Thursday, March 25, 2010
Look at me, there has to be
something more than what they see
wholesome and pure, oh so scared and unsure,
a pawn then, Sandra Dee
Sandy, you must start anew,
don't you know what you must do
hold your head high, take a deep breath and sigh--
goodbye to Sandra Dee
In this whole wide fucked-up world, I'm not sure there's anything as fucked up as the ending of Grease. I'm not obsessed with this movie--unusually so, I mean; it sits solidly in my life like most chicks' my age, beginning with the movie-party for my twelfth birthday, which was during the summer it came out. The ending, though, rolls uncomfortably around and around in my head, the edges still sharp after many years.
Sandy is a good girl, Danny is a greaser, he tries to become a jock, can't, but is still willing to become one at the end until Sandy decides there is a way she "could be happy," meaning changing from a good girl to a hood. She enlists Frenchy's help and then emerges in her new tight slutty outfit and wins Danny. Makes him hers. Does the right thing. Joins the right team. Jumpstarts adult sexuality. Blows him away with her looks. Wobbles out in her Candies and becomes the person she's supposed to be. (As Wikipedia puts it [I enjoy how bizarre this is]: "Sandy resolves to become more flamboyant...Danny is reunited with Sandy, now a leather-clad woman, and the two become a couple...")
Not being a product of 50s gender hoo-ha, it never felt to me as if Sandy were rebelling against good girl/bad girl pressures, it just felt as if she sacrificed herself to fit in, to avoid harassment, to get a man. To look right doing so. It is a big victory. Her hair gets curly, she smokes, she wears tight pants, she pouts and then Danny's hers--even though he's loved her already, when she was just herself. She's done the right thing and leapt onto a pyre of her old self.
The whole thing is so sad. The scene at the LA river basin when the song above plays is supposed to be sad, but it's more than that. It really sticks.
I guess we weren't supposed to like the person Sandy was throughout most of the movie (further confusing because Olivia Newton-John is not very goody-goody, just nice). I don't think I ever got that I was supposed to root for her to go over to the other side. It's ridiculous, really, that I'm still having a reaction to it, but I am. I felt like that was the meanest, saddest thing that could happen to that character, to a girl. You couldn't be direct and cute and yourself--you had to play games and posture.
The thing I need to admit--the really fucked-up part--the reason I think the ending still bothers me--is that it turns out there is some truth in the sadness of it. Facing change really can be like sitting on river basin watching other people and deciding to join in, not knowing who you will be. Trying on a new skin. Lurching through to some new version of yourself. That pisses me off more than the shitty sexual politics.
I'm still not buying it--she didn't have to torch her old self to be some new version--and that sadness was avoidable. But there is something about that scene after the drag race that keeps it unresolved for me in uncomfortable ways. Some tenacious ping of grief. Weird.