We're not all meant to be athletes (and other lessons I learned from 'Grease')
I was 11 years old the first time I saw Grease, and it took only about 15 years to realize it’s actually an incredibly weird and upsetting movie. I mean, yes, there are good points—Rizzo, the Pink Ladies’ jackets, Rizzo throwing her milkshake in Kenickie’s face. But then, on the flip side, we’ve got Danny’s terrifying friends, the fact that Sandy has to do a complete 180 to get a guy to like her, and a car that just starts flying. (WHAT?!)
So yeah: I’d say we’ve got lots to work with when talking about the things we’ve learned from this cinematic gem.
After all, via Grease, I’ve learned things. You’ve learned things. I hope the characters learned things. And if you really want to freak yourself out, think of this: if Grease were real, those 1950s teens would all be senior citizens right now. And Rizzo, of course, would be the coolest.
1. Don’t model your relationships after Danny and Sandy’s
Basically, don’t change who you are in order to appease your partner. I say this like it’s common sense, but I’ve obviously done this, and it’s a common enough thing to happen that a movie like Runaway Bride exists. (Remember? Julia Roberts’ favorite eggs are the same kind of eggs her boyfriends like.) But look: if a dude (or a dudette) doesn’t like you for y-o-u, he’s a garbage person. And yes, Danny puts on a letterman sweater to appease Sandy, but as soon as he sees her in her tights, he ditches that thing and accepts that she’s changed for him. At no point does he say, “Hey girl, this isn’t you.” Instead, he starts singing and dancing with her on a bunch of carnival activities, accepting that this is how it’s going to be: a woman will change for him. And then they will fly off in some weird, magical car and no one will think anything of it.
2. Shaming people is the worst
What was everyone’s issue with Rizzo? Like, WHO CARES if she was hooking up? Slut-shaming is horrible, and small, and incredibly damaging. Rizzo knows this because she ends up singing “There Are Worse Things I Can Do,” which was my favourite song, thank you very much, despite not 100% getting it at the time. And Sandy gets it, because while Rizzo is being judged for having an active sex life, she makes fun of Sandy for not having one. Here is, I think, the most important lesson we can take away: SOMEBODY’S SEX LIFE IS THEIR BUSINESS ONLY.
And again, you know this. I know this. Grease, I don’t think, knows this, because this wasn’t resolved in the least. Rizzo gets back together with Kenickie, who was one of the most judgmental people in the whole movie, and Sandy changes to appease social norms. So this movie? Just do the opposite. Why? Because your sex life is your business, and if somebody wants to to shame you, they can see themselves out of your life. 3. Avoid anyone Danny’s friends with
I mean, I’m sure the actors were very nice, but yikes. THESE PEOPLE. First, who was the guy who was all, “Did she put up a fight?” WHO ARE YOU? WHAT IS THIS? And all they do is flick him with a comb?! First, he should’ve been escorted to a police station because to be that laid back about sexual assault is a serious red flag. Second, why did no one shut this conversation down? “Wow guys that wasn’t cool—let’s just respect this HUMAN BEING I really liked over the summer.” But I get it, I get it: boys will be boys. Except that’s a myth, and we raise boys to be that way, and they’re not naturally like that at all. So what I’m saying is this: gang mentality is terrifying, even if it’s under the guise of Thunderbird culture. If you know dudes like those dudes, back away, slowly.
4. Frenchy is so underrated (in life and in this movie)
Frenchy is a WONDERFUL PAL. She’s kind to everyone, she’s got Sandy’s back, she’s got Rizzo’s back, she has pineapple hair, and she’s played by Didi Conn, whom I trust because she was on Shining Time Station. Also: she completely represents the crisis the majority of us all face of “WHO AM I AND WHAT AM I DOING?” (Only hers is through song, beauty school, and the realization that she might not be into the path she set out on originally.) We need to all celebrate Frenchy more. Or channel Frenchy. Or find friends like Frenchy. OR, for the millionth time, just befriend Didi Conn.
5. We’re not all meant for athleticism
And I make this my final point because when I first saw Grease, I thought, “Isn’t it funny that Danny Zuko can’t do sports?” This was because I was 11, and in my head, I thought that despite not being athletic at all, my teen years would deliver. SURPRISE SURPRISE, they did not, and it was only made worse by the fact that I didn’t have any desire to work out, let alone be part of a sports team. So while we can condemn Danny for pretty much everything he does—and I do mean everything—we can, at the very least, say “look, I get it” when he tries to dribble the basketball all fancy (aka the way I dribble basketballs).
But it IS a shame about how he ditched track so quickly. I bet he could’ve been OK at it.