Author, poet, lawyer, former college football player, basic bro. I'm what you'd get if you crossed Nicolas Cage and Creed Bratton together
Footloose is the 1984 film starring Kevin Bacon, Lori Singer and John Lithgow. The plot centers around a teenager (Bacon) who moves from Chicago to a small, conservative, Midwestern town under the spiritual guidance of its influential reverend (Lithgow). Due to the reverend’s influence, the town has essentially outlawed dancing, which is seen as the gateway to other debaucheries, such as drinking, drugs and sex.
Bacon, as the free-spirited, liberty-minded, big-city kid, attempts to change this orthodoxy through good old-fashioned teenage rebellion. Bacon also catches the eye of the reverend’s daughter (Singer), as she quickly becomes infatuated with his new-kid aura. Due to her father’s overbearing influence, she has rejected her wholesome, Christian roots, turning her into quite the wild child. The reverend responds to these “sinful” disturbances by lobbying the town council to enact even stricter rules, which only causes Bacon and his likeminded cohorts to double down.
Of course, the film contains the prototypical town douchebags, led by an asshole who is interested in Bacon’s fling. Bacon also becomes friends with, and mentors a local on the excitements the outside world offers, like music and dancing. The film ends with Bacon putting on a school dance and the town eventually changing its way to become less stringent and more open-minded.
Since its initial release, Footloose has become a cultural mainstay for several reasons. First, the movie’s a solid portrayal of generational conflict— a cyclical process by which the ideals and norms of an established order are challenged by a new, youthful, up-and-coming generation. Bacon’s role embodied this youthful energy, using it to attack and undermine the reverend’s theoretic authority. Second, and relating to the previous point, is the fact that the movie portrays the conflict of the liberal mindset against what was often seen as the snobbish, authoritarian aspect of morality. To understand this, one has to delve into and unpack American culture during the latter part of the 20th century.
Immediately following World War II, the United States entered the 1950’s, a decade symbolized, sometimes inaccurately, by cherishing ideals, such as family values and public decency. This was until the Baby Boomers came of age, bringing about the counter-culture revolutions of the late 60’s and 70’s. The turbulence of these decades brought forward another cultural shift, this time a counter-revolution or what is sometimes dubbed the “Reagan Revolution.” This was a transition back to the moral consciousness and patriotic fervor of the 1950’s, along with a revival of free market, classically liberal economics.
Footloose thus signified the rebellion against the 1980’s conservative backdrop. Bacon’s role embodied a typical Generation X youth, lashing out against the haughty, moral establishment. These sorts of plotlines were typical of youth films at the time. Just think of how many 80’s movies present lovable outcasts going up against the all-powerful, rich, prudish elite—from The Karate Kid to Caddy Shack.
The problem with making a movie like this today is that the snobbish, elitist presented in these films are no longer realistic villains. What I mean is that the uptight, blonde, Christian prudes from yesteryear are no longer in control of America’s cultural, political, educational and economic institutions. The new establishment, the ones telling others that they can’t do or say certain things, are the ones who were initially part of the counter-culture. In other words, it’s now the social justice wing that has become the killjoys, attempting to censor content they find offensive or “harmful” and destroy or “cancel” people who dare to violate their moral dictums. This was demonstrated recently with the intense backlash against Dave Chappelle’s newest Netflix special, “The Closer”.
Therefore, in order to formulate a modern retelling of this work, our primary antagonist cannot be a Christian minister. Instead, he/she/they/them/ze/ge/we, etc. must represent the priesthood of the latest trend in secular religion—wokeness. This also means we may have to rework the plot a bit. In order to be compatible with the modern or, dare I say, post-modern day, comedy must be what is banned. Hence, this hypothetical reimagining will be titled Laughloose.
The movie begins with Tom (what I’m going to call him), a new kid who just moved to a small San Francisco suburb, which also holds a university. The head of the school is also the town’s spiritual leader, a self-described, intersectional, trans rights feminist community organizer named Matthew McCarthy (he/him). Tom’s mother is desperate for the teen to make friends. So, she brings him to a local community activist meeting led by Matthew to discuss changing the name of the high school mascot from the Stallions to something less offensive, because Stallions are male horses and thus, not inclusive. Also, horses are gender fluid. During the portion of the meeting in which everyone says their pronouns, Tom meets Matthew’s daughter, Sheela. The two gaze into each other’s eyes for a moment, until she coyly looks away.
Later that night, Tom decides to take a drive around town. He hooks his phone up to his car stereo and starts listening to Eddie Murphy Raw. Tom is then pulled over by the local sheriff. When he asks the officer what he did wrong, the cop responds by saying, “You’re causing harm to the community!” Tom is then cited, receiving a $10,000 fine.
