Footloose: Prove It

Footloose 2011

The Footloose remake is out on DVD. It doesn’t matter if I’ve seen a movie in the theater, I’ll still watch it at home because it’s the second or third time through that I go beyond being entertained, to gleaning truth from the story. There’s truth in every story if you search it out.

The last time I watched the Footloose remake, one scene jumped out at me. Ariel is with Chuck (boo – hiss) and he calls her a preacher’s daughter. She’s his rebel child.

“I’m not a child,” she says.

“Prove it.”

Zing. Now, in this scene Ariel is reveling in the notoriety of being with Chuck, the danger, the forbidden-ness of that relationship – and he plays on that. Even if you haven’t seen the movie, it shouldn’t be a big stretch to imagine how he expects her to prove it to him. But in the greater story, she’s out to prove a lot of things — to her dad, her friends, and herself.

Watching that scene as a parent, the idea of a guy doing that to one of my girls makes me fighting mad, and I’d like to think I’m raising my son to respect women.

But more than that, as a woman, I remember the times guys have said it to me, and filling up with shame until I was flushed with it. The words tear a hole. It’s a slap in the face.

Here’s a clip from the movie – it’s not the scene I’m mentioning above – but if you haven’t seen the movie this gives you a good idea of her character.

When said in a serious way, the words “Prove It” sting – doesn’t matter who says them or why. Sometimes being told to ‘prove it’ is legitimate like in a new job situation. A lot of jobs begin with a probationary period – your opportunity to Prove It to your employer. As a freelance writer, my next job generally depends on the success of my last job – the results, the payoff. Did I do what I was asked to do, what I said I could do.

However, all too often this phrase is used as an ultimatum. It’s used as a dare. It’s a tool to shame someone into doing something they’re not comfortable with. And here’s the conundrum – rising to the challenge rarely leaves you feeling good – just used. But once used against you successfully, the taunt becomes the proverbial bad penny and it cuts like a blade each time after that. What’s the big deal? You did it before. And at some point, your protests become meaningless even to you.

Sometimes it’s not even said out loud, but by the other person’s body language or attitude we hear that shame-filled whisper in our ears none-the-less. You’re really a writer? Prove it. You love me? Prove it. You’re not afraid? Prove it. You really want this promotion? Prove it.

And sometimes we say it to other people.

You never…

How am I supposed to believe you after…

It’s most powerful when uttered by those in a position of authority over us – perceived or real. The guy you just can’t live without. The crowd behind the bully. It’s intimidation. You’re a chicken. We really do love that guy. I’m not a tease.  We really need that promotion. We’ll see what you’ve got. Sometimes we feel the need to prove it to ourselves. I’ll show her.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”-Eleanor Roosevelt

The antidote – the inoculation, if one exists, is likely a mixture of self-assurance, respect, and courage. But sometimes, there are lessons you just have to learn the hard way.

Have you seen this movie? Were there any ‘lessons’ in it for you? Ever felt you had to prove yourself – rightly or wrongly? How did that work out?


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  1. says

    You are so right Lisa! That phrase is so powerful and we can use it against ourselves or let others use it against us if we aren’t careful. And this is a reminder I needed right now! I don’t need to prove anything to anyone when I know what is right for me! So, I’m going to stop trying to prove it to anyone. Thanks for that! As for the movie, I haven’t seen the remake. But I don’t understand why the guy in the Kevin Bacon role looks like he is from the 1950’s if it’s supposed to be a modern remake?
    Emma Burcart recently posted…Putting Myself Out There

    • says

      Glad you enjoyed the post. As for the Kevin Bacon character – he’s just wearing jeans and a t-shirt. They did update quite a lot of it – but there’s a couple of scenes I wish they’d left in. Of course.

  2. says

    Wow, that post just brought back a few bad memories. shudder. Yep, it cuts like a knife all right. We learn though. Eventually we just smile and walk away from the bullies. That’s a game that needs two people to play, so if we walk away, game’s over.
    Wish I’d known that fifty years ago.
    Great post, thought provoking.
    Prudence MacLeod recently posted…New Book Just Out

    • says

      Well – sorry I brought back bad memories. I’ve been told I do that a lot. Onward and upward. That scene dredged up a few memories I’d rather forget too – but if we forget the bad sometimes we forget the lesson too. At least, I do.

  3. says

    I’ve felt the need to prove myself countless times. I imagine every writer and journalist does.

    When people dismiss my work, research or experience, it can make it tough to observe or savor the positive feedback and support. Fortunately, I find that there’s much more of the latter and have developed coping mechanisms. LOL Any criticism or judgment pushes me to work even harder, learn even more. I remind myself that attacks (for lack of a better word—though sometimes, it happens) from others aren’t often personal. They might reflect insecurities of the challenger, or experiences they feel passionate or even pained over.

