Footloose (1984): Absurd Analysis

Teen millworkers of the world, unite!

By: Jay 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.

David Bowie and Che Guevara would have been much more potent icons for dethroning the old fogies.

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.

You can't bitch about the means of production, when you've got Jordache mom jeans and a VW Bug. Those are timeless corporate inventions.

6 Comments on Footloose (1984): Absurd Analysis

  1. Interesting analysis. I’ve never seen the original or the recent remake of Footloose but a friend once described it (the original that is) to me and I remember thinking it sounded like a sort of heretical, anti-nomian presentation of the life and mission of Christ. Lithgow bans dancing (ie: institutes Mosaics law) because of the death of his son (the Fall of Man perhaps?) only for Bacon (Jesus) to show up to overturn the law. Though his character is an atheist KB appeals to scripture when challenging the Pharisaic Lithgow. This fits with the interpretation of Jesus offered by commies, that Jesus was really just a proto-Marxist who was forced to use the theistic language of his time to teach a revolutionary doctrine designed to set people free from the law, ushering in an anti-nomian worker’s paradise.

    Seems there is also a sort of Dionysian element to the whole thing too, with an outsider obliterating the social order through the power of frenzied dance.

    Funny that Lithgow would play essentially the same part in the film Kinsey a few years ago. In this bio-pic, which lionized the perverted sex-researcher Alfred Kinsey, Lithgow played the titular character’s father, an oppressive Christian fundamentalist, who we find out was himself warped because his own father made him wear a masturbation preventing apparatus as a child… I wish I were joking.

    Now, let’s see if I can six degrees Kevin Bacon to the NWO.

    1.) K.B was in Footloose with Lithgow.
    2.) Lithgow was in “Kinsey” which chronicles how the Rockefeller foundation sponsored his research.

    Wow, 2 degrees, that was fast.

  2. Actually, you might be onto something with the whole commie revolution through dance thing here. Your article reminded me of a trailer I’d seen a while back for the (I’m gonna assume) terrible movie Step Up 3D. Check out the black on red background, commie, raised first posters in the back ground at 0:30. The guy tells us his dancers “live together, work together,” obviously some kind of workers commune. Then at 0:52 he gives the kid a magazine that reads “First Ever International” reminding us of the socialist “First International.”

  3. Great points. Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. We will do an interview soon, I promise.

    Kevin Bacon in real life is an atheist, so I was making a silly joke about Rev. Lithgow (I forget his name) and blending it with reality.

    I think the Bake is definitely an anti-nomian revolutionary, and may be a kind of rebel Messiah figure, given the religious subtleties sprinkled in the film. It was well known in the Soviet/America dialectic that both sides claimed they would use degenerate art and pop culture to destroy the so-called enemy, and “rock n roll” was a huge part of that revolution. Footloose would have made more sense if it were about the Rolling Stones or Beatles and was set in the 60s. Instead, it’s the 80s, when all of this was well established. The film was so out of touch with what 80s rebelious youth were listening to, it’s just laughable.

    So I definitely think it has Marxist undertones, but even in the film Ren says he reads Vonnegut, is a trendy former Chicago kid, and doesn’t attend any church.

    Yes, it is most certainly Dionysian, since the entire town’s frenzy seems to magically occur, leading everyone to know how to dance as “good” as the Bake. It’s also a bit voodoo-ish, too. It is as if Pan summons his powers of nature to bring about an orgiastic dance hysteria. Interestingly, Ren does some of his incognito dance work out in nature, particularly with Chris Penn, in scenes that appear a bit gay.

    Note also in the Step Up trailer the multi-racial/multikulti element, which is a staple of socialism and communism.

  4. Lithgow also plays the obsessive control freak auhtority figure in other (not very good) films, too, with biblical connotations.

  5. And here is some classic Footloose satire from the great Andy Samberg…

  6. Haha, classic I loved Hot Rod. When I saw this original I got that it was parodying 80s shlock in general but since I hadn’t (and still haven’t) seen Footloose at the time I didn’t know this was mocking a scene from it specifically.

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