Welcome Back, Sandra Dee!

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.

Hopelessly Devoted to YouI 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”:

Goodbye Sandra DeeLook at me,
There has to be something more than what they see
Wholesome and pure,
Oh so scared and unsure, a poor man’s 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!

See also:

Is Your Innocence Lost Forever?

Group Self-Policing: How Innocence is Arrested

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10 thoughts on “Welcome Back, Sandra Dee!

  1. In dharmic traditions there’s a stage of purification before spiritual practice (sadhana) is even possible. In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the first two limbs of yoga are yama and niyama, corresponding to moral duty to others and moral duty to oneself. The first of the niyamas is shaucha, meaning cleanliness or purity. Shaucha covers both physical and mental cleanliness.

    As you note in this discussion, there is no question that the media are overwhelmingly impure. This is so to an extent that seems to be aimed precisely at preventing the development of a consciousness of Dea in as many people as can be affected.

    • Thank you for your comment, Mr. Philemon. It is really interesting, actually, because Grease is not one of the movies that one would think of when thinking of movies to avoid. I think that these things are even worse when they come in the form of media that looks pleasant and wholesome, because we are not really aware of what we are seeing.

      Yet, there is an interesting comparison with some of the recommended Japanese media. This is an image of the “transformed” Sandy Olsson:

      Transformed Sandy

      This is an image of one of the later villains from Futari wa Pretty Cure:

      Regine Futari wa Pretty Cure

      Isn’t that interesting?

  2. In reviewing her biography, apparently the real Sandra Dee was very seriously abused as a child and suffered life-long psychological problems. This doesn’t necessarily change the idea of what she was trying to represent, but it is sobering.

    • Thank you for pointing that out, Mr. Philemon, and of course, we are discussing media images, not necessarily the actresses that bring them to life. On the other hand, this does raise one of the better arguments for embracing a post-modern society. This is the argument that the past was violent and it was marked by all kinds of abuses, and that the current post-modern world is less “judgmental” and more “tolerant” and “accepting.”

      I don’t know that the past was really more violent than the present, though. My suspicion is that it is not, and that in reality, it is more violent. On an anecdotal level, I can certainly say that child abuse and spousal abuse is rampant in this day and age. I suppose that those more interested in statistical analysis could tell us the figures.

      Without getting into the statistics and the figures, I think we can come to the understanding that we are talking about two separate things. The history of this world has been violent and brutal as far back as there has been written language, and perhaps even prior to that. In other articles, I have talked about the unbalanced martial influence in our world.

      I think what movies like Grease represent is a breakdown in order, wa, or the Jovial, thamelic part of society, and the introduction of the modern poisons. While I don’t know the answer to the unbalanced violent, martial principle in the world, I do not think that the disruption of order or harmony is the answer. Actually, I think that harmony and order, tempered with Venusian, Sushuric love and kindness, likely represents the antidote to the unbalanced violent, martial principle.

  3. Living in Japan I have frequently caught episodes of a drama called Amachan. It is hugely popular, and since I have been staying with families I am actually catching glimpses of what is popular here (I have no idea what is popular in America or anywhere else). The central character is a young cute, rather gauche girl called Aki Amano.

    Today, I saw a long interview with Rena Nounen, the actress who plays her: and the interesting thing is that she is just like the character she plays. She is not a clever, professional actress who drops the gauche act when she is out of role. She is wide-eyed, cute, shyly stumbling over her words, covering her face and giggling etc. Now the Western mind will tend to say that she is continuing to project her cute image because that is what the fans want to see. And that is not untrue. The question really is, what is the “real” image. A Western actress would put on a slick, professional “I know what it`s all about” image because that is what is expected and the only thing that will be respected. This may be completely false. She may actually be cute and shy (probably not since such a character would not be popular in the same way in the West). But it raises an interesting question about what is “real” in terms of personality. People tend to adopt the mannerisms that are wanted and expected by those around them. And those are the mannerisms that are commonly taken as one`s “real self”.

    “Real” behavior is to a large extent socially determined. It changes over time (in the West, for example, cursing in a manner that would once have been considered either artificial or low-class is now considered to be “real” behavior. The question that should concern us is not what kind of behavior is “real”, but which social models are good and healthy and which are bad and unhealthy. In this context the movie you mention is very interesting since it both documents and helps to enforce the transition from the relatively healthy social model of the Western 1950s to the fundamentally unhealthy one of the 1970s and beyond.

  4. In considering what is “real”, there is of course the traditional image in which life itself is seen as theatre. In that sense, the actress in her private life is still an actress playing a role. As the Scriptures say: “Like to a play is thy life, and the acting of mummers; like to a painted scene all the things of the world.”

    • Yes, there is truth to that too, of course. I think that there is a bit more to it as well, in terms of the shaping of our ideals. I thinking about it, though, that may be the subject of another article, as I think that it becomes a larger discussion.

  5. Dear Miss Hildotter,

    I wanted to take a moment to thank you for writing this article. I remember the movie Grease very well, but had not recognized the actual message it intended to portray until reading this post. I am in the process of reclaiming my innocence and purity as you speak about so eloquently in your blog and had encountered a number of subtle “stumbling blocks” I was having a hard time moving past. This post helped clear up many things for me! Thank you ever so much!!!

    Regards,
    Miss Cathryn MacKenna

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