Grease and High School Musical Movies Review
The movie industry being mainly patriarchal has done very little to change films in order to keep up and reflect what has transpired in women’s movement towards equality. The film Grease was released in 1978 while High School Musical was released approximately thirty years later in 2006. During the approximate thirty years between the release of the two films, women’s rights had supposedly gained a lot of momentum towards equality of the sexes. Although, after analyzing both films, it is clear that while their were some advancements between male and female characters, there are not as many as we would expect. Hollywood has done just enough to make their audiences think they are creating modern, progressive, feminist movies. When in reality, very little has changed and they are perpetuating the same stereotypes for men as well as for women movie after movie.
Roughly around the same time Grease was released, there were several monumental events pertaining to women’s rights and strides towards equality. NASA selected their first group of women to participate in their astronaut training camp. This was a huge deal for women all over the country, as they felt the world turning in their favor. There was also a change in laws regarding the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. This banned discrimination towards pregnant women in the workplace. Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court. All of these events happened around the time Grease was released. In 2006, High School Musical was released and women were gaining political headway. Nancy Pelosi became the first female Speaker of The House in 2007. Hillary Clinton made her first run as Presidential Candidate and Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin became the first woman to run as Vice President of the United States. With powerful and monumental events like these, women were on a role in terms of gaining equality in both the political battlefield, workplace, and their day-to-day lives. Although, we see a film come out with the intentions of being an evolved, modern film about gender roles, it falls miserably short. The women are still portrayed as sex objects and the men are still obsessed with their masculinity.
How it works
In the film Grease, the male actors in the film portray many characteristics that exemplify Mulvey and Bordo’s theories, including scopophilia, the “hot man” thesis, masculine double binds and several others. Throughout the film, women also demonstrate many traits that conform to stereotypical gender roles that have been passed on for years. The women in both films conform to the ideas of Mulvey’s scopophilia in terms of the “female gaze”, and Bordo’s ideas about women being objectified and reduced to “hot blooded sex.”
In the film Grease, there are very specific mannerisms and attributes both physically and verbally that are expected of the men in the film. The boys were expected to dress a specific way in order to attract the right woman. The “in” look consisted of perfectly slicked hair, black sneakers, jeans, tight-fitting t-shirts and an embroidered leather jacket with your clique’s name. Verbally, they would speak about women callously and objectify them, reducing them to sex objects. Danny Zuko embodied the ideal male figure at Rydell High School, creating his own ora. This relates to Jacques Lacan’s mirror phase and narcissistic scopophilia of one’s self because of their heightened concern for their self-image. Danny serves as an icon for his classmates as well as people watching the film. He wears what’s “cool”, acts “cool”, and willingly takes on the persona of a “hot man” at Rydell High. He carries the personality that is expected of “cool” guy at the time, talking about women’s bodies and his sexual “summer fling” with Sandra D.
Susan Bordo’s theory of the masculine double bind explains the scenarios where men receive conflicting messages and are expected to be both sensitive and aggressive. We tell boys to be on one hand sensitive gentlemen and on the other hand aggressive animals. He hides his sensitivity and passion for Sandy in front of his buddies as he is afraid he will be judged. Instead, he acts as if she means nothing but a hot girl who’s into him, like every other girl at school. He pretends she’s just another girl swooning at his every move, knowing he has plenty of women at the palm of his hand. He identifies himself as the one of the hottest guys at school and loves the idea of every guy wanting to be him, and every girl wanting to be with him.
Mulvey’s theory of scopophilia translates into Grease in Danny’s life, as well as Sandy’s. Scopophilia is defined generally as the pleasure in looking. Danny exercises his scopophilic nature when he is constantly distracted by Sandy. He is also distracted by other women dressed promiscuously. He seemingly can’t help himself from “gazing” at women walking by because again, that’s what’s expected of him as a male. During one of the last scenes of the film, Sandy’s body is presented on screen to be “gazed” upon by men for their own pleasure. The camera pans slowly from her feet, going over each curve of her body. Sandy is unrecognizable as she arrives to the school carnival, to reveal herself to Danny. She is dressed in tight-fitting clothing, ratted hair, with a smoldering cigarette between her red lips. Women being viewed as “hot blooded sex” comes into focus during this scene, as well as women being objectified.