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GREASE background and analysis by Scott Miller The year isa pivotal moment in American cultural history, when rock and roll was giving birth to the Sexual Revolution and everything in America culture was about to be turned upside down.
Record companies were releasing more than a hundred singles every week and the country was about to explode. Originally a rowdy, dangerous, over-sexed, and insightful piece of alternative theatre, Grease was inspired by the rule-busting success of Hair and shows like it, rejecting the trappings of other Broadway musicals for a more authentic, more visceral, more radical theatre experience that revealed great cultural truths about America.
An experience largely forgotten by most productions of the show today. Like Hair before it and The Rocky Horror Show which would come a year later, Grease is a show about repression versus freedom in American sexuality, about the clumsy, tentative, but clearly emerging sexual freedom of the late s, seen through the lens of the middle of the Sexual Revolution in the s.
The phrase rock and roll was originally African American urban slang for sexual intercourse, going as far back as the s, and it made its way onto many rhythm and blues recordings before the s. As theatre, Grease finds its roots in the rawness, the rowdiness, the lack of polish that made Hair and other experimental pieces in the s such cultural phenomena.
Just as the characters of Hair and Grease reject conformity and authority, so too do both Hair and Grease as theatre pieces. Goodbye to Sandra Dee Also like Hair, Grease is about authenticity, the watchword of that first rock and roll generation.
To savvy teenagers, Sandra Dee was a teen sellout, and in a world where authenticity was the goal, there was nothing worse. She was a fake — in her life, in her acting style, and in her onscreen emotions. But adults loved Sandra Dee; she reassured them that their teen was a "good girl.
The girl with brimming brown eyes and a fizzy lilt to her voice was born Alexandria Zuck in Bayonne, New Jersey. Her parents divorced when she was five; her father, a bus driver, disappeared from her life shortly thereafter, and her mother, Mary, married a much-older real-estate entrepreneur named Eugene Duvan within a few years.
Worse yet, Dee's devoted but manipulative mother turned a conveniently blind eye to the defiled sexual appetites of her new husband.
Duvan, who liked to tease his wife that he married her "just to get Sandy," started having sex with his beautiful stepdaughter when she was 8 and continued doing so almost until his death when she was As a result, Sandra Dee later suffered from anorexia, depression, and alcoholism throughout her life.
This was the conventional, repressed, hypocritical, manufactured life from which Sandy Dumbrowski must escape.
The thing is, [her career] happened so fast, was over practically before it began, that we can almost be forgiven for misconstruing her as a cultural simulacrum: Sandra Dee represents not just strict morality and virginity in Grease, but the entire manufactured mainstream culture of s America, a culture the kids of Grease reject.
During the 50s, if kids worked it was because they were saving up to buy a car or buy parts for the car they had. It was a happy, playful decade for many white Americans, even those in the working class, as family cars transformed adult culture and rock and roll transformed teen culture.
And one of the points of Grease is that kids of the 50s could afford to worry only about their own trivial problems; there was no world war, no Hitler to fear anymore.
Though Grease implies many complex things, it is actually about the ordinary, everyday lives of a group of teenagers. But the fifties were only a brief window of respite before the dark, dangerous times would return, with Vietnam, race riots, the anti-war movement, Watergate, and recession.
Today, some conservatives idealize the s as a time of moral clarity, patriotism, family stability, and traditional values, a time to which America should return. But that s never actually existed.Gary Foley's personal Koori History page, with monthly special features on aspects of the Aboriginal struggle, photos, essays, and action.
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FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper—the one we know from the original Twin Peaks, who reappears briefly in The Return—is the distillation of the real Cooper. Your source for local news, sports, high school sports and weather in and around Jefferson City, Columbia, Fulton and the Lake of the Ozarks.
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