Grease Make Sense in Today’s World?

April 29, 2019
Grease is one of those immortal movies that people keep enjoying over time, a film whose songs everyone knows the lyrics to. However, from today's standpoint, it can be a bit harder to watch. Is it outdated?

People have recently been talking a lot about past songs, movies or books that, from today’s standpoint, are no longer innocent or politically correct. What should we do in these cases? Do we stop listening to those songs that slowly became part of our lives? Do we boycott our favorite movies?

Today’s society won’t give a free pass to racist, homophobic, or sexist films. But if we disregard old movies, then we’d be losing a part of our history and culture. After thinking it through, I decided to watch one of my old favorite movies: 1978’s musical and romantic comedy, Grease, by R. Kleiser.

Grease set some trends: people copied the actors’ outfits and haircuts, sang their songs, and it even has a sequel, as all successful movies do. Not many films can relate to those achievements and to having an immortal best-selling soundtrack album.

After re-watching it, I was surprised to realize that, although many years had passed, I still remembered most of the dialogues and lyrics to the songs. But it was also surprising that the love story was no longer attractive or convincing to me. Perhaps, all I have to do is go back to the context and time it was released in to enjoy it.

Films, like art in general, are subject to standards that change over time. Grease was an outstanding success in its time and it has been so for a long time. But, if a movie like Grease were to be released today, it wouldn’t have the same impact and it would surely be controversial.

In this article, I’ve set out to give it a second chance and analyze it from a current-world perspective, to see how our taste, films, and standards have evolved.

Grease is the time, is the place, is the motion. Grease is the way we are feeling.

Grease: taste against quality

It had been a long time since I watched the movie and although I practically remembered everything, I didn’t recall it being such low quality. Costumes and settings give out a nostalgic “fall-in-love” vibe: Grease was already vintage for its time. But if we talk about the plot, the characters, and quality in general, it really leaves much to be desired.

The story couldn’t be simpler: two teenagers fall in love on summer break. They both know that once summer’s over, they won’t see each other ever again. But Cupid does his job well and so, they just happen to go to the same school.

When they meet for the first time after summer, Danny brings out his dark side, Sandy gets disappointed and then everything else unravels. I don’t think it’s necessary that I explain the plot much more since it’s such a classic. From my point of view, the dialogue starts unbearably cheesy and stays like that throughout the whole movie.

Most actors were over 20 years old and it shows, so credibility isn’t the movie’s forte. The girls dressed in pink, boys all in black… Is it a coincidence? I don’t think so. The gender gap is well defined; all it takes is listening to the song called Summer Nights to realize the intention: girls are romantic and superficial; whereas guys only think about sex.

Grease wanted to be a fun innocent movie, it didn’t want to offend anybody, it just adjusted to what people liked at the time. What was acceptable once, can turn into something offensive and controversial; Grease is no exception. But although it’s outdated, it’s still quite entertaining. 

A timeless soundtrack album

One of Grease’s strong qualities is, without a doubt, the soundtrack album. Unforgettable songs that have crowded up to the dance floors all over the world. 

I dare to say that without it, Grease wouldn’t have become as successful. I’d also have to recognize the cast’s work, the chemistry between characters and, of course, John Travolta’s dance moves. Catchy, upbeat songs, colorful sets, vintage costumes, and a romance; success was guaranteed.

The lyrics

But Grease needs its soundtrack to fill in the plot holes. Music can turn a simple film into an enchanting movie. But what happens if we closely listen to the lyrics? From today’s standpoint, they’d hardly get a free pass.

A good example of this is the song called Beauty School Dropout. Frenchy’s guardian angel advises her to stay in school. The song mentions different jobs that women used to do back in that time, like hair styling. It also talks about rhinoplasty and home chores like cleaning and sewing.

On the contrary, the song Grease Lightnin’ is perfectly set in the engine world, cars and mechanics or “manly stuff” in a few words.

Only There are worse things I could do hits the mark, but we’ll talk about it later on. If you think about what You’re the one that I want talks about and what the scene is implying, all you can do is ask yourself: who would change their whole essence and personality for love? So, I just think we shouldn’t think about it too hard and just enjoy the music.

Was Grease groundbreaking?

Well, yes. Despite what I’ve said so far, Grease does have some great qualities. It’s extremely innocent and light-hearted… What would you think if I told you we had it worse in the 2000’s? Do you remember High School Musical or Camp Rock?

Disney sold these sweet and cheesy movies to us by throwing ads in our faces. Many kids loved them, but the main characters barely held hands and you had to watch the second movie to see them kiss.

Obviously, Disney clarified that its target audience was kids, so they had to keep it sweet and innocent. But I just can’t forgive that… Even in Snow White there’s kissing.

In Grease the most “sweetened” character was Sandy, but all the other characters behaved like normal teenagers would: parties, fun, sex, alcohol, future’s uncertainty… In fact, Grease goes as far as talking about contraceptives and teen pregnancy. 

The characters

When I saw the movie as a kid, I saw Sandy as endearing and cute. Rizzo, on the other hand, aka “the bad girl”, seemed very annoying to me. But now my opinion about both of them has changed drastically. Rizzo is now a much more interesting character than I thought. 

grease characters singing

She smokes and drives; let’s remember that these were “manly” things at the time. She was independent and wanted to have fun as guys do, and she ends up being ridiculed and criticized. In her song There are worse things I could do, she shows her fears and insecurities to the audience. You can tell that she’s vulnerable as well.

Despite her personality being equivalent to that of male characters, people belittle her and see the guys as heroes. Even men judge her! She breaks the mold of what femininity looks like, but unfortunately, society still wasn’t ready for it.

But don’t get me wrong, Grease did bring some interesting issues to light and it worked and still works. It didn’t intend to break the scheme, it only wanted to entertain. After watching it again, I can honestly say I enjoyed it; I had fun watching it and it has some interesting moments.

The closing scene with the song called We go together is very youthful, happy and catchy, and kind of makes you want to live life to its fullest. So keep enjoying this movie as well as other past movies, and learn how values can change with time. After all, we’re an ever-evolving society.