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Is the word

Kimmie’s living room was purple. The swamp cooler kept the air cold. Here, with her mother in the next room and my mother a few blocks away, I could dance to the soundtrack from Grease. I pretended to know the lyrics as well as my friends, who could sing every note of “Totally Devoted to You” into hairbrushes or an empty paper towel tubes. They compared how many times they had seen the movie. They played “Pink Ladies” and I played along blindly. I hadn’t seen Grease. My mom wouldn’t let me.

Through elementary school and junior high I pieced parts of the movie together, a quilt stitched with Rizzo’s coiled smile in one corner and the “Hand Jive” frenzy in another. Eventually, I saw the movie from start to finish—snuck via HBO at a friend’s house. During those years my mom’s refusal to let me see Grease became a symbol of how I felt she tried to control me. One day, I let her know.

The subject was You Never Let Me Do Anything. I was in high school and fighting with my mom. We went back and forth rehashing the 10,000 ways my life was boring and unfair. Thinking I had the perfect example of her controlling ways, I told her it was ridiculous I couldn’t watch Grease when it first came out in theaters.

“I didn’t like that the girl had to change to get the boy.”


I stopped and thought about what she said. It was true. Sandy changed who she was to gain the friendship of the Pink Ladies and the love of Danny. She went from yellow-cotton Noxema wholesome to bobbleheaded 4-inch stilleto-wearing smoking sexpot in the final scene. Danny joined the track team, but in the end the varsity sweater was trashed in favor of black leather. Sandy was good enough for Danny during summer days and oh-those-summer-nights—why not when they met again at school? If Danny Zucco were Darth Vadar with a chin-dimple, he would have succeeded in getting Sandy Skywalker to join the Dark Side of the Force. Their car takes off flying from the school carnival, no doubt on a mission to oversee the final phases of Death Star construction.

For my mom, it wasn’t a good vs. bad issue even though the heroes of the movie were the rebels. She wasn’t worried I’d form my own bananaseat bike gang with matching satin baseball jackets (although I entertained the thought). Elements of the movie certainly clashed with her values and I can see why she wouldn’t have been thrilled to drop off her second-grader at the Cooper Theater downtown to witness twenty-something actors pretending to be high school boys Blue Mooning.

When my kids are grown I don’t want them to think any man or woman is worth their 180 degrees. The songs are catchy, the status is cult—but the message is one I can live without.

19 comments to Is the word

  • Parents. They are always right. Good stuff Gretchen.

    Oh, and “Darth Vadar with a chin-dimple” totally cracked me up.

  • I think it’s “Hopelessly Devoted to You” -hehe! You really DIDN’T know all the words, did you? 😉

  • mopsy

    LOL! Thanks, Laura.

    Yes, it’s “hopelessly” not “totally”. I think I’ll leave my mistake on the post just to prove what a Grease know-nothing I was (and still apparently am).

    I do a perfect Hand Jive, though.

  • Ah yes, I wasn’t allowed to watch Grease either. I still love the soundtrack, but I hate the message.

  • Rachy

    My mom didn’t let me watch “Grease” either. The latest resurgence of it’s popularity has given rise to discussing why and it turned out to be that very same reason your mother gave.
    Lucky for me, I was the kid who crossed my eyes and stuck my tongue out when hairbrushes turned into microphones in the hands of my peers.
    I think it’s great that you feel the same way your mom does and want to pass it on to your children.

  • So many of those childhood movies are that way– you remember the way you felt when you first watched (or heard) about them, and then watching them as an adult is plain disappointing. We recently saw Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Not what I thought it was. I was never very interested in Grease, but I knew the gist because we had to sing a medley of it in sixth grade choir.

  • I was “Kimmie.” I owned the soundtrack and unfortunately, my mother DID let me watch this movie. 22 times. In the 3rd grade. (We had a dollar theater in the town up the highway and they let Grease run forever…)

    I didn’t view it again until I was a married adult and all I could do was shake my head and think, “WHAT was she thinking?”

  • Jenny

    I loved Grease in high school, but now as an adult (and as a parent), I look at the movie and am disappointed. Such a poor message. I do still love the soundtrack. Definitely a movie that I don’t want my daughter (or sons) watching.

  • I never could watch it either, until I was with a bunch of girls at our high school girl’s dorm. I was so disappointed with the way Sandy had to change, that I couldn’t stand the movie, despite the cool music. It made me very frustrated that my friends just swallowed the movie whole and didn’t choke at that “finale”.

  • We took our girls to see the play and while we were watching it we realized exactly what you ‘ve said. Nathan lectured the girls about how Sandy made poor choices the whole way home!

  • DUH!!!! As scrutinizing as I am about movies, able to detect innuendo in a single sniff, I didn’t clue in to that. Hellooo! Excellent springboard for discussion.

    I think my daughter has seen bits of it at a friends’ house, that’s a good reminder to do some follow up on it. It’s not something I would let them watch, but I’m not going to freak out about it if they happen to see it at a friend’s. Now I’ll make a point to discuss that issue and wait to see if they’ll ask what Sandra Dee is lousy with.

    Speaking of, “You let me do what?!” I remember reading the Exorcist in the 4th grade. Oy.

  • mopsy

    Lexie—I read Sidney Sheldon’s Rage of Angels when I was in elementary school. My grandma had been visiting. She was reading the book and accidently left it behind, so I decided to read it.


    You can’t protect kids from everything, of course. One of Aidan’s first words was “D’oh!” from watching “The Simpsons”. She’d even use it in context.

    Many of the “Grease” song lyrics make me cringe, especially “Greased Lightning.” That’s one naughty and slightly misogynistic song!

  • Well, now I know how you became such a loving yet wise mom-you had a lovely example set before you.

    Great post, and beautifully written.

  • At least Aidan used it in context!

    Now I need to go look up misogynistic. I appreciate the expanded vocab.

    I was asking Alexa & Aaron if they had seen the movie. Alexa wanted to know why I was asking. I said because it has too much teenage stuff in it, as in for older teens. Apparently they haven’t seen it. I’ll have to keep an eye on that. Thanks. Score another point for blog benefits.

  • Totally true! I remembered Grease as being a cute movie…until I previewed it for my own kids and said NO WAY! Oh how my memory is flawed and full of swiss-cheese-holes. When my oldest few finally DID see it (at the ages of late-teens), they all had the same reaction: EW!!

    I’m so blessed that they are wiser by far than I.

  • I don’t rememberr when exactly I saw Grease, but I remember thinking something wasn’t quite right when I did. Years later, when I got to college, I realized why the ending seemed “off” to me.

    And for the very reasons you stated is why I will never direct a production of Grease, despite it being such a popular high school musical. I’m always baffled by schools that don’t see the irony in preaching “no drugs” and “stand up to peer pressure” to students, and then cast those very same students to sing a song like “Sandra Dee.”

  • What a great Mom! Imagine being on top of movie plots and the moral difficulties created for the children. It must be horrible today with almost porn right on TV in your own livingroom. I’m happy to know that you finally discovered her motives in denying you the right to be “Greased”. But, I do love the music. Satan must have a great danceband!

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