Footloose (1984): Absurd Analysis
January 17, 2012 6 Comments
Baconista: n., A dance, dance revolutionary.
Footloose is fabulously absurd: a butt-cut Kevin Bacon is swept up into a revolution that overthrows church and state. However, this is no classical union of the proletariat: this is a revolution fueled by music. The Beatles? The Sex Pistols? Metal? No, a revolution of Kenny Loggins, Shalamar and Foreigner. The absurdity lies precisely in this—the adults in this near-Denver town are afraid of soft 80s pop.
Note, however, that the town chosen is somewhere near Denver. I have mentioned elsewhere the importance of the Denver locale in certain films and novels, and my reading of Footloose is essentially that of a vague formula for revolution through music. Kevin, “The Bake,” arrives from Chicago and mystifies the locals with his cavalier attitude and free-flowing gymnastic jocularity. In fact. The Bake is able to dance like no one’s business when alone in a factory at midnight (following upon one beer and one cigarette). The film was actually shot in the Mormon-named city of Lehi, Utah.
The Bake gets a job at the local mills, so we know he is a working class revolutionary, and not part of the bourgeoisie. This gives him the requisite time to practice his flips and snag the town hotty, who happens to be the daughter of Rev. Lithgow who has a thirst for near death experiences and making out. Her name is Ariel, and Ariel is of course a reference from Isaiah for Israel. So the daughter of the male authority/patriarchy/God figure is Ariel, who is led astray by Pan, as a kind of pied piper. The pieces of the puzzle begin to fall in place. Pan is the ancient Greek god of woods, flute dancing, and sex. And dancing is a metaphor for sex. So Pan seduces the Ariel and overthrows the established order. Bacon’s character is named “Ren,” which is the Confucian expression of rightness, or a kind of golden rule. The Bake even teaches his redneck friend Chris Penn how to snap to a beat. Are there actually people who can’t snap?
(You also fry Bacon in a pan!)
So Ren/Pan represents equalization and “justice” against a supposed despotic Baptist theocracy that controls the establishment to the point of local cops being able to write tickets for teens attending rock concerts (?). Are there are any Baptist towns on theocratic lockdown? How is that actually possible, since Baptists believe in strict separation of church and state? I can’t imagine having to drive out-of-town to see Foreigner, and for that matter I can’t imagine seeing Foreigner, period. Meanwhile, Rev. Lithgow listens to Haydn, which we are supposed to believe is boring. Seriously? Kenny Loggins is superior to Haydn?
Kevin Bacon professes to be an atheist, and now we know why: the repressive regime of Rev. Lithgow. The Bake should have tried other traditions of theism, rather than confining himself to American fundamentalist evangelicalism. Rev. Lithgow adopts theological liberalism at a certain point, and stops the book burning. Yet with the newfound soft heart of Rev. Lithgow, I detect a deeper conspiracy afoot. Strangely, the town’s establishment rebels (who have Pink Floyd sticker, yet seem to only play Kenny Loggins) mysteriously reject the Bake, when the Bake is bringing the sansculotte victory they’ve been after.
The incumbent rebels toss a brick into the Bake’s window that says “burn in hell”! The only way to make sense of this is to see it for what it is: a false flag terror attack run by Rev. Lithgow himself. No one but the Rev. had the motive to run the attack, and the anarchic Kenny Loggins-obsessed youths would not have turned on their pied piper, the Bake, unless they were establishment “rebels” – agent provocateurs. In sum, Footloose is a recipe for a successful revolution: screenshots full of Bacon ass in Jordache mom-jeans, lots of 80s adult contemporary pop (something along the lines of Hall & Oates should really stir the system), and a few committed 25-30 year-old “high schoolers” that know a couple of verses from Psalms and Samuel. (You also need a Walkman, some double As, and unlimited access to factories and train depots). Within a couple of days, the entire town’s youth will, by one degree of osmosis (and not the classic six degrees of Kevin Bacon arcana), be footloose.