Now that the seminal 70’s musical Grease is being run ad-nauseum on ABC Family Channel and Summer Lovin’ has been remixed for the dance floor of every wedding reception you’ve ever been to, people seem to have forgotten that the movie is fairy subversive when it comes to modern morality and social morays.
“Subversive” be damned; it’s downright hedonistic.
If you remove all the upbeat song and dance numbers and then boil the plot down to its most basic elements, you’re left with something like the following:
In a 50’s era highschool, a band of society-spurning renegade teenagers and their group of kept women have unprotected sex, stage dangerous automobile races, and engage in underage drinking with utter abandon. As one teenager comes to terms with her own teenage pregnancy, another outcast drops out of school amidst confusion and indifference about her lackluster future. Yet another must deal with the advances of a pedophile television host with a dangerously aggressive sense of entitlement. The boys callously ruin reputations by spreading tawdry rumors about sexual conquests that never happened (Summer Lovin’, indeed), while the girls deride each other with cruel disdain. And in the midst of all of this depravity, all eyes are on Sandra Dee, a wholesome outsider who must shed her comfortable skin by changing her appearance, subverting her morals, suppressing her own personality, and hyper-sexualizing her persona in a desperate attempt to keep the man she thinks she loves.
Kids, get the popcorn!
But if you look at it through slightly more forgiving eyes, Grease depicts real issues of real teenagers that most movies gloss over with saccharine sentimentality and unrealistically altruistic outcomes. Grease is different. The teenagers act like teenagers and learn lessons like teenagers and act like teen-aged idiots, and in the end the outcome does not exactly teach the lessons that your mama wants you to learn. By adding in song and dance numbers, Grease also gets the “wild, frivolous heyday of youth” aspect spot on as well. It’s all just a party to kids. It may seem goofy, but it’s probably one of the more realistic portrayals of stupid teenagers in all of film history.
And don’t feel sorry for Sandra Dee. Lord knows there are a lot of Betty-Sues and Sandra-Dees in the world — goody-two-shoe fuddy-duddies who are unable to let their hairs down. You’re only young once, and Sandy had some catching up to do. Good on her.
The morality of Grease is effing awesome.