    Love this post, Lisa! Because of you, I’m adding Footloose to my movie queue. 😉
    August McLaughlin recently posted…In Support of GM Food Labels

  4. says

    Hey, Lisa. I think you are right to point out that “prove it” has different impacts depending on the context. Sometimes it’s a matter of professionalism and other times it’s a matter of character–related but not the same thing. Unfortunately our best lessons often come from our most awful mistakes. I know with my daughters I often wish they would just adopt some of my experience as their own, but I know they will have to forge their own paths too.
    Kecia Adams recently posted…Lucky 7 Writing Share! Yipes.

    • says

      I console myself by saying that I’m not repeating my parents’ mistakes – I’m making all new ones :) Some lessons you have to learn the hard way – but when you have good support recovery can be easier. IMHO

  5. says

    I haven’t seen that movie, but like you, I enjoy watching movies for the messages in them, the deeper truth than just the entertainment. As a writer, I often feel like I do have to “prove it” to some people – that they won’t believe I’m a writer until I hand them my published novel. Yet I know that I’m a writer, that I’m pursuing this dream, even if I’m not doing it in ways that other people expect me to do that. So I think as you say, we need to be comfortable in our own skins, confident in what we are called to do… and sometimes we can prove it and sometimes we can walk away from that challenge.
    Bonnie Way recently posted…A Blogoversary Party!

    • says

      Yes – I get that too. Oh – you’re a writer. What have you written? Since I can’t respond by saying I’ve written a best selling novel I’m left feeling like a failure. Sometimes you’re the only one who believes in your dream. Keep writing.

  6. says

    Hi Lisa,

    Prove it. Hmm. That dare to me borderlines on a bully phrase. That bothers me. It’s one thing if I want to prove something to myself, but for someone to say it that way turns me off.

    I mean we all in some form or another need to prove ourselves to others. But to be told that has a negative context. Just sayin’. :)
    Karen McFarland recently posted…Perform in a Springtime Melody!

    • says

      There’s definitely an element of threat, of a bully to it isn’t there. A song by Kenny Rogers comes to mind – The Coward Of The County. Sometimes you walk away – and sometimes you’ve gotta stand up and fight back.

    • says

      It’s hard to know when to stand up for yourself and when to walk away. Often, I feel like whatever I chose – I should have done the opposite. lol

  7. says

    I say that to my work kids- they lie a lot so when they tell me they’re sorry (for doing something for the millionth time) I say prove it. If you’re sorry you’ll change your behavior. Or I won’t____ and I say prove it- show me. I try not to say it too nasty, but I’m a moody bitch some times.

  8. says

    It does smack of schoolyard bullying. You’d think as adults we’d refrain from rising to the dare, but in many ways, it gets more subtle with age, like in the office, as you pointed out. Thought-provoking post, Lisa!
    Debra Eve recently posted…Who’s Bill Gates’ Favorite Teacher?

  9. says

    I hope I’ve taught my daughter the right thing: When a guy says ‘prove it’, she does by kicking him in his Crown Jewels :)

    Great post!

  10. Monique Liddle says

    I have not seen the remake of this film, but saw the original in the theatre when it starred Kevin Bacon. I thought the movie raised many important issues, including the relationship between a father and a daughter. In the original movie, the father demands that Ariel prove her self-worth as a faithful daughter by believing in the world the way he did: that she needed to be protected from the world’s evils by a stronger man (even though he married a woman who, in her own gentle way, would prod him to think more as he had done when he was younger).
    I, too, have struggled with a father who has asked me many times to prove my love to him by being more like him in his worldviews and actions. But like Ariel, I’ve had to find my own path in life – mainly because ever since I was a little girl, my father also taught me to think for myself and not be just a follower. Therefore, through my mid-20s until my early 30s, I’ve had to fight against my dad’s way of “Do this, or I will withhold my respect from you,” and instead listen to his other advice and form my own opinions based on my values and ethics.
    Now that we are both 10 years older, I have learned to understand my father in light of from where he got his values and the fact that he has held these values for 60 years. However, there has been acceptance of each other from both of us. My father has learned that to protect me may not be in my best interest and that I have to live my own life to be an adult. He no longer asks me, either verbally or through body language, to prove myself to him or anyone else. I am a fortunate person to be the daughter of the father I love and like.

  11. says

    Good points, Lisa. I was never very good about standing up for myself. I hope my daughter is better about it. I hope I am better as a parent than I was for myself. I think I still have the tendency to slink away when it’s my rep on the line. I’m not crazy about confrontation, something that needs to change – at least a little.
    Debra Kristi recently posted…Hit by the Lucky 7! BAM!

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