The Best Reason to Skip the <i>Footloose</i> Remake

At the end of September, Paramount began advertisingon the in-school TV network Channel One News. That means for 5.5 million students, watchingcommercials is a compulsory part of the school day.
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You probably don't need another reason not to see the latest version of the Footloose, which opens in theaters this Friday. After all, do we really need to remake every piece of pop culture for which we have the slightest tinge of nostalgia? If you liked the original, it's easy enough to find and watch it again. If you didn't, it's unlikely that substituting Kenny Wormald for Kevin Bacon is going to change your mind.

But if you happen to be considering plunking down $10 to see the movie, here's why you shouldn't: Paramount Studios is using your taxpayer-funded school time to advertise the film to a captive audience of students. At the end of September, Paramount began advertising Footloose on the in-school TV network Channel One News. That means for 5.5 million students, watching Footloose commercials is a compulsory part of the school day.

For more than 20 years, Channel One News has forced students to watch a 12-minute daily newscast that includes two minutes of ads. As the late, great Neil Postman wrote in The End of Education, Channel One represents "the first time, to my knowledge, that an advertiser has employed the power of the state to force anyone to watch commercials." Schools showing Channel One lose a full week of instructional time each school year to the broadcasts. A full day is lost to just to the ads.

And that's only counting the actual ads. The network also gives its advertisers the opportunity to integrate their commercial content into Channel One's broadcasts. So to promote the film Kung Fu Panda 2, the film's star Jack Black hosted a Channel One "news quiz" about pandas while not-so-subtlety plugging the movie. More recently, the September 28 Channel One broadcast kicked off with Julianne Hough, who identifies herself as a star of the upcoming movie Footloose, introducing the show while sitting in front of a poster from film.

I asked Paul Folkemor, Channel One's Sr. Vice President for Education, what the educational value was in having Ms. Hough introduce the show, but -- not surprisingly -- he refused my repeated requests for comment. It's hard to defend the indefensible.

It's past time to put an end to Channel One's 22-year reign in schools. And one of the ways we can do that is by shaming -- and shunning -- those advertisers that push their products on a captive audience of students. So if you absolutely feel the need to cut footloose this weekend, I hope you'll stick to the DVD of the original. And save your trips to the multiplex for those movies that are not force-fed to children in school.

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