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Ten Degrees of Eighties continues: Cutting Footloose

posted by Jen on 3/20/02

If I haven’t eaten turkey jerky for a while, I get some unconscionably intense cravings for it. The second my mouth starts watering for the teriyaki-flavored treat, I’m out of my apartment, half running down the street to satisfy the jerky tooth at the nearest grocery store. As soon as I’ve got the Oberto in hand, I voraciously rip into the package, because waiting the extra two minutes to get back to my apartment would require too much self-control. So anticipating all that is beefy and good, I excitedly take a chew, and suddenly remember that I never really loved turkey jerky in the first place. Sure, it has a nice smoky flavor, but it’s just so darn tough to chew, it’s like biting through a sneaker.

Well, Footloose is like turkey jerky to me.

It’s like your mouth is dancing

If I haven’t seen it for a while, I forget how much I didn’t thrill to it the last hundred times I’ve seen it. Suddenly, my mind is seized with images of dancing, and laughter, and dancing, and young sizzling Kevin Bacon and much, much dancing and two minutes later, I’m hot stepping out the door to rent it. After watching for about ten minutes, I remember that aside from the elements to be discussed shortly, I was never all that entertained by it in the first place. Sure, it has the dancing and the bacon, but it always leaves me feeling slightly ashamed.

Weren’t you in Hollow Man?

Well, I rented it for hopefully the last time tonight, in the hopes of learning some hot dance moves understanding my repeat purchasing decisions, and came up with the following reasons:

1. The stunts are impressive

Catholic school girls rule!

You know the freshman kid in college who never drank in high school, so he goes out and has 20 beers all at once, gets alcohol poisoning, and winds up getting sent to AA his first week of school? That’s like all the kids in this movie. They’re all stuck in a small town, burdened by oppressive social and religious laws and, in an attempt to find a shred of amusement, pull off the most death-defying of stunts. In the picture above, we see young Ariel straddling two cars for a solid two minutes, right up until the second a truck coming from the other side of the road is about to plow into her. She and the other characters manage to smuggle joints into school, sneak over the state line to drink, and eventually get the “no dancing” rule revoked. As you might guess, the “no sexual intercourse” rule never held much weight for these guys either.

I hope you like meat, cause I’ve got a whole lotta bacon for ya.

2. I have a thing for bad Mid-western stereotypes.

We’ve got characters named Willard, Rusty, Lulu, Wendi Jo, Ethel, Burmington, and best of all, Woody. You know when there’s a “Woody” in the script, the screenwriter is planning some doozies. We’ve got the typical small-town excitements of playing “Tractor Chicken,” and hanging in flourmills. We’ve got the cockney accents that fall somewhere on the “realistic scale” between Whitley’s from A Different World and Stefano’s from Days of Our Lives.

It’s a Dwayne Wayne World

But best of all, we’ve got a boyfriend who drives a truck with a set of moose antlers on the front.

Last time someone got in my way…I made him into a hood ornament

Nothing says Captain Danger quite like a set of moose antlers on your ride -- it’s kind of like having one of those “My other car is an Iroc…now get the hell outta my way” bumper stickers. Also, notice the Pink Floyd sticker on the back of the car…if they’re not allowed to listen to music…why would he buy this sticker? Continuing on…

3. I thoroughly enjoy the chicken/tractor scene:

Yesterday I mowed the grass. Today I’m gonna mow your ass!!

If you’ve never seen the movie, you’re missing out on a chicken fight reminiscent of Steve McQueen’s performance in The Getaway. Well, not exactly…but it’s pretty good. Like all battles of pride, Chuck and Ren hop on opposing tractors and drive at one another until one “chickens out” and has to swerve his tractor away, all to the tune of “I need a hero!” Interestingly enough, Ren chickens out in the very beginning, but doesn’t know how to operate his tractor…so he’s still driving at Chuck, furiously trying to hit the breaks or turn away. At the very last second, Chuck jumps off his tractor, the tractor veers into the river, and Ren wins!

Followed by a huge display of people tossing cowboy hats into the air, and Ren jumping for joy as a soaked Chuck pouts in anger. What’s most intriguing about this whole event is that Chuck’s loss at chicken/tractor inspires his girlfriend to dump him for Ren. One day, I hope to be seriously dating somebody, only to dump him for a guy who beats him soundly in a game of ring toss. Which brings me to the heroine of our movie…

4. I secretly wish I were Ariel:

Pretty good looking, when the only other option is big Wendi Jo

While Ren MacCormack regenerates the dancing vibe in the little Iowan town, Ariel illustrates how to dump your boyfriend when someone better comes along, give yourself manicures even if your father is the preacher, and still manage to come out smelling like a rose. She’s not even that attractive and she’s juggling antlers and Ren as love interests. When said tractor-chicken fight ensues, it’s Ariel who gets to throw her hat in the air and warn “When this hat flies in the air, you better have your butt in gear.” When her friends get pissed off at her, she laughs and says, “Go get me some fries,” and they DO IT. When her father starts yelling at her about the dangers of dancing, Ariel confidently replies, “I’m not a virgin anymore, daddy.” How does she get away with all this? I don’t know…but I have a feeling this shirt plays a major role:

The “I dance for dick” shirt seemed a bit much

5. We’ve got butt shots

L.A. face with an Oakland booty

Just wanted to see if you’re still paying attention. ;) This isn’t really one of the reasons why I like this movie.

