Friday, January 14, 2011

i'm the one that i want

When I first saw Grease I was a teeny bopper—the ideal audience. I'm not sure if it was nascent or in-born feminism, but I was always pissed off at the end of the movie when Sandy appeared, all tarted-up, to win the heart of Danny Zuko. She didn't have to do that. She already had him. I wasn't a (too) naive kid. I didn't want or think she would remain a virgin for long. My disappointment in Sandy was that I felt that she had caved, had given up a big part of her identity. Hell, it was the last day of high school. That's when you can stop trying to fit in, trying to dress like the rest and go out into the real world and find out who you really are.

Frenchy: Men are rats, listen to me, they're fleas on rats, worse than that, they're amoebas on fleas on rats. I mean, they're too low for even the dogs to bite. The only man a girl can depend on is her daddy.
Many years later and my almost seven year-old loves this movie. She loves to sing and dance along to lots of musicals, from classics like On the Town to more recent fare like Rent and Hairspray. I didn't think too much about my own personal issues with Grease at first, because I know from personal experience that the more mature themes in movies sail over a young child's head. My daughter is primarily connecting to the fun, exuberance and sassiness of the musical numbers. But even if she doesn't pick up on Rizzo's near-miss pregnancy scare or the finer points of Summer Lovin' there is still something about Olivia Newton John's climactic physical transformation that is unavoidable. It's visual. Images are much more powerful than words.

As I watch that scene today I realize that I am not as put off by it as I was when I first saw it. Maybe I was being a little too quick to judge Sandy by appearances. She is playing dress-up, for sure, but I shouldn't assume that she has tossed out all her dresses and crinolines, just as Danny won't perpetually wear his letterman's sweater. Maybe I could read the scene in a more feminist way. Sandy has observed the behavior of Danny and his friends, both male and female, and has decided to visually fit in, at least long enough to reunite with Danny, to show him that she is capable of fitting in. The funny thing is that her transformation, aided by extremely unskilled aspiring beautician Frenchie, is not too far from what was predicted by Frankie Avalon's guardian angel in the song Beauty School Dropout. Frenchie really can't help but go for the tacky:

Well they couldn't teach you anything,
You think you're such a looker,
But no customer would go to you unless she was a hooker!
Danny reacts immediately, lustfully, but it is Sandy who has the upper hand throughout the You're the One That I Want penultimate dance number. She is showing him and everyone that she is a sexual being who knows what she wants and is in control. She already has Danny's love, now she is just showing him that she can meet him in the sexy department, too. In fact, her look is much more sexy than any of the other aspiring sex bombs in the Pink Ladies.

Frenchy: What do you guys think of Sandy? Do you think we can let her into the Pink Ladies?
Rizzo: Nah, she looks too pure to be pink!

Danny fell in love with a sweet girl at the beach the summer before. He's obviously happy to see a glimpse of whore in his Madonna, but it's doubtful he'd want that 24-7. When Danny and Sandy's car literally takes off at the end of the movie and floats into the clouds which is the fantasy—their future or their time in high school?

Quotes from imdb
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