Debate Magazine

Footloose: A Feminist Review

Posted on the 17 October 2011 by Starofdavida
Footloose: A Feminist ReviewI’m not much of a movies person,since I object to paying twelve bucks for an hour and a half of entertainment(I can donate that money to a cause that has a lasting effect on the world).However, I love free stuff, and managed to get two advanced previewtickets to Footloose. Having not seen the original movie or Broadwayplay, I was only vaguely familiar withthe plot. It was pretty cute and I liked it, although I wouldn’t have beenamazed if I had paid full price to see it.
[SPOILER ALERT] While watching Footloose,a few things struck me. The movie opens at a high school keg party in Bomont, Georgia,where five students are killed in an extremely graphic car accident. (There area lot of burning cars and violent fights - definitely not for the squeamish.)The next scene shows the town’s reverend and city councilmember speaking onbehalf of a new law prohibiting partying, drinking, and dancing. The firstthing I noticed was that there was only one woman and one African-American onthe eight-person city council. (The sad part is that the percentage isn’tunrealistic - Congress is only 17% female, 8% black, 5% Latino/a, and 2%Asian-American.) I would've really liked it if there were a couple more women on the council.
Despite the fact that people ofcolor are underrepresented on Bomont’s city council, the rest of the moviemakes a specific effort to promote diversity and interracial relationships. TheWoody character was recast as African-American, and Ziah Colon, a black actor,plays Rusty (originally Sarah Jessica Parker), who becomes romantically linkedwith a white character. Throughout the movie, there are a number of extras whoare African-American, which I think is pretty cool. While Ariel and Ren, thetwo main characters, remained white, I think Footloose is still headedin the right direction.
In addition to showcasing thetalents of actors of color, the movie also tells watchers that gay bashing isunacceptable. After Chuck, Ariel’s older boyfriend, calls Ren a f*ggot, Renresponds, “I thought only a**holes used the word f*ggot.” I think that’s areally valuable message to send, especially since this is a hot-button issuetoday. (I’ve probably signed five petitions in the past week to help pro-LGBTstudents who have faced discrimination in the last week alone.)
Ariel, the minister’s daughter,is supposed to be a good-girl-gone-bad, rebelling against the anti-party lawsby dating Chuck. At the beginning, he pressures her to give into his sexualadvances, and is depicted as a generally icky dude throughout the movie (almostkilling Ren in a bus race, getting one of his cronies to plant a joint onhim, etc.). After Ariel finally realizes Chuck’s a piece of work who doesn’tdeserve her, she breaks up with him. After he calls her a slut, she startsbeating up his car with a crowbar. He brutally attacks her, giving her a blackeye. His punishment? When he comes to break up the dance at the end of themovie, Ren and Willard beat him and his cronies up.
Yeah, that’s it. Ariel nevertells her parents on-screen who beat her bloody; if she did off-screen, theydidn’t make any intentions of legal justice clear. No one else in the moviedoes, either. This made me really, really, upset. Ariel was wrong to destroy Chuck’scar, and she should be liable to pay for the damages; however, Chuck was 100%wrong to retaliate physically, and should pay for what he did in jail. It isnever, ever acceptable for a man to lay his hand on a woman (or the other wayaround), and I feel like the movie didn’t make that clear enough. Ren andWillard’s vigilante justice was a very lovely gesture, but Chuck only walkedaway bruised. Beating him up didn’t make him understand how to respect women.Only time behind bars and some serious therapy can do that. Unfortunately,there are a lot of Chucks out there who get away with beating up theirgirlfriends. Even more unfortunately, Footloose advocated an eye for aneye rather than justice via the legal system. While Chuck did at least facepunishment for what he did, it would have really made me happy if Ariel saidthat she and her parents are pressing charges.
So, I think that Footloosehad its ups and downs. I don’t know how it compared to the original, but I hopeall of you who are Kevin Bacon fans appreciate it!

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