Grease is a film I have seen multiple times; it’s statistically likely that you have as well, if only because it seems to be on any given cable network every few months or so. But it wasn’t until watching it very recently, as an adult, that I realized practically everything I know about sexual innuendo comes from Grease.
This has nothing to do with my inchoate six-year-old crush on Danny Zuko, which developed into a full-blown lust as soon as I was old enough; because of this childhood scarring, I still harbor enough feelings of attraction towards young John Travolta that somehow I’m able to separate him in my mind from the smiling Scientology night monster/chill dog he’s become. But perhaps, subliminally, it did inform my future dirty mind, same as the way listening to Prince’s Purple Rain did before I ever knew what sex even entailed, went on to ensure I would become an adult perv—because Grease, that beloved musical about identity and redemption and the hand jive, is a teeming vehicle of subliminal sex messages pumped into every future drama student’s mind before puberty.
While re-watching Grease recently to prepare for Sunday night’s airing of Grease Live!, no doubt the greatest live musical experience Fox will ever air, I was struck by how many sex references Grease was able to get over on both me and the careful watch of my very devout Mexican Catholic mother. How did it take me so long to realize Grease is so dirty? For instance, during the performance of “Greased Lightnin’,” above, Travolta not only refers to his race car as “a real pussy wagon,” he also exclaims “the chicks’ll cream!” I knew that lyric well as a child, but watching recently, it struck me how explicit it was, although plotwise it was consistent with a high school age boy. The whole film is like that—and don’t even get me started on Grease 2, which has an entire song about teen sex as a patriotic act.
Turns out, I’m not alone—several of my coworkers had their own revelations about the best drag-race musical starring a Scientology dog and a singing Australian.
Jia Tolentino: My only late-coming revelation about Grease was that Kenickie’s condom broke in the car—and regardless of the pregnancy danger, also, that I wanted to have sex in a car as soon as possible tbh
Joanna Rothkopf: I learned that it was normal and cute for a boy to be embarrassed to be seen with you. Also I learned that something called an Eskimo pie exists and that boys look very nice in shorts.
Marie Lodi: My high school had a rally that was Grease-themed so I choreographed a routine with my drill team to “Greased Lightnin’.” (I even wore a mechanic jumpsuit!) We all kind of knew that the song was “horny” but didn’t realize how raunchy the lyrics were (we couldn’t have easily looked them up back then since it was the late ‘90s).
Also between Rizzo and the cholas in grade school I learned about hickeys haha.
And even though Sandy looks awesome at the end in her bad-girl garb, what a shit-ass “lesson” it teaches. You have to CHANGE yourself in order for someone to like you. Ridiculous! Totally would not fly today. Such a fun movie though.
- I didn’t exactly know what a hickey was until like my third viewing.
- That it was really inappropriate for Vince Fontaine to be flirting with Marty.
- How condoms work.
- Exactly what was happening with Rizzo and Kenickie i.e. that they had sex and thought they made a baby but then she got her period and it was just a false alarm. It was hard to understand why they were fighting.
- Why Sandy got sick during the sleepover (from drinking, not just the sight of her own blood).
- This exchange:
Rizzo: What’s up, Kenick?
Kenickie: One guess.
- This exchange:
Rizzo: Where are you goin’? To flog your log?
Danny: Much better than hanging around here with you dorks.
- That maybe Danny and Rizzo used to date?
Bobby Finger: The car Sandy and Danny are in flies away at the end and shows no signs of stopping, so basically grease ends with them flying off into space and dying somewhere in the stratosphere.
A COMMON GREASE MYTH FOR THE EXISTENTIAL CYNIC! So, what revelations have you had about Grease between the creaky years between tweendom and adulthood?
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