This is not a good time to be asking people for money and, um, that’s my job. Earlier this week, a woman flat-out laughed at me. I imagined her with a scotch in one hand and a gun in the other.
So I think it’s a good week to do things other than work. Like think about the fantastic Dirty Dancing, which I just saw for the first time in a theater as part of a Jezebel / Abortion Access Fund event. The screenwriter-producer Eleanor Bergstein came to encourage us all to take risks, as people and as artists, and, when we put controversial events in our commercial movies, to make them impossible to remove.
“I’m so sorry,” Lipman told the acne cream company that was willing to sponsor Dirty Dancing, as long as the illegal abortion — which, in the film, has near-tragic repercussions — was removed. “It’s the linchpin of the story. Nothing would make any sense if it were removed.” The acne cream bowed out, the film was released regardless, and it became an international success.
“Always make it the linchpin,” she instructed us. “That way you can’t cave to pressure even if part of you wants to out of fear.”
Fun facts about Dirty Dancing:
* Like Wet Hot American Summer, this is a movie about Jews that never explicitly says it’s about Jews.
* During filming, the seasons changed, so the crew had to spray-paint the leaves on the trees green.
* Jennifer Grey was 27 during filming and Patrick Swayze was 35.
* The crawling-on-the-floor dance scene was improvised
* Sarah Jessica Parker and Val Kilmer were considered for the lead roles
* It won an Oscar (Best Song)
* There are like 15 plotlines going on. That’s pretty ambitious for a movie about school kids on vacation with their family.
* Some folks don’t like this movie. (I know, right?)
* I didn’t see it all the way through until I was 27 myself because my proto-feminist high school self caught a glimpse of it on TV and was insulted by the fact that the main female character was called “Baby.” Little did I realize that that was intentional — that the film was about the infantilization of women. Her liberal, well-meaning parents named her Frances after the first woman in the cabinet but then called her Baby! What could be a better example of the mixed messages affluent white girls received in the mid-20th century? Go to college but then marry some Ivy Leaguer and be content raising his children. Read and think, but not too much or no one will want you. And so on.
* Of course, the movie is also about class, back-alley abortions, and how people in 1963 would look if they had 1980s hair and dressed like they were on their way to a Jane Fonda aerobics class. (See above re: plotlines.)
It’s too bad Eleanor Bergstein didn’t write more movies because this one really is near perfect for what it is. Why would anyone try to remake it? What could they possibly add?