Even in 1984’s Footloose the idea of dancing being banned in a small Midwestern town was ridiculous. Yes, the script came from an actual dancing ban that had been enforced in the town of Elmore City, Oklahoma, and was finally revoked in 1980. But the banning of dancing — not the jitterbug or square-dancing but suggestive pantomining of sexual congress, which is what modern dancing more or less is — is like some ghostly remnant of America’s buried puritan past.
The idea, in short, comes from those small-town preachers and community leaders who were afraid of race music and be-bop Elvis Presley and Little Richard music in the early to mid 1950s.
If it was ludicrous in 1984, some 27 years ago, it’s much, much dopier today. There is no more rural America except in the low-income country backwaters. Everything has been corporatized and Walmart-ized. The internet has opened everything up to every kid in the country. Outside of Mormon, Amish and Hassidic culture there are no more middle-aged farts who look like Dennis Quaid telling high school kids not to grind their hips on a dance floor. The early to mid 1950s, when fear of rock ‘n’ roll was at its height, was 55 to 60 years ago. And that’s over. The small-town elders who inveighed against Presley and who burned Beatles records in 1966 when John Lennon said “we’re more popular than Jesus” are dead and gone, or too old to matter.
Which is why the new Footloose is going to be awful, and why it’s going to take a lot of pain pills to get through Quaid’s performance as John Lithgow. I know, I know…the under-25 target audience won’t care because they’ll just be into the idea of grooving to a new Dirty Dancing before the actual remake comes along.