This is one of a number of movies I saw back when they were first released, misguidedly enjoyed at the time, and now find I have major issues with. I suppose it's a mildly entertaining movie of generally brainless drivel (50's greaser stereotype rebellion), with a few catchy tunes. If it was merely that, okay, but this film gives its viewers (especially teenage ones) ALL the worst possible messages.
The plot revolves around "young love" (?) as experienced by the pretty, innocent young Australian girl, Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) who has a summer romance with Danny (John Travolta). In the fall she discovers that they attend the same school, Rydell High, and that Danny is the leader of a greaser gang called the T birds. Their different attitudes naturally bring conflict into their (immature) relationship. Sandy finally becomes convinced that she must turn herself into a tart in order to keep her man, and proceeds to do precisely that.
First, a few compliments to the movie. I'm a big fan of Olivia Newton-John and her (earlier) music, think she's lovely in this picture and a lovely lady still. Also, John Travolta is a guy with charisma galore; I loved him in Saturday Night Fever. In terms of the music, my favorite piece is "Hopelessly Devoted to You", a beautiful romantic song that deserved its Oscar. (Too bad Sandy feels pressured to have sex with the guy she's "hopelessly devoted" to.) But that's just about where my compliments end, and my rating of 4 is mainly from a sense of nostalgia.
Wrong messages, where to begin? First of all, Danny is the leader of a gang, whose purpose is rebellion (as though teenagers needed any encouragement there, Ha, ha) Well, the gang isn't really violent, you say? Maybe not, but even the Pink Ladies, its female counterpart, is at best quite an established clique. Teenagers have enough trouble dealing with peer pressure both then and today. Did they really need a film encouraging them to alter their persona to fit in with the crowd?
Sandy begins smoking in order to feel accepted by the Pink Ladies and especially Danny. Way to go, Sandy. I don't even need to start mentioning all the negative aspects here.
But worst, absolute worst...the very obvious message to all teenage girls watching, that virginity is just plain unacceptable...you can't possibly expect to keep your man unless you dress provocatively and presumably deliver the goods as well. You know what, Sandy, you were fine just the way you were at the start...young, sweet, and innocent. If Danny doesn't like you that way, tough; let him look elsewhere. YOU keep your self respect, girl, and find some other guy who WILL appreciate you as you are and not expect anything from you you're not prepared to give.
Enough lecturing, except to conclude...Yes, Grease is the word all right, if you want to send a teenager all the wrong messages, that is.