Written by Chad Echakowitz
Let’s just set one thing straight: this was my idea first. I have felt this way since 2016 when I first posted my theory to the world. I am only writing this article now, however, because I think it’s time - the world needs to know. Plus it’s become relevant in pop-culture again so people will hopefully listen.
Footloose is a heart-warming story about a young upstart named Ren, who moves from Chicago IL to the sleepy town of Bomont. Under the control of an uptight Reverend Shaw Moore, who, with the approval of the rest of the town, has outlawed alcohol, drugs, other profanities, and – worst of all – dancing. To make things worse, Ren falls for Reverend Moore’s daughter. Things happen to fill out an hour of movie time, and then we get to the crux of the story: Ren wants to challenge the no-dancing rule and bring back the Senior Prom. Spoilers: He succeeds and everyone has a lovely time and this plucky teen gets accepted into the community and everyone lives happily ever after, footloose and fancy-free.
This film is the most important thing to ever happen in film. It is more important than Citizen Kane. It is more important than Shawshank Redemption. Hell, it’s more important than Dirty Dancing. At its core, Footloose is a film about social change. It teaches us about progress and how it isn’t always easy, even when it is necessary. So, sit back, relax, and kick off your dancing shoes.
The Morality of Footloose
The crotchety elders of Bomont had a good reason for banning dancing and other salacious behavior: An incident occurred in which alcohol, dancing and other profane activities led to the death of some beloved teenagers. When applying the sine qua non test (a legal test that asks the question; without this event occurring, would the crime have taken place? If the answer is “no” then it is likely that that event was the cause of the crime) it is completely understandable that the elders would ban such things as alcohol and dancing. And it had worked. The teenager mortality rate in Bomont had gone down to a wholesome 0. But it was frustrating for those suspiciously attractive teens: They couldn’t express their angst or rebel against the system. There was no outlet.
But then Ren came along and challenged the system. He asked why. He took a purposive approach to the laws and shook the system. In a harrowing scene, Ren uses the Elder’s own ideologies to make them see that dancing isn’t actually that bad:
"From the oldest of times, people danced for a number of reasons. They danced in prayer... or so that their crops would be plentiful... or so their hunt would be good. And they danced to stay physically fit... and show their community spirit. And they danced to celebrate." And that is the dancing we're talking about. Aren't we told in Psalm 149 "Praise ye the Lord. Sing unto the Lord a new song. Let them praise His name in the dance"?
And this is an important lesson that we all need to take to heart. We need to acknowledge the past and understand why things were the way they were. Undertaking a purposive approach will mean we can all come together with a common understanding and, from that starting point, change things.
Of course, not every social change can be as easy as lifting a ban on dancing. A simple meeting in a town hall will rarely change things. But if we all endeavour to better understand the other side, to become more empathetic, we could change a lot more through that unity.
The World Belongs to the Young
In the town of Bomont, the old control the young, prohibiting behaviour and curtailing their freedom. When Ren arrives, he again challenges this way of life, a way of life that most of the youth find undesirable. By revolting, Ren teaches the kids that they have a right to speak up, especially when it comes to their own lives. And this is the second most important lesson in Footloose. While it is important to listen to our elders, and heed their wisdom, we need to take control of our own lives because that’s what they are: our own.
With a world that is rapidly developing into a technological anomaly, the likes of which has never been seen before, it is absurd to have laws and procedures that cannot accommodate such changes. In the same vein, we cannot let people who were not born into this technological world dictate the future when they cannot understand that technology. The two are incongruous. I am not saying they have no value. They still have wisdom, they can still teach us so much that comes with experience.
We need our elders, but we need to have our own say in the world we will be living in. We cannot be dictated too and blindly accept a future that was not designed by us, but for us by people who do not understand us. We can work together, taking wisdom from the elders and progressive attitudes from the youth. That way the future will be better for both sides built on compromise and mutual understanding.
Dance as if it were Illegal
As I said back in 2016, future generations will look back at Footloose and laugh: “How ridiculous,” they’ll say. “Why would you base a whole movie around the prohibition of dancing?” That’s when we’ll smile in our old age and say, “You may laugh, young youngster, but there was once a time where towns did actually ban dancing and music.” At which point they will scoff, open their hologram phones and learn all about the music that was banned, dancing that was prohibited, and other ridiculous taboos that are now considered normal.
This is the third, final, and most important message of Footloose. Progress makes what used to be normal seem ridiculous and absurd, and this is good. From films like this, we can see how far we have moved forward from our history and we can gauge whether this is good or bad. Footloose is an amazing example of how far we’ve come as a society. We are so much more willing to accept things, to challenge archaic ways of being. We now listen to the youth more readily and try to understand the perspectives of others.
To make the simple and fun act of dancing illegal only seems ridiculous now, because we have progressed to a point where it can be ridiculous. In 50 years (hopefully), people will look back at movies like Detroit and Get Out and think how outrageous it was that we treated people differently just because of the colour of their skin. And we will smile and agree. It was outrageous but look how far we’ve come.
I may be idealistic. I may think that heeding the morals of a dance film made in the 80’s will help to progress humanity into a better world of understanding and inclusion. But I’d rather be that than someone who watches a movie and doesn’t learn anything from it. Footloose is fun, it’s uplifting, and it fills you with a sense of justice. By learning from something as silly as Footloose, by taking its morals to heart, we can all grow in to better people.