I will analyze the movie Grease using the cultural feminist perspective. I know I can deep dive into this topic much more (and I most likely will because I want to do this for my essay #2), but these points I’m making are only the tip of the iceberg.
Grease is was movie based on a musical by the same name. The musical’s first performance was 1971. The movie came out in 1978 starring Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta. The movie follows two teenagers in the 1950s, Sandy and Danny, who meet over the summer and end up going to the same school. Sandy must now get use to how Danny carries himself at the high school and around his friends, which was very different from how he acted during the summer. Danny must now try to mesh his two worlds together without seeming like he has changed.
The movie perpetuates stereotypes such as girls wear pink and like dresses while boys wear leather jackets and don’t show emotion. Female characters like Sandy, Frenchy, and Marty are all seen wearing conservative dresses that hit at their knees or below. The colors they wear are pinks, whites, and pale blues or yellows. Their outfits are very soft and feminine. Rizzo’s girl group is even called the Pink Ladies.
Danny and his friends are dressed as stereotypical greasers- which is a group that was typically known for being very tough and cool in the 1950s. They have slicked back hair, smoke cigarettes, and wear leather jackets. Danny’s friends make fun of and physically hurt each other to show a form of comradery. There is one scene where Danny and Kenickie hug and they quickly walk away from each other because they are embarrassed of showing affection.
These stereotypes are way less subtle than they are in movies that take place in the modern era. Since the plot takes place in the 1950s, they play of the gender roles more because gender roles were more ridged in the 50s.
There are a few characters that don’t abide by these stereotypes and they are punished for it. Rizzo wears shorter dresses and more form fitting outfits as well as having very short hair compared to the other girls in the movie. She is gossiped about when she is worried she is pregnant and Leo calls her easy. Jan is another Pink Lady. She dresses the part, but isn’t taken seriously because, unlike the other girls, she is loud and enjoys eating. She is seen as comic relief by the group. Another character would be the teacher that teaches auto shop. She’s super cool and has a good relationship with the greasers, but all femininity is striped from her. She is portrayed as very masculine, so she is given no feminine qualities as if to say that you can’t be a bit of both. She is portrayed as a one-dimensional character that is just a masculine woman.
I loved the songs from this movie but even as a kid watching this, the message never sat right with me. As an adult, I know why! If we focus on the main character, Sandy, she is changing how she dressed, talks, and acts to be with Danny. Danny tried to change for Sandy, but he puts in much less effort and doesn’t follow through with the change. The message its sending, on top of reinforcing gender stereotypes and roles, is that women need to accommodate to men to be attractive in their eyes. And that’s not good! It doesn’t matter how catchy the songs are!