Footloose: The Feminist Review

Have you ever watched a movie meant for kids and wondered how on earth it got a PG-13 rating? This was my feeling exactly after seeing “Footloose” this past Sunday with my family, including my 10-year-old sister. I remember watching the original version when I was little and again about a year ago, and the first thing that caught my attention was how many sexual innuendos were hidden within the movie. Granted, my sister is not thirteen, so technically the movie is not suitable for her, however, there were scenes in the movie that certainly didn’t seem appropriate for preteens either.

Ariel is the quintessential preacher’s-daughter-gone-bad. I know this movie is a remake, but still, I am so tired of the overused good-girl-gone-bad character. It’s a cliché and it does nothing to show young girls that it is okay to be smart and “good,” whatever your definition of that word may be. Unsurprisingly, Ariel is not the main character of the film, just the sexy counterpart to Ren, the bad boy who moves to town from Boston.

There were scenes in the movie that definitely highlighted important social topics in today’s world, however, it was the way in which these topics were portrayed that I disagreed with. First, Ariel is pressured by her obnoxious boyfriend to celebrate his victory at the racetrack by having sex with him, even though he agreed to take it slow because she is a virgin. But, of course, she gives in once he taunts her for being a “little girl” and so they have sex… on the hood of his car. It would have been a nice change to see a female character actually say no to sex and stick to it instead of giving in just to prove her supposed maturity. As this played on the screen, I looked at my little sister and wondered what could possibly be going on in her mind.

There were other minor parts that left me disconcerted. Because the movie is about a town that outlaws loud music, dancing, and parties, these are the topics constantly being discussed. One scene shows two characters talking about another girl in their class, who they refer to as a “boner-killer.” Another scene depicts the same two characters, both male, equating the thrill of dancing to that of an orgy. I don’t know about any of you, but I certainly did not partake in any orgies when I was 16. Fortunately, I don’t think my sister knows what an orgy is, but I can guarantee that if she was interested to find out, she could Google it and find an answer. Another scene shows the preacher’s wife defending the teenagers right to dance by finally speaking her mind at a town meeting. What upset me is that she began her speech with, “I have kept my mouth shut and been a good wife…” If we keep repeating history and allowing patriarchy to control society, then yes, I suppose that being a good wife will always mean being silent, however, it would have been nice for her to have an actual role in the movie instead of being a prop.

However, my biggest issue with “Footloose” was not the sexual innuendos or cliché character roles, but the blatant acceptance of abuse. After Ariel’s ex-boyfriend calls her slut, she destroys his truck; he retaliates by punching her in the face, throwing her to the ground, kicking her, and driving away. When she goes home to tell her parents, her preacher dad automatically assumes Ren hit her, which infuriates Ariel. So for shock value, she admits to having sex, to which he responds with a slap across the face. Now I understand that this scene adds emotion to the film, but at no point after did anyone suggest reporting the violence to the police. What does this show women and young girls? That it is okay to not report someone for fear of causing more problems? Not only did her ex-boyfriend beat her, but the man who is supposed to be her protector, her own father, counteracts that beating by slapping her across the face? At this point I was absolutely livid. How can a movie portray an abuse scene involving a teenage girl and then mention nothing about going to the police? Considering that domestic violence is a real issue in teen relationships, I think this would have been the perfect opportunity for the film to highlight the importance of reporting abuse, but sadly this did not do that.

Overall, I would give this movie a 2 out of 5 rating. It was disappointing that the writers didn’t create a female lead, or at the very least a female character that exemplified strength and confidence. Instead Ariel is a gullible teenage girl so concerned with her image that she does things she wouldn’t normally do.

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