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Film / Flashdance

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Nope, that's not her welding outfit.

A 1983 Paramount film directed by Adrian Lyne, scripted by Tom Hedley and Joe Eszterhas (from a story by Hedley), and produced by Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer.

The film stars Jennifer Beals as Alexandra "Alex" Owens who, in quite possibly the greatest film premise ever, works as a factory welder by day and an exotic dancer by night. Her aspiration, however, is to enroll in a prestigious dance conservatory. Dreams are chased, pull chains are yanked, and tears (and sweat) are shed.

The film was a monster success (only Roger Ebert dared to slam it) and a Star-Making Role for Beals. This is partly attributed to the then-newfangled MTV, which played excerpts from the film's dance numbers on a continuous loop. In effect, Flashdance became the standard for music videos produced in conjunction with big-budget movies.

The soundtrack sold over 20 million copies and produced two hit singles, Irene Cara's "Flashdance...What a Feeling" and Michael Sembello's "Maniac", both of which have remained in the pop culture consciousness.

A series is currently being developed for Paramount+ as of October 2020.

Tropes associated with Flashdance include:

  • Age-Gap Romance: Nick is quite older than Alex. She's only recently become a legal adult, he's old enough to be an established industrialist and already gone through a divorce. Pointed out by critics who say that the age difference is WAY too big among both the characters and the actors to be believable.
  • Ambiguous Ending: Whether Alex did or didn't get into the prestigious school she auditioned for is not actually shown, though what we do get to see points towards yes.
  • Award-Bait Song: Irene Cara's "Flashdance (What a Feeling)". Notably, it was the 1983 Oscar winner.
  • Based on a True Story: The film is based on the biography of Maureen Marder. She was paid $2,300 for the right to make a movie about her life story, that ended up grossing over $200 million. Then, 20 years later, Marder filed a lawsuit when Jennifer Lopez mimicked the film frame for frame in a music video and it was discovered that she did not secure licensing rights from Paramount Studios to use the story. As Marder had signed only non-exclusive rights with Paramount, it seemed that Lopez had infringed on Marder's rights to her own life-story as well as infringing on Paramount's rights to the story in the film. The lawsuit was between Lopez, Sony, and Paramount to establish copyrights in the film. The wealthy studios and star won the case against a small, poor plaintiff of course, despite stellar representation by Marder's LA law firm.
  • Big Friendly Dog: Alex's pet is a pit bull named Grunt, but he's well-tempered throughout the film.
  • Break the Cutie: Jeanie. Alex barely manages to bring her back to sanity.
  • Building Is Welding: Alex Owens works as a welder by day justifying scenes of her doing this.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Alex hurls a rock through the window of Nick's house after she glimpses him entering a car with another woman.
  • Construction Is Awesome: There are some cool welding sequences. WHAT A FEELING!. The inaccuracy of the way welding was depicted was mocked in The Full Monty.
  • Cool Car: Nick's black Porsche.
  • The Corrupter: Johnny C. tries luring both Alex and Jeannie into being dancers in his armpit of a bar. Jeannie takes the carrot when Johnny flashes some cash.
  • Cross-Cast Role: In a weird variation, a portion of Alex's climactic audition dance was actually performed by a teenage boy! The reason? Said teenager (name of Richard Colón, alias Crazy Legs) had invented a move the producers decided to include in the performance, and they believed he was the only one who could possibly pull that one off.
  • Dancing Is Serious Business: The movie revolves around Alex (played by Jennifer Beals) pining her own entire future on her audition for the Pittsburgh Conservatory.
  • '80s Hair: Most prominently seen on the women, of course, but check out Lee Ving's pineapple forelock as the villainous Johnny C.
  • Empathic Environment: The interior of the Zanizbar has an infernal red glow.
  • Epilepsy Flashing Lights: Present during the infamous "Imagination" dance number, hence the title.
  • Erotic Eating: Alex's...erm, 'interesting' way of eating lobster.
  • Failed Audition Plot: Alex applies to the Pittsburgh Conservatory of Dance and Repertory. She goes to the audition, but she finally gives up. In the end, she applies again and she is selected.
  • Family-Friendly Stripper: Artistic dancing and the nipple-free wet T-shirts.
  • Fanservice: LOTS of it, since the main character is a pretty and very fit girl who trains a lot to be a dancer.
  • Flirtatious Smack on the Ass: Local hoodlum Johnny C both spanks and fondles Alex's derriere, because he thinks he can do as he pleases in Mawby's bar. Johnny C gets his drink poured in his lap as a comeuppance.
  • Flowers of Romance: concludes with Nick Hurley presenting Alex Owens with one dozen red roses after she finds enough courage to audition at the Pittsburgh Repertoire Company. Alex returns one rose to Nick as thanks for believing in her talent even when she was consumed with self-doubt.
  • "Friends" Rent Control: As the MAD Magazine's satire Flashdunce pointed out: how can Alex live by herself in an expensive loft (even if it's a converted warehouse)? The answer? Pittsburgh (where the film is set) holds the record for one of the lowest costs of living in the United States, a title the city's held for several decades. Most apartments and lofts that would cost thousands of dollars a month in larger cities are usually leased at a fraction of that cost.
