June 21st, 2003
Prompted by the news that Jennifer Lopez has starred in a pop video inspired by Flashdance, film critic Armond White is appalled.
Flashdance should go down in history as the single film that destroyed modern cinema. (Snobs like to cite Star Wars or Jaws, but as Robert Towne judiciously pointed out in A Decade Under the Influence, "A very talented filmmaker had made a very good film; it's just that Hollywood followed the lessons of Jaws to a fault.") Flashdance influenced more than marketing; it changed movie content into non-content. Before its release, movie stories stayed true to social and psychological details; a recognizable or empathetic character made a movie an edifying experience. But Flashdance decimated such storytelling. The ludicrous plot about a female welder named Alex (Jennifer Beals) who longs to be a ballet dancer had about one-tenth the credibility of a regular movie. This was stretched thin when Alex practiced her avocation by moonlighting as an almost-stripper in a dingy Pittsburgh bar that featured Las Vegas-style production values. Alex didn't study, she danced pop while dreaming of ballet – an immediate fabrication of normal, real-life work ethic. That was Flashdance's contribution to the Reagan/80s go-for-it ethos, an odd combination of class snobbery and populism. It was "hot" because it looked easy; it looked easy because it was a lie. And that's because it was, essentially, an advert.
Actually, "appalled" isn't the half of it: White goes all the way from "appalled" to "disgusted" to in the space of about four paragraphs. Then he starts in on the video itself.