Things That Bug Me About 1978's "Grease"

Updated on April 21, 2020
Disastrous Grape profile image

Ash has a bachelor's in English Lit. She loves analyzing fiction and obsessing over books, film, and television.

Grease is a 1978 musical romance based on the 1971 musical of the same name. It stars John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John in the lead roles as Danny and Sandy, and it's been one of my favorite films since I was a little kid.

I rewatched this old film recently and noticed a crapload of "problematic" stuff that bothered me. And like most millennials who are hell-bent on ruining everything, I felt the burning need to write an article about it.

Jan Wasn't Even Fat

Jan, played by Jamie Donnelly, wasn't even fat.

The character was supposed to be played by an overweight actress. Instead, Donnelly was chosen, and while she did well as Jan, it was still really odd to have the other characters referring to this really thin woman as "fat."

If anything, I was jealous of her ability to eat all those damn Oreos and not gain an ounce.

Kenickie Was Rapey

It's been pointed out a thousand times, but during the "Summer Nights" sequence, Kenickie (Jeff Conway) has a line where he asks if Sandy "put up a fight" when Danny was getting busy with her.

This line is enough to make any sane adult pause and think, "What the actual ****?"

How and why did this line get in the musical?

That aside, I think the entire "Summer Nights" sequence is a pretty well executed example of rape culture and toxic masculinity. Boys are taught to use girls like objects and discard us. And not only that -- they bond with their friends about what inhumane monsters they are, making up stories and spreading lies about all the sex they never had. This phenomenon is referred to as "lad culture" or "locker room talk" -- the verbal degradation of women.

Danny's character is seen to struggle with performing a toxic masculine role for his friends while trying to hide his sweet and sensitive side.

At the end of the song, he tosses out the line, "And I told her we'd still be friends . . ." with a smirk to benefit his buddies. The second his back is turned to them, however, his true emotions for Sandy show as he sings the line with sincere longing, "Wonder what she's doin' now . . ."

Danny is truly in love with Sandy, but it's something he has to hide behind a misogynistic mask in order to fit in with his friends and not feel ostracized. This isn't just some shit they did for the musical -- it's pervasive in our culture.

Marty Hates Sonny

This one always bugged me.

Marty (Dinah Manoff) treated Sonny (Micheal Tucci) pretty badly throughout the film. She always seemed so disgusted by him, it made you wonder why the hell she was dating him.

During the sleepover sequence, it's revealed that Marty has several pen pal lovers.

During the school dance, Sonny tries to dance with her and be nice and she completely blows him off, leaving him to get bitterly drunk while she flirts with Vince Fontaine (Eddie Brynes), a man who's old enough to be her father.

There are some disgusting virginity jokes about Marty's last name being "like a cherry" and the whole thing makes my skin crawl. Especially since Manoff was actually nineteen years old at the time -- the only actual teenager on the cast.

Marty pretty much acted as if Sonny didn't exist and was only nice to him for two seconds at the very end of the film.

John Travolta Ruined Jeff Conway's Life

You read that right.

Jeff Conway's character, Kenickie, was supposed to be the one singing the lead for the song "Grease Lightning," but John Travolta insisted on doing it, effectively stealing the spotlight.

This meant that Conway had to switch places with him and wound up doing gymnastics on top of the car in his stead. He fell off the car, was seriously injured, and got hooked on pain meds. By the end of his life, he wound up haggard in a wheelchair and addicted to pain pills -- and all because of Travolta's ego.

It's hard to look at the "Grease Lightning" sequence knowing that. I've probably ruined it for you, too, now.

You're welcome.

Danny Was Just As Rapey As Kenickie

When sitting at the drive-in with Sandy, Danny gives Sandy his class ring. She takes it as evidence that he really loves and respects her. Danny then decides that now would be a good time to show just how little he respects her.

Without slowly leaning in for a kiss or using nonverbal cues or -- geez -- any sort of respectful warning, he just grabs Sandy, fills her up, and pins her to the seat of his car, forcing himself on her with wild abandon.

Sandy screams for Danny to get off, and his response,

"Come on, Sandy! No one's lookin'!"

I mean . . . damn. The fact that she went back to him after that is insane. It goes to show how normalized assault is in our culture. A man can just pin a woman down without pausing to consider whether she wants that to happen or not, and it's entirely seen as normal.

It was so normalized that I compared it to the boys who had sexually assaulted me at school multiple times -- grabbing me against my will in much the same way -- and I wasn't shocked by the film at all.

What's extra ridiculous is that Danny then has his sad little song where he laments Sandy being angry at him for assaulting her and leaving him all alone with his aching b*ner.

Make no mistake: I am grinning while writing this. It's just . . .too hilarious. It was meant to be. But my point about normalized misogyny still stands (no pun intended).

Sandy Had To Change For Danny

"So tell me about it . . . stud."
"So tell me about it . . . stud."

It always bothered me that Sandy had to change her appearance and personality, forsaking her true self in order to please Danny and fit in with his friends.

To be fair, Danny spends the entire movie trying to be a jock in order to please Sandy. The sequence where he tries to find a sport to play and keeps beating everyone up is pretty gold in its comedy.

But it still bothered me that Sandy was the one who made the ultimate sacrifice. It was her choice and she decided to change, but because this is so typical in films -- especially fairy tales like The Little Mermaid -- it always rubbed me the wrong way.

Still, Olivia Newton-John looked pretty hot in those tight pants and red lipstick and big, curly hair. So maybe it was worth it in the end.

Those are all the things that bug me about Grease. Regardless of my complaints, it's a wonderfully entertaining musical, one of my favorites, and it will always have a special place in my heart.

Own this wonderful musical now.

© 2019 Ash


Submit a Comment

No comments yet.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)