  • Hard Work Fallacy: Underprivileged girl is finally given a chance to prove herself at a prestigious conservatory... and (maybe) gets in. To do so, she hones her dancing skills and auditions.
  • Hates the Job, Loves the Limelight: Margo confides to protagonist Alex that she used to be so proud to be a pole dancer at Mawby's, and would routinely buy glamorous outfits for that purpose. As time went on, however, Margo stopped buying fancy outfits and continues at Mawby's as a workaday job. This adds one more reason for Alex to audition at the Pittsburgh Repertoire Conservatory, rather than "pissing it all away."
  • Jaded Professional: Margo, over the years during which she worked as a pole dancer.
  • Heroic BSoD: Jeanie, when she horribly loses the skating auditions. Alex herself, when Hannah dies.
  • Improbable Age:
    • Many reviewers found it highly implausible that an 18-year old girl would be allowed to work full-time as a welder. This was another thing pointed out by MAD!
    • This goes the other way too: as the review in Ballet Monthly points out, Alex would already be too old to start a ballet career at age 18.
  • Leotard of Power: A famous, non-superhero example, especially in the Signature Scene.
  • Love Interest: Nick, who also happens to be Alex's boss.
  • Male Gaze: When a customer starts extolling the virtues of Alex's ass to his pals ("Soft... round... snug..."), the audience gets to see him groping it as well, in closeup yet. (Until she pours a beer into his lap.)
  • Married Too Young: Nick Hurley exploited the All Girls Want Bad Boys allure to latch onto a rich heiress, and rise from the Wrong Side of the Tracks to a construction mogul. However, Nick never felt comfortable with high society, and he has divorced Kate years ago. This almost derailed his romance with protagonist Alex Owens when Alex saw Nick with Kate at an opera gala. Nick later explained that this rendezvous was just making nice-nice with his ex since both are members of the Pittsburgh Arts Council. Age gap aside, he actually has more in common with Alex due to their similar backgrounds.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: Alex is stunned to learn that Hannah died in the rest home while she was away.
  • Minor Character, Major Song: Alex's fellow dancer Tina doesn't contribute too much to the plot and only has about ten lines of dialogue, but her dancing to the original song "Manhunt", is one of the film's Signature Scenes.
  • Naughty by Night: Zigzagged. Alex spends her days visiting a retired ballerina and working as a welder while dancing at a cabaret at night in font of a lusty male audience and the same is implied to be true for her friends. However, the girls seem to focus more on the art of the dancing than the sleazier parts, and it's technically a second aspect of their professional lives.
  • Naughty Under the Table: At one point, Alex Owens teases Nick Hurley by lifting one of her feet to his scrotum under the table where they're eating.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Heels is the only cabaret dancer whose real name is unknown.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Richie.
  • Redemption in the Rain: When Alex forcibly drags Jeanie out of the Zanzibar nudie bar, the two girls tearfully embrace each other in a downpour.
  • Rich Bitch: Nick's ex-wife.
  • Running Gag: Most of Tina's dialogue is fretting about her absent boyfriend ("He didn't call.") Her final scene has the two of them attending a party together and Tina happily saying, "He called."
  • Self-Made Man: Nick previously worked as a hoodlum for Johnny C. before going legit.
  • Sleeping with the Boss: Alex starts a romance with Nick, the owner of the steel mill she works at.
  • Snobby Hobbies: Nick Hurley started out as a street punk, much like Johnny C. However, he managed to charm an heiress, and married into higher society. Though the couple divorced later, both remain on the Pittsburgh Arts Council. From there, Nick is able to leverage an audition for Alex at the Pittsburgh Repertoire Company. It's also why Nick was seen with his ex-wife at the opera house: they weren't getting cozy, instead they were playing nice-nice as part of noblesse oblige.
  • So Unfunny, It's Funny: Richie, an aspiring comic, should probably stick to flipping burgers. Most of his jokes revolve around non sequitur insults toward the Polish.
  • Steel Mill: Alex works as a welder in the local mill. The mill itself isn't portrayed as horrible, it's more to show her as a messy blue collar worker to contrast with her glamorous dance act.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: When Jeanie fails her ice skating audition, Nick says she'll do better next time. Alex's response?
    Alex: There isn't going to be any next time.
  • Talent Double: Virtually all of Alex's dancing is courtesy of uncredited Marine Jahan, not Jennifer Beals.
  • Theme Tune Extended: Title Theme Tune by Irene Cara has a 7-minute version with additional lyrics, released as a 12" single.
  • Two Girls and a Guy: Alex, Jeanie, and Jeanie's boyfriend Richie.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Tina tends to wear more revealing clothing than the other cabaret dancers, while her briefly seen boyfriend is bespectacled and balding.
  • Uptown Girl: Wealthy Nick is a gender-inversion to working-class Alex.
  • What's an X Like You Doing in a Y Like This?: Nick poses the question to his Exotic Dancer cum Welder.
  • Woman Scorned: Jeanie leaves to work for the Zanzibar on account of Richie leaving her to chase his dreams in L.A. (Losing the skating auditions didn't help, either.)
  • Workout Fanservice: One scene has Alex, Tina, Jeanie, and Heels wearing spandex and working out heavily at the gym.