The other day I heard Footloose described as a guilty pleasure.
Why? Why is liking Footloose a guilty pleasure? What’s wrong with Footloose?
Some people seem to think it’s this cheesy teen dance-movie … but have you actually sat down and watched it beginning to end recently? It’s an awesome movie with some really nuanced and poigniant moments.
Okay, so there’s the cheesy “I’m so pissed off I have to dance” moment. And there’s a cheesy-ish montage. And maybe the final dance is a bit cheesy … but overall the film really isn’t.
To me, Footloose feels like it was meant to be cheesy, like Dean Pitchford was given the assignment (I don’t think it was an assignment, I think it was a spec – loosely based on a real story, if memory serves) of writing a cheesy teen-dance movie and instead handed in a script which is all grey areas and no absolutes.
No one in the film is right or wrong. There’s no villain. John Lithgow is, nominally, the antagonist, but he’s not a bad guy by any means.
All the characters have satisfying arcs … except Sarah Jessica Parker, but … fuck it, you can’t have everything.
Take some of the potentially more cliched scenes:
The love-interest’s boyfriend shows he’s the unsuitable suitor by hitting her.
Well, yes … but actually she hits him first. The scene starts with him pissed off at her because he thinks she’s cheating on him … which she is. She hits him. He hits her back. She smashes up his truck. He loses his temper and hits her again to make her stop.
Violence is (almost) always wrong … but who’s in the right in that scene? Is it good girl/bad guy or is it more nuanced than that?
What about the town hall scene?
Kevin Bacon makes an impassioned speech to the council about dancing, using their terms and their religious text to make his point. A more cheesy film would have him win and then go straight to the dance … but he doesn’t win. He loses. You rarely change people’s mind with one speech, no matter how impassioned. Life’s not really like that and neither’s Footloose – so it takes a more difficult route to the final dance.
Kevin Bacon (sort of wins) when he goes to ask John Lithgow if he can take his daughter to the dance … but John Lithgow isn’t humiliated. He’s not taught a lesson and he doesn’t really change his mind – he’s still terrified and uncertain at the end.
Every scene is like that. Nothing’s clear cut. It’s not pro-teen, adults are stupid. It’s not dancing is the be-all and end all of living. It’s not even chock full of super-amazingly good looking people. I mean, yeah, it’s a Hollywood movie and everyone’s attractive … but no one looks like a model.
I love it. It’s a genuinely great movie with a few cheesy moments and 80’s songs … but it’s easily one of my favourite films and one I can watch again and again and again.
In lesser hands it would have been a cheesy piece of shit. It sounds shit … but it’s really not. And it shouldn’t be a guilty pleasure – it should be a fucking joy to behold for everyone.
Plus, if you don’t at least tap your feet to the theme tune then you’re clinically dead.