You better shape up

You better shape up

Every now and then, I’ve come across musings on GREASE where the writer feels they have a line on the film’s ending that nobody has considered in the 37 years since the film’s release (let alone the seven years before that where it played as a stage production). The piece will usually opine that the ending is a complete betrayal/insult/reduction/what-have-you, because after two hours of Sandy holding tight to her virtue as a “good girl”…she gives it all up in the finale to become what she didn’t want to be.

Insert 250 word pontification about how this makes this film “less of a classic” here.

I’ve never been able to identify with this position, and a conversation with my wife – who has seen this film more times than she can count – reminded me why. In this moment, this about-face, it might seem for a moment to be Sandy caving and becoming something she doesn’t want to be. The truth though, is that this moment (captured so well in the image above) has Sandy turning loose a different side of herself…a stronger side…

…a side that is able to take an alpha-male like Danny Zucco and drop him down to all fours.

This moment stands in stark contrast to the first of the three below, where Sandy cried with frustration over being rejected by a boy who supposedly loved her. It likewise stands in contrast to most of the images we’ve seen of Danny where he’s been standing tall and proud in front of all the other guys. It didn’t come from all of Danny’s pawing, nor did it come from all the rejection Sandy’s been handed through the story – it came from her wanting to grow-up and say “So long to Sandra Dee”.

However, there’s a catch to letting out her inner vamp.

Once she’s shown Zuko what sort of sexy beast was inside of her, listened to him spew about getting chills, losing control, and being electrified, what’s the first thing she says?

“You better shape up”

The once bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Sandy leads Danny along like a pet on a leash for a verse or so, letting him stumble around on his hands and knees. He is all but powerless in this moment; bug-eyed, slack-jawed, and not showing an ounce of that machismo he’s been oozing the rest of the film. Now it’s hard to say whether Sandy wants Danny to stay in this position permanently (or maybe she does, but that’s a whole other post), but this much is clear: she’s done dealing with him as a selfish alpha.

She hasn’t let this side of herself out because he’s into that, she let this side of herself out because she wanted to try it on. Now that she likes the fit, she won’t be coerced sexually or rejected publicly anymore. If Danny wants a chance to get up off his knees and have the one that he wants, he needs to be a better man.

Sandy isn’t caving, and Danny is getting what he wants. A woman has found herself empowered and a man is facing the fact that he has treated her like shit.

This moment isn’t a betrayal/insult/reduction/what-have-you…it’s the culmination of one year of maturity.

It’s a virtue, not a flaw.


Three more from GREASE for the road…




Drop Out


This series of posts is inspired by the “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” series at The Film Experience. Do check out all of the awesome entires in their series so far