The next day, Tom attends his first day of school. He is desperate to make friends, so he sits at the “cool kid’s table,” where Sheela is seated. With the exception of Sheela, the other teens are not thrilled by this outsider’s intrusion. Tom decides to break the ice by making a joke about how Dr. Rachel Lavine became the first female admiral, showing again that men make better women than women. Tom is shocked when, instead of getting laughs, he’s met with looks of disgust.
The leader of group, a dude named Johnny, gets up and scolds Tom.
“Do you realize the violence you just perpetrated?”
“Violence?” Tom responds. “All I did was make a stupid joke.”
“Well, your ‘stupid joke’ is harmful and perpetuates hatred and violence against vulnerable groups. You, as a cis-gendered white male should be more cognizant about the harm you inflict from your perch of privilege.”
“Privilege?” Tom retorts. “I’m raised by a single mom who works minimum wage at the local diner.”
“Whatever.” Johnny says. “Just don’t make jokes like that. Humor like that isn’t allowed. We don’t need that Dave Chappelle shit in this town.”
“I love Dave Chappelle!” Tom exclaims.
Upon hearing this, Johnny loses it.
“That’s it, Hitler! You are me, outside! Now!”
The two go outside while the rest of the school cafeteria follows. The two rivals then engage in the famous tractor chicken scene from the original movie—the one in which Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding Out for a Hero” blasts (no way was I going to cut this awesome scene). Tom ends by winning, receiving widespread applause from his peers along with Sheela’s further adulation. This only makes Johnny angrier.
Impressed by Tom’s bravado, a boy named Mark quickly take a liking to him. The two become friends, with Mark explaining to Tom that the town has banned comedy that is even in the slightest way edgy. The only comedy allowed is that of Hannah Gadsby, the new Sarah Silverman (not the old stuff when her entire routine was just her dropping racial slurs in an eight-year-old girl’s voice) or James Corden.
Upon hearing this, Tom realizes that he must take it upon himself to rebel by opening the town’s eyes to comedy. He decides that he wants to hold a comedy night, which he organizes through the school. Matthew hears of this and responds by doubling down. Not only does he outlaw comedy, but he outlaws other offensive content, like certain books and movies. Even for the content that is “allowed,” Matthew requires “trigger warnings” of anything that even may be interrupted as harmful by some subjectively obscure individual who may or may not exist.
A town hall takes place to debate these issues. Tom arrives with his mother. The young man gives an impassioned speech about how when you focus all your attention upon whether or not something is potentially harmful, it ironically causes harm itself by stifling creativity and societal progress. Most great masterpieces, whether cultural, philosophical, or technological, occurred because people took risks. They said ‘to hell’ with the established norms of the times, stepping out of the societal comfort zone in order to create something magnificent. By orienting all societal facets upon whether or not something is psychologically harmful to someone, you’re not only stunting progress and creativity, but making everyone more anxious, as everybody is now stepping on eggshells.
Humor is important because it allows people to point out many of life’s absurdities and, instead of being overwhelmed by them, to laugh at them. It’s why we shouldn’t to throttle comedy, especially not due to the subjective whims of a small cadre of lunatics who because they’re angry and frustrated with their own lives, find it necessary to unleash their deep seated rage upon others who have done to them over than make a few objectively harmless remarks.
Tom tries to make a few other points. However, Matthew stops him, calling the young man a bigot and proclaiming that his speech is harmful to traditionally repressed communities.
“But what about freedom of speech?” Tom inquires.
“Not when the speech undermines the social fabric,” Matthew retorts. “That’s why freedom from speech is more important.”
Nevertheless, Tom’s words ends up winning over a large portion of the town. Things only get worse for Matthew when he finds out that not only is Sheela dating Tom, but that she listens to Joe Rogan and Bill Burr. Matthew is upset. Yet, he finally relents and allows the comedy night to go forward.
The school is all set to put on the event. Unfortunately, Johnny and his goons arrive to insure it doesn’t happen. Johnny confronts Tom and Mark outside the dance, challenging them to rumble.
“You ready to through down, Adolf?” Johnny taunts.
However, Tom doesn’t want to waste his time fighting. Instead, Tom tells Johnny that someone identifying as a member of a different race, like Rachel Dolezal, is the same as someone identifying as different gender. Johnny is horrified by this statement, but doesn’t know how to counter it. This causes him to start crying and run away.
The comedy night goes off without a hitch. The town has a great time and learns to accept that humor is good.
© 2021 RMS Thornton