From Red Boots to African-American Roots: Footloose as a Modern Dance-Movie Musical
by John Trenz — University of Pittsburgh
June 11, 2012 – 00:00
Footloose 2011’s opening celebrates the 1984 original by mimicking its cultural reality as a reproducible myth. Footloose ‘84’s opening isolates "Footloose" to the soundtrack set to a purely music-video style montage of dancing feet prior to any story world drama. The 2011 party, announced by a disc-jockey over the production company logos, evokes the way real teens have related to “Footloose” as a shared cultural text: something to dance and sing along to, watch, and perform as or like a staged musical (1998). But this Footloose sells out real teens as privileged and irresponsible for dramatic pretenses of realist, to-the-bone blues reform.
Both versions use MTV-style editing, pop rock and hip-hop infused songs and dancing, and a classical folk narrative to reconstruct the musical into a modern form more familiar to contemporary audiences (Jane Feuer). But Footloose ‘11 constructs a mythic perspective upon cultural division in the rural south through a discourse that substitutes nostalgia with mourning. Footloose ’84 mimics the freestyle culture of break-dancing exhibited with the athletic pop of Gene Kelly musicals. Footloose ‘11 portrays hip-hop as modern folk to legitimate its pastiche to class politics of 1980s dance-movies but amplifies the drama artificially in black and white stereotypes.
Ariel acts out her sexual deviance through hip-hop dancing. Ariel’s transformation from red boots to passive femininity in a prom dress signifies the reconciliation of working class and elite community. But the film completely isolates the youth and working-class black men from the elite at the myth-made cotton gin prom. In the original, Ariel’s parents surreptitiously watch over the prom from a visible distance and reflect upon their own courtship, "almost dancing"; nostalgia is their own song. I think audiences and the stage show negotiate similarly a nostalgic courtship with Footloose through recognizable songs that easily transcend the film.
Footloose ‘84 rehearsed resistance to deindustrialization by making professional song technologically-stable and everyday-dancing performative. Reverend’s use of the bible parallels Ren’s own, but Ren does not preach from a legitimate stage. Ren rehearses what Moore does as a preacher for political purposes. This somewhat is the essence of modern dance-movie-musicals. They allow audiences to experience the musical in a way that admits the technological distance of film from reality/liveness. Footloose ‘11 kills the empowering sense of celebrating entertainment as/in everyday reality (from a real distance). It uses everyday dancing as a mythical realm for professionals to legitimate entertainment as real instead.
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