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"Footloose" and the Nanny State

By Christopher Campbell | Spout June 22, 2011 at 6:02AM

Many people are noting how unnecessarily faithful the new "Footloose" remake is to the 1984 original, based on the trailer released yesterday (watch it after the jump). But as we saw recently with "Let Me In," near-shot-for-shot remakes are not exactly redundantly without purpose. The film may not change much, but the audience has, or in the case of that "Let the Right One In" redo, a change in geographical context brings new meaning to the story. With "Footloose" it's more a temporal than physical, international shift. But couldn't we just watch the old "Footloose" through today's eyes? Yes, though it's not as directly relevant to apply today's issues to a 27-year-old film.
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Many people are noting how unnecessarily faithful the new "Footloose" remake is to the 1984 original, based on the trailer released yesterday (watch it after the jump). But as we saw recently with "Let Me In," near-shot-for-shot remakes are not exactly redundantly without purpose. The film may not change much, but the audience has, or in the case of that "Let the Right One In" redo, a change in geographical context brings new meaning to the story. With "Footloose" it's more a temporal than physical, international shift. But couldn't we just watch the old "Footloose" through today's eyes? Yes, though it's not as directly relevant to apply today's issues to a 27-year-old film.

I'm not referring necessarily to Pope Benedict's recent closure of a Roman monastery because of dancing nuns. Or the (I'm stretching here) potential bad timing of the trailer's montage of kids drinking and then getting into a car accident -- like with Ryan Dunn, we can't immediately presume alcohol is the cause of the wreck without seeing the whole picture. But then, we also can't logically determine dancing lethally contributed to the mix, either. Even if that girl was clearly grinding with that keg before getting into the car.


With the original, I always found the concept of a town banning modern music and dancing to be ludicrous, whether in response to a car accident or not (I usually forgot the reason for the ban, possibly because it's only mentioned, not depicted as the remake seems to be doing). It's no sillier a plot today, but now I'm thinking of its silliness as the whole point. Dancing is just a substitute for any number of things the government prohibits and the general protective "nanny state" issue, and in correlation claiming their regulation is just as ridiculous. Still an idea in the '80s, sure, but not as prevalently addressed. To think, as a kid I thought Kevin Bacon's character in "Footloose" was a representative of a basic liberal-minded revolution. Today, if not he than the new protagonist, played by Kenny Wormald, appears more of a model of libertarianism.

I guess it could also just be that I didn't know what libertarianism is when I was a kid. Speaking of children, though, I considered for a moment that regulation of minors' activities and freedoms is not exactly the same thing as "nanny state" politics. Teens in Bomont may understandably be prohibited from drinking or driving a car or even crunking without the town seeming too harsh. But the fact that it's youths being primarily persecuted in "Footloose" is just symbolic of people who feel the government treats them like children.

When the "Footloose" remake opens this fall, just think of it as indirectly about people being prohibited from dancing at the Jefferson Memorial, or antiquated cabaret laws in NYC and Arizona and elsewhere, or (still) a metaphor for the persecution of gays and gay activities (i.e. dancing), especially after the dawn of AIDS (represented by the car accident?), or more broadly about any other contemporary regulation or prohibition that makes little sense to you. And remember, when dancing is outlawed, only outlaws will be on the dance floor.

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This article is related to: Remakes





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