10 reasons why Footloose is a film for men

Think Footloose is a chick flick? Think again. Matt explains why it's aimed squarely at dudes

There’s a common misconception that Footloose is a ‘chick flick’. It isn’t. How could it be? I like it, and I’m the manliest goddamn man there is. I open jars that my wife can’t. I lift up heavy things, like shopping bags filled with jars. I have a beard. I stub my toe and call my coffee table a dickhead. I eat steak and drink beer. I know how to do a roundhouse kick. I can do four different kinds of push up. I am a manly man. I like Footloose.

The propaganda campaign that has been running to dissuade men from watching Footloose needs to be discredited. That’s what this list is. All you musclebound testosterone bags out there have been missing out on this classic piece of tough guy cinema. Here are ten reasons Footloose is a film for men.

1. John Lithgow

John Lithgow is a man we can all look to as an example of poised, powerful masculinity. Here, Lithgow plays the troubled reverend of a small town that’s having some issues with finding a balance between ‘let young people have fun’ and ‘if we don’t clamp down now these young people will sex each other to death’. Having lost his son to a horseplay-related car accident, he’s keen to ensure his daughter takes care of herself. As a man, he knows how dangerously erotic dancing can be, so he’s a keen supporter of the town’s ban on shaking, rattling and rolling.

Of course, Lithgow is always a strong presence, regardless of the film. Here, he puts in an immense turn as an alpha male, in control of the entire town, and as a reverend. It’s a performance that is best enjoyed with a cold beer while wearing no shirt, perhaps in the company of friends who are also not wearing shirts and have had a couple of drinks. It’s cool, guys. Tops off cinema with men is fun.

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2. Kevin Bacon

My goodness, Kevin Bacon and John Lithgow in the same film? This is an embarrassment of actorly riches. Kevin Bacon gives us a different but equally important shade of masculinity with his performance as Ren McCormack. Ren is a strong willed, excitable rebel. He’s intellectual, warm, charismatic and has nice eyes. Ren’s arrival really shakes up the small town and people band around him or come together against him.

Ren inspires those close to him. He makes them better people. That’s why us men will get a kick out of watching him – because we want to be more like Kevin Bacon.

3. Chris Penn

Chris Penn was a great actor and he’s sadly missed. He’s only a young man in Footloose. Penn portrays a more traditional bad ass, at first glance at least, which is particularly helpful for those of us who rarely venture outside of the cinematic oeuvre of Jason Statham, easing us into a film that’s slightly different from, although just as manly as, what we’re used to.

Penn’s Willard is a frustrated man, but he’s actually quite lovely. He’s a proper character. That’s one of the real strengths of Footloose; in a film that masquerades as a silly dancing film, it has some terrific actors playing characters that feel more full and real than you’re probably expecting.

Willard is trapped by the idea of being a man. He’s unsure of how to display affection to his girlfriend. He doesn’t know how to dance and he’s worried people will find out. Also, isn’t dancing a little girly? He’s angry and frustrated, but ultimately very insecure. As he’s taught to dance (apparently the scenes have a degree of authenticity to them as Penn had to be taught to dance for the production) he learns to loosen up and not be so worried about what constitutes ‘being a man’. But this lesson isn’t something we need to worry about. Seriously, it’s fine. I’m not even confused. Who wants a beer?

4. Fighting

Womenfolk – if you’ve snuck into this article and have been reading our man words, take your vaginas and turn back now. If you continue to read, I’m not responsible for any effects you may feel from continuing to read, sexual or otherwise.

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The scene is this; outside of the dance Kevin Bacon has organised, Chris Penn is set upon by some local redneck bullies. He fights hard. Kevin Bacon emerges from inside. Kevin Bacon flying kicks a dude. Their girlfriends cheer them on. They brawl. They punch jaws. They kick ass. They crack skulls. They punt nuts. They hammer ballbags. They pound dongs, but in the fighting way. These guys are dick smashers! Again, though, in the fighting way. Does that sound like a chick flick to you, or does that sound like something an in-his-prime Snake Plissken would have dreamed?

5. It has a need for speed

In many ways, Footloose was the Fast/Furious franchise of its day, except that it’s a single film and some other reasons. The Footloose gang is constantly pulling off insanely dangerous high speed stunts. That’s incredibly manly, and it explains why we’ve all shaved off all of our body hair – it makes us more aerodynamic.

