Olivia Newton-John will rightly be best remembered for her iconic role in Grease, says Sarah Vine in the Daily Mail. Back then, cinema was all hard-edged and gritty – think The Godfather and A Clockwork Orange – but for us teenagers, Grease was a “Technicolour blast of nostalgia”. There’s “no doubt it spoke to my generation”. Yet today, “it would be cancelled at the first focus group”. To start with, there’s the “rapey” lyrics: “Tell me more, tell me more, did she put up a fight?” Then there’s the wolf-whistling at Sandy’s vampish look – soon to be a criminal offence if Liz Truss has her way. And Danny is guilty of “endless gaslighting”: after a misguided lunge, he sulks at Sandy that “I thought I meant something to you”.
Toxic masculinity, slut-shaming, heteronormativity: Grease features “every cardinal sin in the Gospel of Woke”. And that’s precisely why it’s so great. It explores the challenges that unite teenagers across generations – love, heartbreak, peer pressure, insecurity – and shows it’s okay to make mistakes in overcoming them. If Danny had been cancelled in the first scene for his “admittedly lascivious” hip thrusting, he would never have transformed “from greaseball to adoring boyfriend”. If Sandy had remained “prim and proper”, she wouldn’t have realised the power of womanhood. That’s what cancel culture doesn’t understand: “it’s the mistakes and idiotic things” that help us grow into better people. “It’s the grit in the oyster that makes the pearl.”