The hit 1984 film Footloose was remade in 2011, not to quite the same acclaim but it has much the same spirit and both films are excellent allegories in government enforced morality.
Review of Footloose (2011)
The new kid in a small town leads a high-school rebellion against the town’s antidancing law. [Dir: Craig Brewer/ Kenny Wormald, Julianne Hough, Dennis Quaid/ 113 min/ Drama, Musical-Dance/ Government Enforced Morality]
“Guardians of the ’80s flame will approve of the production’s sincere respect for the original; church still matters, and so do Ariel’s red cowboy boots…and [Director Brewer] establishes a timeless zone in which children of all colors always yearn for freedom, and wise parents learn how to hand over the dance floor to the next generation.”
“[In Footloose ] the town passed ordinances enforcing a curfew on minors and outlawing public dancing. Alas, the town’s officials and even its pastor – played by Dennis Quaid with nary a twinkle – weren’t up on their Genesis, or else they would have realized: As soon as you tell people what they absolutely must not do, that’s all they want to do.”
How to See It
Review of Footloose (1984)
The new kid in a small town leads a high-school rebellion against the town’s antidancing law. [Dir: Herbert Ross/ Kevin Bacon, Lori Singer, John Lithgow/ 107 min/ Drama, Musical-Dance/ Government Enforced Morality]
This is a good-guy-against-bad-law story. The good guy in this case is a teenager, recently relocated from a big city to a small town. As it happens, the small town to which the young man has moved is dominated by a preacher who thinks he has not only the right but also the moral obligation to interfere in other people’s lives. Among other restrictions, the preacher (who is a part-time town council member as well) has managed to pass a law that forbids public dancing. He sees modern music and dance as immoral, sexually suggestive, and therefore dangerous.
Unlike everyone else in town, however, the teenager isn’t intimidated by the preacher or by the law. He starts organizing a public dance and openly challenges the antidancing law at a city council meeting. He is aided in his fight by the preacher’s rebellious daughter and by growing support among local teens.
Despite his heroic efforts, he loses the battle. The city council refuses to legalize dancing.
Nonetheless, he wins the war, as his arguments help to convince the preacher that his holier-than-thou morality campaign may have gone too far. And in the end, thanks to a legal loophole, everybody gets to dance after all.
This film gets points for putting legislated morality in an unsympathetic light. It’s a somewhat gentle criticism, but you can’t watch it without seeing at least the silliness of antidancing laws. It’s not bad as entertainment either, despite an overabundance of stale, small-town characters. The film has an outstanding soundtrack, featuring the title song by Kenny Loggins, which became a hit in its own right.
How to See It
More Films About: Government Enforced Morality
Wikipedia: Dancing ban
Book: Ain’t Nobody’s Business If You Do: The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes
Book: The Tyranny of Good Intentions: How Prosecutors and Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution
Book: One Nation Under Arrest: Crazy Laws, Rogue Prosecutors, and Activist Judges
National Journal: “Why Japan Has Become That Anti-Dancing Town in ‘Footloose'”
Village Voice: “Five of the Dumbest Laws in New York City”
The Salt Lake Tribune: “Who’s afraid of dancing? St. George, apparently”
National Review: “Feel Like Dancing? Beware of Tom Daschle”
Los Angeles Times: “Missouri School Board Dance Ban: Who’s Out of Step?”