5 Things That Have Changed Since You Watched Grease

– Posted in: Beauty, Bullying, Elfie, Getting Older, Growing Up, Mean People, Mouths of Babes, Movies, Nevada, Okay That's Funny, Parenting, Things To Do with Kids, Unsolicited Advice, Women's Issues

The other night, we all sat down and watched Grease. As far as my husband, Tenzin, is concerned, it’d be embarrassing to become a full-grown U.S. American without being able to sing along to “Summer Lovin'” and “You’re the One That I Want” (and no, it’s his brother who’s gay…)

Anyway, it became pretty clear as the movie moved along that life has changed quite a bit since I was a 5th grader, sitting in a dark theater and missing half of what was going on. But our kids? Well dammit. They notice everything…

1. Body Size

Grease the Movie

Yep, that Jan (in the green) is just huge…

It’s no wonder that when I gained 10 pounds in college, I thought was fat. The “overweight girl” in the movie is Jan. She makes a reference to dieting all day, and then Putzy (her boyfriend) gives her the backhanded compliment that he thinks there’s more to her than just fat. My daughter, Elfie, gave me the, “What the hell are they talking about” look during that scene, and all a I could do was shrug.

So yes, while super models these days look like they’re about to fall over from malnutrition and “normal” sized women are classified as “plus-sized” models, I don’t think you’d ever catch anyone portraying someone as “the fat girl” who looked anything like Jan. Whether this is because art is just reflecting the demographics of the time it was made in or if heavier people are currently given more opportunities in media is hard to say. That’s a whole other discussion for a whole other day.

2. Smoking

When I was in 5th grade, my friend Tanya let me smoke one of her dad’s cigarettes. This was just a few years after my own father had quit smoking a pack a day (he was a doctor so you know, had to be a better role model). Did I ever think I’d become a smoker? Not really. Was smoking still everywhere? Yeah. When I saw Grease, did I know the bad kids smoked and the good kids didn’t? Sure, whatever.

My kids however, thought a bunch of smoking high school students was ca-razy.

“Are those people insane?”

The only people I currently know who smoke are friends from grad school who haven’t been able to kick the habit and seedy people downtown by the river (I don’t actually know those people, but you get the picture). We went into a casino the other night, and the kids had some kind of allergic meltdown to all the smoke. They basically think it’s like drinking Drano.

3. Patriarchy

When I was a kid, Title IX had barely worked up any steam, and women still didn’t play as many sports as men did. Socially, girls did some of the asking out, but the fact that there was a designated Sadie Hawkins dance at my high school — where the girl asked the boy — kind of sums up how serious people felt about that.

So while watching Grease was odd for me at 10-years-old, it wasn’t THAT odd. But for the kids? We had to explain that boys always paid for everything. It was why Sandy asked her date for jukebox money and Rizzo and Kenickie talked about “going Dutch.”

Then there were the poor, pitiful, dateless girls, waiting hopefully on the bleachers for someone to ask them to dance. Elfie scowled that she would’ve just asked someone or danced by herself (that’s my girl).

As for sports, I doubt I ever noticed at 10-years-old that there were zero girls on the field when everyone was practicing. But I sure noticed this time.

4. Homophobia

This is where we’ve made leaps and strides people. Leaps and strides. While dancing around with rainbow flags on sticks and singing show tunes.

Remember Eugene, the geeky kid with the glasses who the T-birds torment throughout the movie? The one who probably goes on to found a multi-million dollar computer company while they all get jobs in garages?

There’s a scene during the dance when the teachers announce, “Couples must be boy/girl only.” And someone yells out, “Too bad Eugene!” Of course everyone laughs because, hey, how hysterical to imply that Eugene is gay, effeminate, or even a girl. Right?

To my kids, not so much.

They were appalled. Offended. And not even slightly amused. I think Tenzin and I, who’ve developed a sort of knee-jerk reaction of laughing at this kind of thing after years and years of training, felt like complete assholes. Because our kids are better people than we are.

5. Peer Pressure

When I saw Grease as a kid, it seemed puuuurfectly normal that Sandy went through a major transformation to make Danny happy. And that Danny got embarrassed and started acting like a jackass when his friends thought he was being too “sweet.” Why not? Why not blend in, go with the crowd, and get the guy.

Again, with my kids, not so much. Elfie’s eyes were rolling out of her head when normal Sandy turned into hot Sandy. Clearly it wasn’t the real her, and Elfie thought she was positively ridiculous.

“Why would you want to be with anyone who didn’t like you the way you are?”

Why indeed…

Yeah, well just wait ’til middle school

I’m not an idiot. My kids are only 9 and 11 and haven’t hit those difficult, painful, peer-presssure packed years that will test the true strength of the poles that hold up their freak flags and let them fly. But I have some faith. I have faith that they’re just weird enough, just irascible enough, and just “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn” enough to keep that flag waving. And possibly knock some people over the head with it along the way.

Anyway, if you get the chance to see Grease with your kids, take advantage of all the opportunities to talk about peer pressure. And bullying. And homophobia. And crazy ideas that people used to have about women that (sort of) no longer exist today. Ask them what they think. What’s funny and what isn’t. What they’d do in the same situations.

But just a warning: don’t go here if you’re not up for explaining how teenagers get pregnant in the backs of cars and the meanings of the more “colorful” language used in songs like “Greased Lightning” and “Beauty School Dropout” (the girls’ll cream, get off my rocks, gettin’ lots a tit, unless she was a hooker). That was the great thing about movies when we were kids. We only got to see them once, and half this stuff just passed straight over us. Our kids just rewind and rewind. And pause and ask questions. And look up lyrics on YouTube.

There’s really no where to hide once you’ve unleashed that beast.

