When I was in third grade, I went to Britney Rogers’ slumber party, and we watched the movie Grease. If you’re unfamiliar with this particular film, you’re pop-culturally starved, and you’ve obviously never been a member of a Drama Club, so allow me to summarize for you:
Young, hot, cleft-chin John Travolta falls for chaste and & pious Olivia Newton John on summer vacation. It’s a hot & steamy summer romance, but she’s from Australia or New Zealand and so they break up because they’ll never see each other again. They DO see each other again, but Cleft Chin JT is a punk and he’s wayyyy more sketchy than chaste & pious Liv can handle. All around them, kids start gang fights, spike punch bowls with alcohol, and impregnate one another. Former Mouse Club King Frankie Avalon shows up as an angel at one point, and a girl drops out of beauty school. The whole thing is brimming with sexual innuendo. They sing and dance the whole stinkin’ time; John Travolta’s falsetto comes into play, and it’s probably the greatest thing that ever happened.
I wasn’t supposed to watch Grease at Britney’s slumber party, but I did it. (What a badass. (Actually, I left to go to the bathroom several times out of guilt.)) We watched teenaged delinquents pop bubblegum in teacher’s faces, stick their hands down each other’s pants, and drink milkshakes that were almost certainly unpaid for.
The credits rolled, and all the other little girls were like “Ohhhhhhhh my goooossshhhhhh!!! Awwwwwww!!!!! Everyone LOVES this movie. It’s a CLASSIC!! They’re so cute and in love. THE WORLD DOESN’T WANT THEM TO BE TOGETHER BUT LOOK AT THEM SING!!!”
And I was looking around like, “What the hell?? Sandy just gave up her innocent poodle-skirt wearing ways, and started SMOKING. She is using her BODY to get a man. She’s giving herself CANCER in order to gain social ACCEPTANCE. She’s actually faking a different ACCENT now. She’s offering up her identity in exchange for social capital through a catchy dance number that’s essentially a soul-altering sexual transaction!!! She’s a POPULARITY PROSTITUTE, you NINNIES!!!”
That scene still disturbs me to this day, as does the entirety of the film “Pretty Woman,” which is about an actual prostitute who falls in love with a man who PAYS to have SEX with her, because he has Richard Gere’s face and can play the piano.
…Don’t even get me started on Top Gun, ok?
But here’s the thing. I LOVED Grease. I did. I could not condone Sandy’s actions, but I memorized every. Stinkin. Word. To. The. Entire. Soundtrack. I checked out the Broadway Original Cast Recording at the library for half of 3rd grade (and internalized the nuanced lyrical differences between stage show and film). And my siblings, doing everything I did because I forced them to assimilate my interests and do my bidding, followed suit.
This Christmas, my youngest sister gave my fiance a Family Survival Kit (which was probably the most beautiful Christmas gift ever received and will hereafter be referred to as The Miracle of Christmas). Included in this conglomeration of tools was a DVD of 1978’s Grease.
He still hasn’t watched it, but we can always supplement the wedding vows with lyrics from “Hopelessly Devoted to You” if worse comes to worse.
Earlier this week, I had a long day at school. Burdened by sloppy persuasive outlines and springtime frenzy, I drove to my parents’ house, peeled the top off a box of Golden Oreos, and buried myself in the couch with Netflix and Grease: Live. “I can muscle through Vanessa Hudgens,” I thought, “as long as I chase with long swigs of Aaron Tveit’s soul-freeing tenor. It will be tolerable.”
But I was wrong. It was amazing. My heart exploded. Or possibly imploded because the joy and love created a vacuum. Hard to say. The Pink Ladies slept around. The T Birds ditched school. Sandy (this time played by Julianne Hough) once again gave up her personal identity for a man. It was all LIVE. And I adored every second. I felt young and stupid and rebellious and in love and thrilled about existing. I cried.
Grease is a overly-simplistic, stereotypical, peer-pressure-driven, youth-glorifying narrative, but on Wednesday, I remembered that it’s one of my all-time favorites. Why? Well, it’s fun. It’s fun as HECK to watch. They sing and flirt and scheme and showboat and wink and kiss and dance like crazy. As much as it plays to stereotypes, it’s a story about being young, anti-authority, self-exploring. As overblown as the caricature may be, it feels like high school. It’s about kids who don’t know how to navigate what they want, who they are, who they could be, and who they should be. And the nice thing about it is that in the end, the answer’s relatively easy. Your friends will be there, and you’ll always be together rama-lama-lama-ka-dingity-dingy-dong.
My mom and sister #1 love Hallmark movies, a trait that sister #2 and I find repulsive. Mom always says that the world has plenty of sad endings, and she wants her movies to have happy ones.
I pride myself on having sophisticated taste. Choral music. Classical literature. Poetry. Philosophy. But I’m not sure sometimes how important that is. It’s possible that sophisticated taste falls within the category of good, Reformed, every square inch stuff. It’s also possible that it’s just me being snobby.
I don’t know. I just know that next time I need it, I’m going to watch Aaron Tveit backflip in a leather jacket and die of happiness. Oh, those summer niiiiiiiiiihhiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiights.
Lauren (Boersma) Harris (’13) is a spontaneous, idealistic, independent, fierce, over-thinking, damaged, adventurous, ordinary megalomaniac with a healthy sense of self-worth and a high word count. She has been a teacher both indoors and outdoors; she loves improvised comedy, backpacking, and writing, even when it’s required.