For a start, they all ride motorcycles to their school dance. That’s what a biker gang would do if they went to a school dance. Although I can’t help but imagine that a biker gang would be refused admission to a school dance. Honestly, I don’t know why they were even going to a school dance in the first place. They’re a biker gang – they should be fighting with chains and discussing the latest episode of Sons Of Anarchy.

The main girl in Footloose is rebelling against her strict upbringing by performing death-courting feats of physical stupidity. She’s basically the leader of a junior Sex & The City gang, complete with Sarah Jessica Parker and it’s totally fine that we’re making Sex & The City references. Stop being such a Charlotte about it. She climbs out of moving car into her boyfriend’s moving pick-up truck, while an actual, full sized truck barrels towards them. Then she almost gets hit by a train to impress Kevin Bacon. This film is completely wackadoo. It’s for daredevils and inarguably has more in common with Jackass than it does the Street Dance films.

So how do you top those mega-stunts? Tractor chicken! Intense, right? Plus it’s soundtracked by that awesome Bonnie Tyler song, Holding Out For A Hero. No, that song’s fine, enjoy it. It’s a hardman’s anthem. Sing it while you lift weights and think about Kevin Bacon driving a tractor.

6. It’s about a war on oppression! (of dancing)

Kevin Bacon is a hero. Just look at him. A magnificent, glittering hero. He is one man standing up to oppression from the authorities, whether it’s flushing marijuana down the toilet in front of his teachers or campaigning at a town meeting to get dancing made legal again. Who amongst us can’t be inspired by this impressive young man? And look at his jawline!

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7. Denim!

These guys wear a lot of denim. It’s kind of tight, but that’s cool because they have the kinds of bodies that can make it work. To be young again, right guys? That’s actually my one knock on Footloose; it makes me feel sad about the passing of my youth. Does anyone else just feel sad? I’m too tough to cry, but if any of you cried I wouldn’t say anything about it. There’s nothing about being a manly, butch, strong dude that says you can’t cry about lost youth and the denim on display in Footloose. Especially not if you’re doing pull-ups while you sob.

8. It’s about male bonding and friendship

A running theme of this film is bonding and male friendship. Chris Penn and Kevin Bacon play characters with little common ground, but they form an unlikely friendship and learn from each other. In particular, Bacon teaches Penn to dance. It’s just fun to watch.

Even Bacon and Lithgow. One of the films real strengths is that it doesn’t have a villain. Lithgow’s reverend is idealistically opposite to Bacon’s Ren McCormack, but when they talk to one other, they actually seem to get along. They’re both OK guys, with different ideas of what the right thing is. Maybe if we all took the time to hear and understand each other, being a man wouldn’t be so violent and combative. Maybe we could just talk to each other and be friends, you know? Rather than pummeling each other with our fists, maybe we could just pummel each other with friendship and understanding? Then we could build something together out of wood or fix a car or something.

9. It features touching romance

Look, I don’t have a heart of stone, OK? The romance that forms between Ren and the reverend’s daughter is incredibly fucking heartwarming. All men like romance; that men don’t is a misconception. She needs him to help her focus what she’s rebelling against and understand why she’s so angry and crazy. He needs her support, so he can be confident and help this small town embrace a more progressive, boogie-friendly attitude.

Then there’s the romance between Chris Penn and Sarah Jessica Parker’s characters. He loves her but he doesn’t like to show his feelings. He’s also embarrassed that he can’t dance and she’s frustrated because she doesn’t understand his behaviour. But he loves her so much that he learns to dance, so she has someone to dance with at the school party.

Another relationship that’s very sweet is that of the reverend and his wife. He’s all bluster and power, but when it comes down to it, he’s struggling. And when he’s losing his confidence in his conviction, it’s his wife who steps in to put him back on course and who supports him on his new path, because she’s the only one who knows vulnerable he really is. That’s how grown up relationships can work. Real men understand the value of a loving, supporting partner whose judgment you can trust. It’s a touching sub plot that’s just terrific to watch while eating beef jerky and doing squat thrusts.

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10. There is some fabulous dancing in it

I’m not much one for dancing, but the scenes in Footloose are so passionate and expressive. When these guys bust out a bop, jump or wiggle on the dance floor, they’re doing it from the heart. This is why Footloose is a film for men – because we don’t know the power of dance. We’re the ones who need to learn the joy of cutting foot loose and fancy free. We’re the ones who’ve got this feeling that life’s been holding us down. We’re the ones who would benefit from rage dancing our troubles away in an abandoned warehouse.

So there we go. Slumber party at my place, guys. Bring some steak, some beer and your PJs; we’re watching Footloose!

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