It is a fairytale kind of spectacle or anti-spectacle in a spectacle, if that is a thing. Anti-spectacle in the sense of changing of the perspective towards gender, class, work and art, romantic is the spectacle, a pattern we expect. The spectacle we are used to seeing and thinking in terms of movies and in general how class, work, gender and art function and are, are thought to represent and be like. The American dream in this case where a beautiful young woman reaches out for her dream, a place in the sun and ends up getting more or ‘all’, a romantic relationship with a Man with a Porsche, who is also the owner of the factory where Alexandra, the woman in question, works at as a welder. One big plus of the movie is it does not highlight the work Alexandra does, welding is just work with men as co-workers, it makes the movie hugely more interesting though, and her the one who lives outside the box and is allowed to do so. She is not harassed by her co-workers, her abilities are not questioned. It is truly a beautiful setting, which her choice of work, most definitely would be seen weird still today.
To explore deeper into what the movie is all about is worth our while as it has been deeply overlooked as many romantic movies that are meant for women usually are. To pay attention to details, characters, camera shots, what is being looked at and told via tensions between women and men and why those tensions exist. What happens between the sexes, between women especially, what are sexes both expected to do, look and be like. Movie is a language as is dance as is sex, sexuality, clothing and gender. You have to focus on to read it all and actually think what are we looking at, what happens there and why all the time. It is not just an entertaining show where you can relax and forget what is going on, this is told via contrasts between sleazy bars, working men and art, how women are treated in different settings and how these settings differ, how women want to be treated and what do they desire of their lives to be. Movie is never just a movie that is meant to entertain, not even those that are made for that purpose, nor is music or the dance acts that seem to be out of place. Point is easily missed when the romantic is what stays interesting and in the focus.
In a bar where ambitious fit and talented dancers show their art, act for paying customers who are watching and are a bit amazed by the unexpected shows. Contrast is also to the other bar where dancing is not the primary interest of anyone, only nude female bodies, that move in a certain way. Women are dancing for money but in a show-your-ass-kind of way, but they still want to be discovered and dream of making it. What are people watching and why, who gets attention? Watching happens for instant gratification, simplicity of getting pleasure cheap and for fun. A bar is a world of something else than the workplace and not a place of thought, burdening oneself. Customers of the bar are not the assumed ordinary art lovers, but that is the point. Why should people be provoked to think more than is necessary, why not give them what they want? To whom is art for and why is it a class issue? What is art and where is art, who is capable of art and why it is a special occasion in a special place? High and low seem to be repulsed by each other, classes stay separated like oil and water. The dance acts, art and artists, are really in the right place. Intention of the movie is not to depict a straightforward story in a manner of this is what happens: this is what we dream of happening to us. It is not a children’s story and it is not pink. It seems light, but is heavier when one starts exploring. That are the expectations and frame women are supposed to fit in, want, act upon and are shown in the movie, that those who dare, can change the game. There is social critique hidden there to be found.
To say Flashdance is a feminist movie is not quite what a true movie lover might expect. What do you think about the turn, that a seemingly light Hollywood movie is feminist in a very kick-ass way and about the structural difficult issue of choosing how to get ahead in life, on one’s own terms and talent, and not sleeping with the boss or buddy who has connections. What do you think about when after having seen and evaluated for example the scene where Alexandra goes and finds her friend who has gone to work as a stripper, moving herself in conventional stripper manner, she is grabbed off the stage by Alexandra and escorted out. In the scene Alexandra’s clothing and standing position compared to her friend tell a lot when friend the stripper ends up in a puddle on street wearing only panties and high heels and is cold. Money, she earned gets wet in the rain on the pavement. Alexandra’s loose pants and sneakers when she stands firmly behind the naked woman who has fallen down and sold her body for money to please men may seem easy and naive, but it is something very basic, a woman on the ground beaten down feeling there is no other opportunity for her.
After having read couple of critiques about the movie and clearly many have missed the point: When one is an art critic it is essential to see behind the expected, the image and be free of bias. What is the seen image telling us, what happens without words, what is the setting and who are the characters, what do they do. Do you need more clues, because explaining has to be done also in a very basic manner, obviously also for critics. When you are an art critic, don’t fall for the simple clichés. Such poor analysis destroys a lot, as does arrogance, assumptions and cynicism. Minimizing culture that is aimed at and is about women and girls is a normal practice. It is a learned reaction which comes without thinking. A black woman eating a banana in a scene where women talk about relationships, well sounds as cliché as anything, but it happens in couple of seconds, and is easily missed, but telling. To make it as you with your raw capabilities, without handouts and favours..
Flashdance, is a feminist movie https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flashdance in which woman does work as a welder and pursues her dream to become a professional dancer, also in which women help each other, face sexual harassment and deal with it by acting out, consequences lurking there and threat of violence is almost a certainty. To oppose men means you have to be one and be prepared. Movie portrays different kinds of female roles, a gallery of different kinds of women. The expectations of what women should be like, playing with stereotypes with which women struggle and hold on to as coping mechanisms. They may be afraid to go against the machine or don’t know how to or should they, and those who do not fit in the accepted roles especially, seem to be out of sync or do what they need to do despite whatever. Interesting are the different kinds of female characters there, how there are systematic learned rules of behaviour that stick, codes for genders and how these codes are taken for granted. How women portrayed are in their places and obviously struggle and lack power. They try to move on up as do men, they have dreams. Men try to move inside women’s panties and sex is clearly a very basic tool of control and making it. It is the first thought, easy way out, a getaway car and motive. World of art is a dusty stagnant relic too, which needs heavy dusting. Alex, the leading women, is afraid to enter this monument of perfected trained fragile-looking fairy-like ballerinas and primadonnas. She want’s to make it on her own with her own credentials with her talent and does not need a man to do that for her.
Real life is stranger than fiction says this welder.
“I have a friend who has a simple test for a movie: Is this movie as interesting as the same things would be, happening in real life? A lot of movies aren’t, and “Flashdance” sure isn’t. If this movie had spent just a little more effort getting to know the heroine of its story, and a little less time trying to rip off “Saturday Night Fever,” it might have been a much better film.”
Reviews and critiques strongly reflect the persona of the critic who is writing. For some reason in this case feminist perspective does not shine through. Wonder why.