6. For an innocent movie shrouded in the “Christian” veil, it sure has a heavy sexual subtext (sexy lines underlined for your pleasure):

Reverend Shaw: “When kids dance together, it makes them sexually irresponsible.”

Now, this line sets the stage for the rest of the movie…because after he says this, you realize that the word “dance” has meant bump-n-grind the entire time.

Lookin’ good, Ariel

How would you like to get some Bacon in ya??

Ren: So we’re going like a freakin’ freight train now and she’s screaming, ‘Don’t stop! Don’t stop! Make Ginger pop!
Willard: Really?
Ren: Nah…but we sure did dance!


Chuck: I thought only pansies wore neckties
Ren: I thought only assholes used the word pansies.
Extra: He got you there, Chuck!

Willard to Ren: You’ve got jumbo coconut balls, but you’re pretty stupid!

Anyone up for a ride?

Chuck to Ariel: Give me the box, I want the box!

Cowboy extra: Why don’t you just flake off?
Willard: When was the last time you’ve seen your dick?

Let’s pause for just a minute…how could this retort possibly function as an insult? It’s like saying the cowboy either doesn’t urinate…or doesn’t masturbate?

Thanks Willard, I really do enjoy watching you blow things

Willard: Woody doesn’t know a dance from a dipstick!

Ren: So do you listen to music? Do you like Men at Work?
Willard: What? Where do they work?
Ren: No, they’re a rock group! Forget it, how about The Police?
Willard: What about them?
Ren: Have you ever seen them live?
Willard: Yeah…they’re following you right now!

Willard: It’s illegal to dance where my cousin lives too.
Ren: Really? Does she ever get busted for boppin’?

Ariel: Why don’t you ever kiss me?
Ren: Cause if I did, your boyfriend would remove my lungs with a spoon!”

Show me how you do that Samba thing again.

Ren: What’s this I see? I thought this was a party – LET’S DANCE!!!

Are we in Hawaii? Cause I think I’m getting “lei’d” tonight…

7. The extras in this movie are stellar:

More so than normal people, I love to watch movies and focus on the extras…the people who are convinced that their five-second stints on the big screen will land them their dream careers. Which I guess makes sense, considering Matt Damon’s “Are you gonna eat your green stuff?” line in Mystic Pizza launched his career.

Eats Dickie Greenleaf

The truly intelligent extras will overact their parts just enough to snag attention away from the stars, but not enough so the director will re-shoot the scene, always making the scene worthy of a rewind. Throughout the movie, be on the lookout for the following inordinately overacted scenes from extras:

• Right before the dance starts, one extra is seen repeatedly puffing his left cheek in and out, in and out, for a good ten seconds.
• Girls in the bathroom actually dance as they’re applying blush
• Blue tuxedoed guy picks his nose and rubs it under his leg, while his date looks on aghast.

8. Ren’s ‘angry dance’ sequence

Look, I won’t blow smoke up your ass…but if I don’t get to dance today, heads are gonna roll

Every time I watch this, I get such a kick out of imagining myself actually giving this performance. An irate Ren runs to the flourmill/warehouse, raging over an argument he had with his uncle, and actually dances while “angry images” flash all over the barn.

When most people are angry, they probably throw things, go in their room and pout, maybe go for a run. I love the fact that Ren dances off his anger. Images of Ariel spurning him prompt Ren to boogie around the barn in an angry sashay, his uncle scolding him for being a “troublemaker” calls for a couple of bops up and down, back and forth, and images of his teacher chasing him into the bathroom as he flushes down a joint evoke a derivation of the mashed potatoes.

Screw you teach! I’m pulling out the hip-hop moves.

Whether or not dancing is a viable form of anger management, one can only guess. Next time my uncle yells at me for tainting the family name, I’m going to dust off my high-heeled sneakers and give this “dancing” thing a fair shake. If it prevents me from punching one new hole through my wall, it will all be worth it.

At the end of the day, I’m still puzzled about my relationship with Footloose. I’ve certainly gleaned many lessons from the movie, such as how to dance in public, how to manage my anger, and how to hurl stunning insults at people. But aside from stupefying stunts, deliciously dirty dance scenes, and bodacious butt shots, we’re left with slightly tired dialogue and a rather banal premise. You’ll never hate yourself for having rented it; you’ll just wish you got Cocktail instead. As far as the Ten Degrees of Eighties madness is concerned, Dianne Wiest was the link to remember from last time (who again, was not mentioned once in this article), and Kevin Bacon will be the link to remember for next time. And with that, I turn off the computer, grab my Oberto and pop in my Sporty Thievz CD. These things are good.


Anyone who didn’t enjoy this article gets a spanking!

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