Holding Out For A Hero: The Legacy of a Song

A somewhat popular cult movie with a very good soundtrack was the catalyst for a song that — like a bad penny — keeps turning up. Thirty-five years later, Holding Out For A Hero is still around and being used by fans and filmmakers.

Image for post
Footloose (1984); Kevin Bacon plays a game of “tractor chicken” to the song Holding Out For A Hero.

Origin Story

Footloose didn’t exactly take the world by storm in 1984. As the decades peeled away, the movie earned a sort of cult-like status; largely thanks to the musical soundtrack that accompanied it (many hits are still mainstay staples of adult pop music ; Almost Paradise is still played at weddings and you’ll still hear Let’s Hear It For The Boy on the radio) — and of course the staying power of Kevin Bacon.

The story of a city boy forced to move to a small town and subsequently fall in love with the hard-ass preacher’s daughter …? A town where dancing is forbidden (makes kids have sex, you know; by the way — based on a series of real events that happened in Elmore City, Oklahoma) and having a prom dance to pop dance music of the 80s is the only solution to break the town out of its spell.

Listen, it’s what we had.

The film would rack up $80m domestically which is a pretty decent score for a $8m budgeted film. The movie would get a country-music-slant edition in 2011 (guess what? Nobody ever talks about that version …)

The original film continues to be embedded in pop culture; including popular shows like Modern Family and Family Guy.

Alright, so the scene in the film featuring the song is probably one of the more memorable ones to me. I was a fifteen year old boy and having moved around a lot — once into the sticks of northern Idaho;

Ren McCormack and I had a lot in common.

But I never got into a game of “tractor chicken” to win the hand of Lori Singer.

But I have done a lot of things to the Bonnie Tyler song, Holding Out For A Hero.

Through The Years: Plugging Stuff

The song has been used for pretty much everything. I will share with you just a few highlights.

For selling cologne (Hero — 1988)

Doritos Potato Chips

The car manufacturer KIA used it with Melissa McCarthy:

Arby’s used it to plug their 2 for $6 Gyros (get it?)

Paramount used it to plug a line of action movies: (I love this one)

How about the Minnesota Twins? Yep …

… and of course, it is good to use to sell beer.

But Holding Out For a Hero doesn’t stop with advertising. It likes to appear in movies too.

Hero Goes To The Theater

In addition to the film it was made for (and the forgettable remake in 2011), the song has popped up in several other films over the years. This list was taken from Wikipedia but I think there are a few missing.

Seems like a long time ago?

Well — 2019 sees another anticipated film using the song prominently in its promotion.


The Weird Video Subculture

I first saw this strange … subculture … surrounding Holding Out For A Hero in 2012 when “Captain Paul Highwind” on YouTube release a mash up video of The Avengers set to the Bonnie Tyler rendition of the song.

You can find dozens of “super hero tribute” videos using Hero as the musical bed on YouTube. You pick the hero, the time frame — it exists. Check this one out:

Yes of course there is a Star Wars one. Duh.

For those of us in our forties … this one is for us.

In fact, I was so inspired by this subculture — I spent over a month (probably well over 100 hours) taking what is one of my favorite games of all time and making a video.

I thought I was going to stop when I got to my own video. I lied. Here is one more.

Update March 2020: It seems last year a “new” game came out for the Commodore 64 home computer (right, THAT one) called Mancave. What do you think the opening number was?

Sick of the song yet? We’re almost done here. If you’re not sick of it yet — here is a link to a YouTube search that will keep you busy for many hours.

Where do we go from here?

After thirty-five years, Holding Out For A Hero is still part of our social order.

As a social order we may never claim we love the song. We may laugh at our friends and family if they say they enjoy it.

But something keeps the song alive and well in our culture. Maybe everyone needs a hero.

By the way, the song lives on just fine in virtual reality; both in the immensely popular Beat Saber and the up and coming Synth Riders.

I’ll leave you with the official music video (oddly, contains no Footloose footage which was uncommon at the time) and you can marvel in contrast to the er, more amazing things that people have done with the song over three decades later.

Written by

I write, blog, record and review anything that interests me — including humanity, parenting, gizmos & gadgets, video games and media.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store