As part of the changes I have been making lately, I have been doing my best to avoid most Western post-Eclipse media (media produced after the mid 60’s). I admit, though, I slipped a bit this evening. I watched a movie from my childhood, Grease. When I was a child, this was one of the most popular movies around. Children would brag to each other about the number of times they had seen this movie. The soundtrack for Grease was one of the first albums that I had. I listened to this album over and over again, and I can still sing “Hopeless Devoted to You” from memory. Given this, when Grease was on the television, I found myself watching it.
I am actually glad that I watched this movie, and I watched it in a much different way this time. Watching this movie was quite instructive for me in understanding how the Image Sphere of my generation was shaped. In remembering my own reaction to this movie, this shaping is not just theoretical, it was personal.
The movie came out in 1978, but it was set in the 1950’s. The main female character in this movie was Sandy Olsson. At the beginning of the movie, Sandy was innocent and pure. During the previous summer, she fell in love with a boy, Danny Zuko, who was part of the clique, “the greasers,” who were the “bad boys” of the school. The central plot of the movie was relationship and romance between these two characters, but I think that there was a theme to this movie that was quite insidious. At least it was insidious for me, particularly because I identified strongly with Sandy.
Throughout this movie, Sandy was ridiculed and teased for her innocence and purity. She had just transferred to the High School from Australia, and she was befriended by Frenchie, one of the “Pink Ladies,” who were the “bad girls” of the school. One of the early scenes is a sleepover that Sandy attended with the Pink Ladies. One of the songs of this theme was “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee.” During this song, the other girls mocked Sandy because she did not drink, smoke, or swear, and because she was too innocent.
There were also several scenes where Danny rejected and even mocked Sandy as well in order to maintain his reputation with his friends. The two do eventually get together, and Danny does try to make changes. He joins the track team and earns a Letterman sweater.
Sadly, though, Danny’s changes were not the focus of the movie. The focus of the movie was the pressure upon Sandy to renounce her innocence and her purity. Eventually, she did. When she did, she became fully part of the group of girls, and she and Danny came together. The moral of this story seemed to be that if a girl wants to be happy and have friends, she must give up being innocent and pure.
I remember as a young girl, along with “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” I also sang over and over again the song in which Sandy makes the decision to renounce her innocence, the reprise of the mocking song, “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee”:
Frenchie: They won [a drag race]. Isn’t that great? Aren’t you happy?
Sandy: Not really, Frenchie, but I think I know a way that I could be. Could you help me? Can I come to your place?
Frenchie: Sure, come on.
Sandy, you must start anew
Don’t you know, what you must do
Hold your head high, take a deep breath and sigh
Goodbye to Sandra Dee
The help that Sandy asks for from Frenchie is a makeover. She changes from her pretty, wholesome look to one that was decidedly unwholesome. It was then that there was a happy ending.
The message of this movie was clear to me as a young girl. One could not be innocent and wholesome and be happy. In order to be happy and accepted by her peers, a girl needed to say “goodbye to Sandra Dee.”
I am an adult now, and I have learned a lot. One of the things that I have learned is that there have been many changes in our world starting in the mid-1960’s, and one of the things that happened was a process of Conscience Inversion, a process by which we are taught to be proud of our worst instincts and ashamed of our best ones. This is one of the forces that shaped a larger change in society marked by atomization, deracination, and deformation.
So, as part of my journey, I am reclaiming Sandra Dee. Rather than being embarrassed and ashamed of being wholesome, I am reclaiming and celebrating it. A lot of things have happened in my life, but I believe that I can reclaim my innocence. I also believe that reclaiming our personal innocence is one of the best things that we can do, not just for ourselves but for our world.
So Welcome Back, Sandra Dee!