With an EDM ban, Toronto gets ‘Footloose’

Six Ways to Sunday: On a moralizing ban on a music that councillors didn’t care for, plus how we should feel about the death of Archie

(Paramount/ Courtesy Everett Collection)

(Paramount/ Courtesy Everett Collection)

Welcome to Six Ways to Sunday, your weekly digest of the pop-culture talking points that matter, from this weekend and for beyond.

1. TORONTO’S EXHIBITION PLACE BANS ELECTRONIC DANCE MUSIC

Every, every day, our Lord is testing us. If he wasn’t testing us, how would you account for the sorry state of our society? For the crimes that plague the big cities of this country? When he could sweep this pestilence from the face of the earth with one mighty gesture of his hand. If our Lord wasn’t testing us, how would you account for the proliferation these days of this obscene rock and roll music, with its gospel of easy sexuality and relaxed morality? If our Lord wasn’t testing us, why, he could take all these pornographic books and albums, and turn them into one big fiery cinder like that! But how would that make us stronger for him? One of these days, my Lord is gonna come to me and ask me for an explanation for the lives of each and every one of you. And what am I gonna tell him on that day? That I was busy? That I was tired? That I was bored?! NO!! I can never let up!

That was the Rev. Shaw Moore, who installed the draconic rule in the fictional small town of Bomont that dancing was to be banned in the iconic ’80s movie Footloose. It may as well, too, be Toronto city Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti who, as a member of Exhibition Place’s board of directors, led the charge for a 4-3 vote to ban electronic dance music (EDM) events from the city’s lakeshore.

Forget for a minute what this does to Toronto’s reputation as a city; there are many studies linking the quality of available entertainment to the quality of city life. Forget the fact that this is more than likely a political move, arising from a complaint from a club (as if drugs aren’t rife there) that is aligned with Mayor Rob Ford. Forget, even, the nearly preposterous way this echoes a fictional movie. This is something that’s far more nefarious, an indication of an age gap that has decided to expand blithely, rather than narrow reasonably, of leadership that sees itself as needing to be the city’s spiritual guide. This is a moralizing ban that comes down on a genre of music and its culture, in lieu of the actual conviction to deal meaningfully with the problem, from people who wouldn’t know deadmau5 from an actual mouse. It is profoundly wrong.

This isn’t the first time a strange, new, youthful music has come up that has terrified the comforts of middle age. There was Elvis, with his terrifying devil hips; there was Nirvana, with its uninhibited lyrics; there’s rap music, all gunplay and threats. Of course, those are all merely creative choices within music, and the interesting, useful cultures that spring up alongside it–not that that matters if it doesn’t meet a sense of safety, of docility. Now, it’s EDM’s turn to occupy that space, with its massive crowds watching DJs play expansive music that courses through veins and plunges with massive drops, propulsive music that lifts and urges the body forward.

Are there issues with drugs and alcohol at EDM events? Sure, that’s a reality: but then, all events do. It’s hard to recall a rock festival where the stench of marijuana isn’t a thick pillow above the affair; people drink to excess–and then loosed onto the street–at sports events all the time. Yet we do not hear of banning, say, the Vancouver Canucks, even after a city-burning riot. And likewise, for every young person who drops MDMA before a Sebastien Ingrosso show, there are more people who go to these shows just to enjoy the music, to let themselves go, to really dance, with merely a beer or two.

You don’t have to like EDM to hate this ban. You merely have to like the freedom to produce music and enjoy different genres, or hate the times when a select group of old white men can make moralizing decisions based on opinion, or just believe the simple, reasoned position that we should not ban what we do not like, nor ban what is problematic. There’s always going to be something wrong with some genres. Nothing is perfect. But then, not all of them are going to be railed against and prohibited, though. That’s when you have to wonder why that’s happening in the first place.

You see: this is our time to dance. It is our way of celebrating life. It’s the way it was in the beginning. It’s the way it’s always been. It’s the way it should be now.

2. ARCHIE IS DEAD

We kind of never learn, eh? Here’s the general reaction to the soon-to-come death of puritan comics icon Archie Andrews: Archie is dead! Gunshots, it appears! Blood! This gets so real! How could we lose him? A piece of our innocence is gone!

Except the Archie in the main continuity–you know, the logical one where he’s barely pubescent forever–remains and will remain untouched. This is essentially news for the people reading the comic spinoff Life with Archie–and let’s be clear, that’s a tiny fraction of people still keeping up with a kid whose dramatic stakes are premised around his decades-long indecision between blonds or rich, raven-haired dilettantes.

But you know what is hopefully dead? The much-hyped way we kill off major characters. Essentially no comic book character in the DC or Marvel universe has escaped the Grim Reaper, before returning with nary a scratch; Game of Thrones is basically an exercise in tracking who slept with who and who murdered who. Now, we’re expecting it: for instance, with Mad Men‘s final season starting tonight (more on that later), the expectation is that someone’s going to die–but why do we even feel like that’s a necessary way for a narrative to end? It’s an attention grab, and we always know it, but never reject it. We ought to. Death isn’t boring, until it is.

3. JON HAMM IS … FABULOUS

Speaking of Mad Men: yes, the first episode of the first half of the series’ final season (thanks, AMC–that worked really well with Breaking Bad and no one resented you for it) starts tonight, and there’s lots to read all over the Internet about the legacy of the stylish show (including this, from a particularly handsome and talented writer at Maclean’s). But perhaps the best way to get into it is seeing the rise of Jon Hamm, a man who was once seen by casting staffers as too good-looking for most acting roles, and has since used his star turn on Mad Men into skyrocketing fame. But on a show about a rise and fall, it’s kind of wild to see Jon Hamm at 25 go on a dating show, and having the adoring whoops from the audience not go to him (and his repeating of the word fabulous) but to a weird guy with blond tips who wants to squeeze the contestant like a teddy bear. Hamm proves yet again that anything is possible.

4. FLO RIDA IS PAINT-BY-NUMBERS

Anyone who has heard Flo Rida’s music knows that it’s derivative, soulless, plastic in quality and easily replicable. So it shouldn’t be a huge surprise to find out that Flo Rida’s people, in casting about for song ideas, are basically looking for derivative, soulless, plastic and replicable songs. “Overall key with Flo Rida is to be masculine, macho, and iconic,” reads the emails leaked to Fact Magazine. Really, if anything, it’s encouraging: you, too, can be a pop songwriter! Myself, I’m working on a song called Muscles Muscles Muscles Yeah. It’s about muscles.

5. BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES

For youth of a certain age (disclosure: me), Batman: The Animated Series was a major part of growing up, paired with other great cartoons of its time (Pinky and the Brain, anyone?) In addition to being safe for children to watch, it benefited from the art-deco-inspired and sleek animation style of Bruce Timm. For Batman’s 75th anniversary, Timm is back with a gorgeous pulpy reimagining of Batman’s intercession of a kidnapping by Dr. Hugo Strange. “Is it over?” asks the damsel in the short, when Strange is invariably defeated. Let’s hope it’s not.

6. LONGFORM OF THE WEEK

March Madness in college hoops ended, improbably, early this April week, and the longstanding debate of whether college athletes should be paid for the kind of fervor and major revenue gained by the universities reached fever pitch, as usual. Fine time, then, for Steven Gofrey’s excellent longform about a “bag man,” a person who acquires the cash to lure big-name high school players to college programs, directly flouting the core of college sports: that it’s for a love of school and amateur competition.




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With an EDM ban, Toronto gets ‘Footloose’

  1. Govts at every level seem to have a fetish for minding everyone else’s morality.

    Keep religion out of it.

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