I Saw A Film!
As a teen I’d have avoided anything smacking of any kind of style, formula, or pop-artistry. I had no time for radio-music and thought dancing to be, not evil, not soul-damning, but just pointless and silly. I was a lot of fun! I basically watched Das Boot and Dune over and over in the 80s and did martial arts and drove a cargo van like a classic perp in training. Really, I just liked that I had a car I could sleep in and fit all the band gear in. I had a band, and nothing creates a Johnny Ramone attitude like struggling to be heard over the cloying, lazy radio pablum! Yes! I can still talk about all this like it were yesterday. So by the time this super popular movie about a cute girl wanting to go to dance school while being a blue collar working stiff was making its rounds, I’d already dismissed it as more-of-same. More pretty girl problems. More goals I couldn’t keep myself from dismissing and, of course, more music that didn’t sound like punk rock. Little did I know Fear’s Lee Ving stars! Not that he gets to sing, he mostly just acts a d-bag and runs the nudie girls club where it is implied the girls who give up on their dreams wind up. Naked for cash. Ooooh the horror.
Flashdance unfortunately misses the mark by a country mile because it is yet just another tale of how wealth and connection solve all the problems. Cute little Alex slaves away at her industrial metals job (some of these sequences are precious, her fluffy hair all about as she aimlessly cuts a bar of metal with a torch) while dancing in a bar at night. The iconic sequence with the chair and a bucket of water dumped on her is right up front in the film. And this is where her young and handsome boss sees her. He creeps on her, follows her, gets turned down, but won’t take no for an answer . . . all the classic red flags we know can only be thrown up if you’re rich and beautiful. Alex lets him in, and lucky for her he knows all the right people to get her her much desired audition at the the dance academy.
Now, it’s true that she was instantly upset by the fact that he pulled the strings for her. But just before she became so peeved, she’d just gotten done relishing the thought of the privileged life, having gotten seated at a fancy restaurant ahead of fifty waiting people. And despite her frustration with not getting in of her own accord, she couldn’t have as she had nothing on her resume to recommend her. They just need to see what a maniac she is on the floor.
When we were kids this film was everywhere, and it became a kind of cultural consciousness. Jennifer Beals was the hottie of the hour, but we wags enjoyed hearing tales of her having been too fat to do the dancing. Looking at this now, there’s no possibility that she was too fat. I have no idea why that rumor needed to be so enjoyable. But it was true to a degree, Jennifer had several doubles who did the dancing the leaps and the break-dancing.
Is Flashdance a bad movie? In the sense that the “follow your dream” cynically relies on her relationship with a social class that gets her where she wants to go. That she does overcome her intimidation remains as she still has to audition. Nouri’s lead doesn’t just buy her a seat at the table. There’s a limit to the advantage. Even Kurt Vonnegut (my beloved cynical author) became famous and was encouraged to write Slaughterhouse-Five because of a personal gift from a wealthy fan of his pulp works. We could argue that none of us ever achieve anything without some form of help, from child care to lucky job breaks. But there is a dark side to this American mythos, damned few us get the touch from the better off class. And it would be best if people understood that success in our world is less about our skills and ambition and much more about the luck of patronage. In the end a story about appealing to well-off patrons isn’t the American Dream we really want to engender, but, it’s much more honest than most.
This is running free on Prime (usa) if like me you managed to avoid it all these years.