Today is the release of the rebooted Footlose. Wah wah. As a big fan of the original, I'm on the fence about the remake. Especially considering the orginal was, by some measures, a Chicano film. In any case, here are some thoughts I had concerning the Kevin Bacon classic:
Last night in a bar I heard someone made a passing reference to the 1984 movie Footloose, not so much pointing out the film's politically radical theme of youth organizing themselves to fight the strictures of intolerant authority and small-town repression, but admiration, instead, for Kevin Bacon's hip and skinny ties. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Me, for instance, I always liked the part where glitter inexplicably falls down like rain during the joyous dance sequence at the end. Fellini meets fake John Hughes. Art house in the metroplex. Elements of fantasy as whimsical coda in an otherwise realistic teen movie. Very badass.
A quick revisit to said dance scene via the insta-analysis of YouTube, and I'm freaking at how Absolutely White the movie was -- with nary a suspicious person-of-color dancing about. They even managed to find probably the only two blond guys in the Greater Los Angeles Area capable of the dazzling Michael Jackson-inspired moonwalking and popping moves. Now that's some hardcore reverse affirmative action going on.
Which leads me to this recent New Yorker article, A Paler Shade of White, about how indie rock these days is pretty much a white-boy thing, a ho hum music genre devoid, lately, of black-inspired rhythm, blues, and stage presence. In other words "boring." Now, set aside the fact that almost any U.S. cultural phenom can, upon cherry picking scrutiny and agenda-driven reduction, be conveniently simplified into a white-boy thing, the thesis merits consideration.
When a friend sent me the link to the piece, I envisioned a Greg Tate-like discourse on race and rock music. Instead I got 3000 words on how "the drummer and the bassist rarely played syncopated patterns or lingered in the low registers." I will let others more musically qualified debate those finer points, these kinds of technical discussions beyond my layman's understanding (in High School I was always the guy taking pictures of the band, never the guy strumming the Telecaster). What interested me, however, was how this smart, informed, well-researched article in a national magazine was at the end of the day just another example of the simplistic Black/White paradigm that informs discussion of race in this country. The Ken Burns reading of American history and culture.
As we speak there's an exhibit in Seattle at the Experience Music Project called American Sabor. Curated by Marisol Berrios-Miranda, Shannon Dudley, and Michelle Habell-Pallan, the exhibit tells the little known story of Latinos in U.S. popular music, not just how raza may have been influenced by, say, do wop -- but how brown people in fact contributed to do wop. And punk rock. And country and western. And, yes, on occasion, indie rock. 5000 square feet of exhibition space, amazing photos, films, and artifacts, with listening kiosks breaking down the story and its focus on New York, Los Angeles, San Antonio, San Francisco, and Miami as epicenters of this musical exchange. Go here for a link to an article on the exhibit with a link to one of the narrations.
And one last word on the New Yorker article: The metrics I choose in assessing the "whiteness" of indie rock are not beats per minute or how many Willie Dixon riffs you may or may not spot in an Artic Monkey song, but a focus on the scene, the fans, the bands, and how they all interact. Check out Club 101 in El Paso. Sam's in San Antonio. Emo's in Austin. Ok. Not Emo's in Austin. That's pretty much all gringo. But you get my point. The diversity's there. And usually away from the so-called cultural capitals of America. The picture heading this post comes from a Savior Daughters show in San Antonio. Mexicans for days.
And, finally, back to the beginning: Footloose. A quick Google search for witty blog ending movie trivia and I found this Variety story reporting High School Musical I and II director Kenny Ortega is helming a remake of the original. What more can I say: Footloose transformed into a Chicano movie. Take that indie white boys.