I don’t know when I’m going to have another chance to say this, so I’ll just say it now: in general, hit me repeatedly over the head with a porcupine if you want to*, I don’t really like musicals. And, although this immensely popular and seemingly ancient film version of a hit musical about two whining teenagers who fall in love, fall out of love, fall in love again, fall out of love, etc. was quite fun and ‘a bit of a laugh’, to quote myself, I can’t bring myself to say I like it exactly. This is because it’s ACTIVELY SEXIST and we need to talk about this. Like, right now. So I should warn you, this review is going to be long. Hell yeah.
Is it a feminist film? Okay, let’s just disprove all the “surprising feminism of Grease” articles with one word: no. It’s really not, and I wish I could talk for longer about this, but I’m aware that not all of my sweet and lovely viewers have an hour to spare and just want to get on with their daily lives, so I’ll cut it down in here and then write a separate blog post about this. In simple terms, the answer is this: Grease is not sexist because Sandy ‘feels she has to change’ for Danny: after all, he changes for her, too! It is sexist because of a lot of other things, though: for one, it’s full of horrible abuse references like “Did she put up a fight” and that bit no-one talks about where Danny assaults Sandy in a car and she STILL LIKES HIM. It has terrible fat-shaming of an ostensibly thin girl, who has to wear baggy sweaters through the entire movie. Almost all the female characters are portrayed as stupid, like when a guardian angel appears to Frenchie and sings an offensive song to her called ‘beauty school dropout’ and she thinks he’s complimenting her (although, to be fair, this is also the funniest scene in the entire movie because it’s completely irrelevant.) There is also awful slut-shaming of probably (okay, definitely) the best character in the entire film, who gets a sort of feminist song of her own, but it ends with a line about ‘you’ which appears to be addressed to a boy. So…
Is it disturbing? Not really, but it’s incredibly creepy! I would advise parents and guardians not to allow their impressionable kids, pet pigs and teens to watch this film (teenagers may die of excessive cringing. Just saying.)
And… does it pass the Bechdel test? My theory is that films that don’t pass but aren’t inherently sexist are just ‘sexist by omission’, also called (by me, that is) unfeminist. But, strangely this actively sexist film does pass, and in the first fifteen minutes too.