Anyway, let me know how your viewing experience goes and if your little buggers turn out to be as self-righteous and evolved as ours. Meanwhile, Tenzin and I will be in our room, with the door closed, watching reruns of South Park and Beavis and Butthead. And silently laughing at inappropriate jokes.


5 Things That Have Changed Since You Watched the Movie Grease

19 Comments… add one

Andrea January 28, 2014, 7:25 pm

Couldn\’t get mine to watch Grease, but squirmed through a couple parts of Back to the Future a few years ago (completely forgotten parts), 16 Candles and the Breakfast Club!

Rachel January 28, 2014, 7:56 pm

OK. I totally have to check this out again. AND OMG Jan is smokin! What the heck?

Mary January 28, 2014, 8:29 pm

Grease was always one of my favorites. It is a history lesson of how far we have grown since the 50’s. Let Elfie know that now, things are TOTALLY different and that her mom was helpful in making SURE it changed! If that fails, just let her know tha….t We go together like crama lama lama, ka ding ditty ding da dong.

Terry January 28, 2014, 9:04 pm

When our then 9-year-old watched the Rizzo/Kenickie backseat scene, he asked aloud, “What’s that in his hand?” just as the amorous T-Bird bemoaned that his ‘safe’ was ‘broken.’ Awkward scilence as I steadied myself for the coming (sorry!) conversation. Then, the 7-y/o informed her brother that “It’s his cell phone.”

Polly January 28, 2014, 9:43 pm

Is saw it at about age 23 or so but I had the #5 reaction like crazy–my sister and I still kinda argue about it. Why change to suit someone else? (Maybe that’s why I’m still single at 57, so I’ll just crawl back under my rock now.)

Cheryl S. January 29, 2014, 7:56 am

We watched it last year. Thankfully the lyrics went over Keri’s head because we hadn’t had the sperming talk yet. I’m so proud of your kids! Mine are the same way. : ) And yes, most of that went over my head too. And explains why my friend’s dad, who took us, looked so uncomfortable.

On a related note, speaking of frankly my dear…Keri and I are reading Gone with the Wind (her choice). She loves it. She was absolutely horrified at the treatment of slaves, and the use of the words to describe slaves, but this book opens up so many discussions on race, greed, passion, etc., that it really is invaluable.

Polly January 29, 2014, 2:32 pm

You should try watching the “Reproduction” scene from Grease 2 with them when they get a little bit older!

And I never thought about a lot of those references any more than you did. I think I’m going to have to go back and watch Grease again myself.
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Elle January 29, 2014, 3:18 pm

I just love your girls attitudes Tammy. And long may they keep their ‘frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn attitude’. Love me some independent girls.
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LindySez January 29, 2014, 4:16 pm

You know, my husband and I have watched many “old” movies with our son while he was growing up, mostly for him to understand how things were, how things are, and how things change. Now, in college, he is one of the most rounded of the students, with an ability to see way beyond what is “today” and into what will be “tomorrow”. You can’t change the past, if you don’t know what the past was. Good for you to show them, good that they have the ability to say, this is really dumb.
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Cher January 29, 2014, 4:40 pm

Wow, I guess I never thought of Grease that way especially since I was in elementary school when I first saw it, also. My kids never really asked a lot of questions… They just tell me that they learned everything they need to know on the bus.
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Jessica January 29, 2014, 7:50 pm

I’m so proud of your kids for being so discriminating and for you for raising them to be so! I watched Grease maybe a handful of times when I was in middle school. That was in the 90s. I did it, or I watched, it mostly for the music, so I missed so much of these very problematic aspects to the film. I wanted to watch it again just to be appalled…at the movie, or mostly myself, for being older than your kids and still not paying attention much to the themes and more to the dance moves and rhythms. lol.

KalleyC January 29, 2014, 9:31 pm

Okay, now I have to go back and watch this movie again. When I watched it at a young age, so many stuff flew over my head. As for watching with kids, thank heavens mine are too young–I need to start preparing. 🙂
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Rebecca Grace January 30, 2014, 6:48 am

This is such an interesting post. I just watched a Gilligan’s Island episode with my kids (boys aged 10 and 13) on Hulu yesterday and they were completely perplexed by the rigid gender roles. If the men think the island is sinking, why don’t they get the women to help them build the hut on the highest point of the island instead of sneaking off to do the work themselves in the middle of the night? What do they mean, the women will “get hysterical” if they know about the danger? And if the women want to design landscaping and gardens around their huts, why don’t THEY get out the shovels and dig their own holes instead of pointing fingers while the men do all the work? As for Grease, I never saw it in the movie theatre (I was 5 when it came out) but I definitely missed those lyrics when I saw it on TV with my family later.
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Vidya Sury January 30, 2014, 9:36 am

😀 We’ve been through this with our son – and still go through them. He simply can’t get what we find so funny about scenes that look ridiculous to him. And yes, we’re glad too that his head is screwed on right! 😀

Loved reading the post. And will continue to laugh at the weird lines in Grease. 😀
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Andrea February 14, 2014, 11:07 am

Breathing a sigh of relief that I’m not ruining my kids by being indifferent to the fact that they’ve not seen all the “classic” movies that I watched growing up.

Your kids’ being offended and appalled made me smile. Kids know so much better than we did back then. And sometimes even now.
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ron hyatt January 1, 2016, 10:38 pm

Or it just sucks. Always has. Ever Considered that?

Tammy Soong July 7, 2016, 3:44 pm

Apparently not a fan of the musical…
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Mandy February 13, 2016, 12:54 am

I don’t usually comment on blogs, but this article was great! Your kids sound awesome and a great representative for the new generation.

Tammy Soong July 7, 2016, 3:36 pm

Thanks Mandy! That’s so sweet of you to say.
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