk down my hard-earned five dollars expecting a creative plot with a thought-provoking theme. That's what The Natural, Red Dawn, and Bachelor Party were for...
Still, the Footloose plot seemed a little thin from the opening credits. Why was this 25 year-old dude still living with his mom and going to high school? A ticket for playing a cassette tape too loud in a Volkswagen? It's doubtful the cop could hear anything over the buzz of that wound-up rubberband masquerading as an engine.
On and on, it continued to insult the average moviegoer's intelligence. An attraction to the sluttiest girl in school who was, ironically, the minister's daughter. An ordinance against dancing. A burning desire to groove to Shalamar. I couldn't relate to this guy, his desires, or his "struggle".
Watching the previews for the new Footloose, it appears to be a frame-by-frame remake without any thought of updating the story line for the 21st Century. How can today's teens with their reality TV, Facebook, iPhones, Netflix, and online gaming even relate to such a simplistic plot with cliched, almost cartoon-like characters?
It has to be the dancing.
Back in 1984, I found the story a bit unbelievable. Because a few kids were killed in a car accident returning from a club, the entire town overreacted by banning dancing? Wasn't the lack of local dancing opportunities the reason they were driving so far away? Wouldn't the rational response be to limit the driving risk by creating a place for kids to dance closer to home? Any parent should know that prohibiting something only makes it that much more desirable to the child.
Wait a minute, I'm starting to see a lit class worthy theme. Footloose offers a political statement against prohibition!
Maybe there is a deeper meaning to the movie after all. Maybe there are still rural towns lacking diversity that are governed by theocrats. Maybe there still is an effort to censor ideas that don't conform with the strictest Old Testament Christian virtues. Maybe the youth of today can be encouraged to stand up for their right to self-expression and take on narrow-minded older citizens who seek to legislate morality.
Maybe dancing can bring us all together!
I guess I was wrong about Footloose. The story, though overly simplistic, may actually have a message and still be meaningful to a new generation. It may indeed shine a little light on inequity, intolerance, inequality, injustice, and intransigent social mores.
Still, there is one thing that bothers me about the original and ostensibly, the remake. It's the Chicago connection. Ren Mc Cormack experiences extreme prejudice because he's from Chicago. I have never found this to be true, personally.
People in adjoining states never show contempt toward Illinoisans. Proof positive is the adorable acronym from our neighbors to the north; FIB. The fact that they recognize us as their "Friendly Illinois Benefactors" speaks volumes about advances in tolerance toward people that are different...