Flashdance...What a Feeling: A Song Critique Using The Hero's Journey

Published on July 4, 2019

In a previous post, we discussed the benefits of writing and implementing personal mission, vision and values statements. The next step is belief. A popular 1980’s Academy Award winning song explores the power of belief. The song is "Flashdance…What a Feeling" written by Giorgio Moroder, Keith Forsey and Irene Cara; The movie is Flashdance. Let’s go on a journey….

Flashdance unfolds like the hero’s journey documented in Joseph Campbell's book, The Hero With A Thousand Faces. The hero, Alex, worked as a welder in a steel mill and an exotic dancer, but she dreamt of attending a prestigious dance conservatory. Fashdance tells the story of Alex’s journey from fear to confidence. 

I surmise Alex’s mission, vision and values are:
          Mission – To get accepted at a prestigious dance conservatory.
             Vision – To become a successful dancer.
                  Values – Artistic expression and dedication. 

Alex's supportive mentor dies before the dance audition. Usually, the mentor leaves the student before he/she faces a major challenge. For an example, in Star Wars: A New HopeObi-Wan Kenobi physically dies before Luke Skywalker takes on the Death Star. In Spider-Man, Peter Parker felt morally responsible for his uncle's death before he accepted his role as a superhero. The hero's journey is challenging. Like Alex, Luke and Peter, most heroes are orphans. After an initial stumble, Alex successfully finished her audition, and was accepted at the dance conservatory.  

In the song, "Flashdance…What a Feeling", we hear Alex's point of view. 

Irene Cara's live performance. 

 Let's analyze the lyrics: 

First when there's nothing
  But a slow glowing dream
  That your fear seems to hide
   Deep inside your mind”
In the beginning, Alex is fearful, but she is focused on her mission, "there’s nothing but a slow glowing dream." She explains fear as something that "seems to hide deep inside your mind."

      "All alone I have cried
       Silent tears full of pride
       In a world made of steel
       Made of stone”
Alex was alone when she “cried silent tears full of pride.” Isolation is a time for self-reflection and inner work. In The Hero With A Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell states, "The Hero, instead of conquering or conciliating the power of the threshold, is swallowed into the un-known, and would appear to have died. (1949)” During the journey, it is common for a hero to barely escape death or appear to have died. This event symbolizes the risks endured on the Road of Trials. The “world made of steel. Made of stone” is a metaphor for Alex’s cold and hostile environment. Most heroes are social outcasts and feel ‘different’ from popular groups. For an example, Peter Parker and Clark Kent (Superman) are both social outcasts.

      “Well, I hear the music
  Close my eyes, feel the rhythm
   Wrap around
   Take a hold of my heart”

Despite her hostile environment, Alex focuses on her mission, vision and values. She “hears the music” which is a metaphor for self-awareness. She will “close my eyes, feel the rhythm.” Not only does Alex hear the music, but she feels the rhythm. With this awareness, her confidence will “wrap around. Take a hold of my heart.”  

What a feeling
 Bein's believin'
 I can have it all
 Now I'm dancing for my life”

The lyrics, ‘Bein’s Believin’, means Alex's behavior shows evidence of her beliefs. Talk is not enough. If you want to become a singer, then sing. If you to become an author, then write. Malcolm Gladwell popularized the 10,000-hour rule. To reach your goals, practice being the person you want to become.   

When I hear, “I can have it all, Now I’m dancing for my life”, I am reminded of what it really means to ‘have it all’. I do not believe the ‘all’ in this sense means everything because no one person can have ‘everything’. I believe ‘all’ means the enjoyment a person receives from living their best life. Now with confidence, Alex is  “...dancing for my life.” 
     “Take your passion
      And make it happen
Pictures come alive
You can dance right through your life
What a feeling”

Alex tells her audience, “Take your passion, and make it happen. You can dance right through your life.” The heroes' journey is not just about them, it is about all of us. Their stories remind us of our potential. 

“What a feeling
(I am music now)
Bein's believin'
(I am rhythm now)
Pictures come alive
You can dance right through your life”

The lyrics ‘I am’ shows Alex's full belief in her mission, vision and values: “I am music now”; “I am rhythm now”.  

      “What a feeling
(I can really have it all)
What a feeling
(Pictures come alive when I call)
I can have it all
(I can really have it all)
Have it all
(Pictures come alive when I call)
(Call, call, call, call)”

The hero's journey is about the actualization of human potential in the midst of challenges. In the beginning of the song, Alex was alone and surrounded by steel and stone. After she conquered fear and self-doubt, she believes in herself. Now Alex's vision is her reality, “Pictures come alive when I call.” And, guess what?  You can do it too! The audience is told to "call" on their dreams as well. What a feeling!

Ms. Irene Cara passed away on November 25, 2022. I will always treasure her voice and songs. 

What do you think?  Comments are welcomed.

Flashdance...What a Feeling - Lyrics from LyricFind. Google Search.

Believe in Yourself: Retrieved from https://freerangestock.com/photos/55060/believe-in-yourself-represents-believing-belief-and-confidence.html