If you're like me, you were shown this movie for the first time when you were extremely young. I must have been...what, ten? Maybe nine? the first time I witnessed the wonder and the magic that is this 1970's parody of the 1950's, and I loved it to pieces. I used to sing "Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee" in my bedroom, right before I sang both parts of "You're the One That I Want" to myself. I had a blast.
Maybe it's because we all loved this movie when we were children that there was such huge backlash against it when the film's fans grew up. You hear those songs often enough, and they suddenly become reminders of your lost innocence, and you feel sort of betrayed by the film because NO, high school is not a constant party with swing dancing and showtunes, but maybe it's a good thing that real high school isn't like Rydell because people are really awful to each other and there's sex and unplanned pregnancy everywhere, and you're constantly being told to be yourself but also that your true self is lame...
There's a lot to unpack is what I'm saying.
Grease is not a perfect film. I, however, love this movie in more than a purely nostalgic way, and it took seeing it again with some of my closest friends ten years later to really articulate why.
It's not because of John Travolta. Not totally, anyway.
"(This Whiskey Tastes Like) Grease": The Rules
1. Title Drops: Drink whenever you hear the word "Grease"
2. Drink when they drink
3. Drink for Daddy Issues
4. Drink when someone touches their own or someone elses hair
5. Drink when someone is called by their last name. It must be their real last name. "Rizzo" is a nickname. Probably.
All the above rules apply. Also...
1. Drink whenever someone drops the title of the song they are singing. If the title of that song has anything to do with "Grease", drink twice.
2. Drink for sexual innuendo.
All the above rules apply. Also...
1. Drink when someone laughs at another's expense.
2. Drink for things that aren't things anymore.
Krissy: Hopelessly devoted to this movie (Medium)
Pooh Daddy: Played Danny Zuko in high school (Easy)
Bride of Buggerlas: Played Roger in an all-female production in middle school (Easy)
Dame Poppy Middleton: Thinks watching this movie is the Worst Thing You Could Do (Medium)
Big Moose: Got chills. They were multiplyin'. (Hard)
Dijan de Nero: Felt sympathy for Eugene (Hard)
Shirley Whiskas: As sexy as Cha-Cha, and much less stereotypical! (Hard)
A Little Bit Queer
Let's look at some examples. Dame Poppy, straight cis-gender girl, had a very difficult time finding anybody in this film attractive. Granted, much of this was due to her utter, intense disdain for this film and everything it represents, but even objectively speaking, she thought she could do much better than young John Travolta.
"I think Rizzo was the first woman I was really attracted to and didn't know it," said Bride of Buggerlas, and who can blame her? Stockard Channing, although she is obviously much too old to play a high-schooler, KILLS it in this movie. She's tough, she's funny, she knows how to use the color pink as a weapon, and she's probably the most sexual character in the film. It's a thin, thin line, especially when you're pubescing, between "I want to be this person" and "I want to sex this person", and Rizzo easily falls square on that line.
What Do You Call It ... Consent?
At its core, "Grease" is the story of two people from wildly different social worlds attempting to reconcile the strong feelings they have for each other with the way the rest of their world perceives them. Danny is clearly crazy about Sandy, but he's unable to express his feelings honestly because his cool image won't allow it. Sandy wants to have fun with Danny and the Pink Ladies, but her preppy, Pollyanna persona won't allow that. They each have to shelve their hang-ups about the masks they wear in order to get what they want: a date with the person they like. Trouble is, the consequences of those transformations have much larger implications for Sandy's life than for Danny's.
"Grease" is an interesting film because despite its setting and all the gender baggage that comes with it, most of the female characters are autonomous and active. Rizzo and her Pink Ladies have control over their sex lives, and as a result the boys have a strange kind of respect for them. Rizzo gets space and room to speak in a way that Sandy, who follows the rules and tries to be conventionally attractive, does not. So maybe Sandy's transformation at the end of the film isn't an act of assimilation; it's an act of self-preservation. By becoming a woman who's tough and says what she means, she becomes a person who gets what she wants instead of bending over backwards to please everybody.
So...in that sense...is "Grease" at least a little bit feminist?
For what it's worth, I haven't taken any kind of gender studies class, so this isn't grounded in any real theory. But I would totally attend a gender studies class if they used this movie as course material. I want a detailed examination of interpersonal relationships between two men as exemplified by Danny and Kenickie!
Where Are They Now?
They would all look back on their time at Rydell high as a beautiful time in their history, truly the best years of their lives. And they would thank God that most of them weren't in "Grease 2".
Drink when Someone Puts Something in their Mouth
Usually it's cigarettes, but people eat a lot in this movie too. It probably symbolizes carnal desire. Pooh Daddy points out in one scene where Danny is surrounded by the T-birds that he is the only one NOT eating, a detail I think is really cool.
Drink when Someone is Treated Badly by the Opposite Sex
Everyone is mean to each other. Usually to hide sexy feelings.
Drink for Veiled Homoeroticism
Draw your own conclusions here, don't just take my word for it.
For Your Inebriation is written by Krissy Pappau (Hollis Beck). All "Grease" images and videos are owned by Paramount Pictures.