As an annual tradition, my roommate and I watch the 1978 film "Grease," and every year it is awful. It’s her favorite movie, but we always point out what is so very wrong with it: blatant gender stereotypes, patriarchal values, and of course, the outfits. Netflix categorizes "Grease" (and it’s even more horrible sequel "Grease 2") as Campy Movies, meaning everything in it is over exaggerated and not supposed to be taken seriously. The audience is not expected to believe that what happens in the film is what real life is like and not supposed to think that the producers or actors think that the movie’s message is legitimate. It is like when you watch a scary movie as a kid and your parents tell you that it’s all made up, and none of it would ever happen in real life. Such is the beauty of the cinema; it is entertaining but not meant for anyone to take as truth.
But for children, it is different. When you’re young, everything you see and do has some influence on the person you will become. Bits and pieces are still coming together to form the whole human being that will interact with the world later on. So, even things that are not supposed to affect you might.
As a child, watching "Grease" (because it only has a PG rating) was a great experience. There was romance, drama, conflict, singing, dancing, bright and funny clothes, and cool characters. When Sandy changes her whole personality so that Danny will not feel embarrassed to be with her, it was cute. She loved him and wanted to make him happy -- so she started smoking, added volume and curl to her hair, wore tight leather and high heels, and looked very “cool.”
From the beginning of the movie, Sandy was fun, kind, sweet and not at all hard to look at. Why was Danny so ashamed to be seen with her? Just because she didn’t dress and act like a Pink Lady? Yep, that was literally the only reason. Danny Zucko, while very pretty, was a pig. He was completely insecure and thought his girl should conform to his friends’ standards. In the end, how does Danny change to be a better boyfriend for Sandy? He joins track. That’s it, and she hadn’t even said that she wanted to be with an athlete. Meanwhile, Sandy has to pretend to be someone she’s not for the sake of Danny’s feelings.
What happens when young people watch this film? They see an unstable, unhealthy relationship portrayed as a successful one, which sends a terrible message. You can make fun of someone you like, be embarrassed to be seen with them, lie to them and make them feel awful about themselves, and it will be okay! They will change what you don’t like about them and fit into your parameters of perfection. What happened to loving people as they are and accepting flaws (not that Sandy even had any to begin with, she was way out of Danny’s league)?
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I was as confused as Putzie when this happened.
As adults, we can recognize that this film is absurd. But as kids, we see that everything worked out for Sandy and Danny and they lived happily ever after in their flying car. So what parents must decide is: does it make more sense to let kids watch "Grease" and teach them what not to do, or to not even let them see it so there's no opportunity for them to be affected? Such is the dilemma with "Grease" having a PG rating.
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