Thursday, July 23, 2020

willing to stand up for other people

I want to say coincidence, but I'm guessing there's something more involved than just chance. But, anyway, weird coincidence that Dirty Dancing came out just a month after Adventures in Babysitting and they both* begin with The Ronettes' "Be My Baby".
(* This isn’t true but for whatever reason “Be My Baby” sounded just like “Then He Kissed Me” in my head and then even as I realized the mistake I was already writing.)
Which at least distracted me momentarily--
trying to see if there was a producer or someone in the music department that worked on both these films
--from the voiceover narration that lasts all of three sentences. The worst kind of narration, the useless opener because someone involved, probably the director, couldn't think how to establish place and time succinctly.
That was the summer of 1963, when everybody called me "Baby" and it didn't occur to me to mind. That was before President Kennedy was shot, before the Beatles came, when I couldn't wait to join the Peace Corps, and I thought I'd never find a guy as great as my dad. That was the summer we went to Kellerman's.
That's it. And, within the first ten minutes, we get other indicators of the year, we definitely know the place, and Baby tells a guy on the dance floor that she's going into the Peace Corps.


Johnny and Penny make a show of dancing among the crowd, get in trouble, and it seems Baby is a little smitten. Then she wanders and finds her way to the exciting part of the property (where guest aren't supposed to go) and finds Johnny again. And, "Do You Love Me" plays and my mind drifts because I'm sure I've seen someone dancing to that song in a different movie. It takes a moment, then a Google search to confirm (after the Adventures in Babysitting mishap above). Sleepwalkers, Madchen Amick dancing with her earphones on in the movie theater lobby.

And, then I realize that Penny is played by Cynthia Rhodes, who I would have seen many times in Staying Alive by the time this came out and I have never realized that was the same person. Probably because her hair in the earlier film is so short.

And, then Baby finds Penny alone, crying and shaking, and I'm back in this movie instead of drifting toward other ones. The clean-cut, rich, white, summer vacation spot with all the upstairs downstairs drama going on. Class differences. Star-crossed lovers (or there will be). Or, as Roger puts it--because he didn't care for the film:
Well, you gotta hand it to "Dirty Dancing" for one thing at least. It's got a great title. The title and the ads seem to promise a guided tour into the anarchic practices of untrammeled teenage lust, but the movie turns out to be a tired and relentlessly predictable story of love between kids from different backgrounds.
Like that's a bad thing.

I generally appreciate Roger's take, but I don't always agree.

And, I find it remarkable that a) Roger barely mentions it and I don't remember any controversy over the abortion part of the story, but I do remember controversy over the dancing.

The setup for the plot here is essentially facilitating Penny's abortion.

Noo Saro-Wiwa, writing for The Guardian, calls the plot "more improbable than sci-fi" not because it's unbelievable as a story but because, she insists, it wouldn't be made today. As she describes the plot:
Middle-class Jewish teenager gets her parents' blessing after hooking up with a Catholic, working-class, possible statutory rapist at a summer resort? Only in the 1980s could you get away with a storyline like that. And only in the 80s do the lovebirds go on to shatter class divisions by flash-mobbing hotel guests at dinner time.
But, Saro-Wiwa says, the film
manages to highlight two important truths - first, that youthful indulgence can help solve society's ills, and second, daddy's girl privileges can be harnessed to foster social unity...
I would note that first one more than the second, especially as Robbie offers Baby a copy of Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead, when the character of Baby is great because she very much believes when she sees something is wrong she should do something about it. Johnny makes fun of her the first time, because she got cash from her father, but admits, when she gets her father to take care of Penny after her abortion goes badly, that what Baby did took guts.

Meanwhile, Johnny is treated like someone lesser and Baby is only just realizing that some people are treated like that, And that doing what's right doesn't mean you get to win. She stands up for Johnny. He still loses his job.

Still, Dr. Houseman learns that it was Robbie who got Penny pregnant, and Johnny returns in time for one last rulebreaking dance number and all is well.

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