Dirty Dancing

March 21, 2011

My daughters and I settled in to our home cinema to continue our Patrick Swayzee marathon. The Patrick Swayzee marathon began for the purpose of their cultural education, and in particular to rectify their ignorance concerning references to Patrick Swayzee’s ghost (made by the comedian Ross Nobel in an hilarious send-up of the movie Ghost), and the origins of “Time of My Life (dirty bits)” by the Black Eyed Peas.

It’s an entertaining exercise to ponder over the re-emergence of retro-, popular film and television, and the shape that the re-emergence takes. Why do some scenes in movies become iconic? Is it possible to tell which scenes from modern cinema will become iconic in their turn? Isn’t it funny that children use lines from movies that have become iconic without having experienced the original scene! I think Bakhtin had something to say about the propensity of language to re-emerge with new meaning. One does not have to have seen Dirty Harry before being entitled to use the phrase, “Make my day!” It has been appropriated within modern vernacular. A speaker who appropriates the phrase, “Make my day”, will notice its social force upon the listener, and in turn the effect upon him or herself. The phrase has a cultural “weight”. The speaker is signified  as cool or in control or somehow cleverer than the person it is addressed to because its iconic (and because there is no come-back!)

I hadn’t seen Dirty Dancing since it came out in the eighties and was sceptical as to whether it would measure up to my children’s exacting standards. My children are now 18, 16, 14 and 11. To my delight, they and I enjoyed the movie. My daughters thought Jennifer Grey played a delightful ‘Baby’.

“Oh she is soooo sweet”, they crooned.

Baby is very cute when she first enters the dirty dancing room carrying a watermelon, when she rehearses the dance steps by herself all day and when she stands up to her father. Patrick is hot! and the older girls appreciated that. There was enough of a build up throughout the movie, to be absolutely blown away by the final dance. It’s totally a feel-good movie!

It affected Rosie (my 16 year old) the most. She has downloaded the original sound track and wants her own copy of the movie to show all of her girlfriends. Her favorite scene was the “Baby, Oh Baby” song when they are rehearsing together and miming to each other. I’d forgotten this bit. It’s girly fantasy in its essence and Rosie is at the right age to dream.

Emma (the 14 year old) identified another cultural reference to add to my growing list of points towards their cultural education:

Patrick’s character said, “Nobody puts Baby in a corner!”

“OMG”, said Emma, “That’s something you say! I never knew where it came from”. Emma was delighted to have been enlightened (and also thoroughly amused that she had heard the phrase often without knowing its origins). She laughed.

I hadn’t heard the phase used in a modern context. In a reciprocal sense, Emma was educating me.

Another reverse-educative consequence of the whole project has been my appreciation of The Black Eyed Pea’s version of the song. Since my children have understood and appreciated its origins there was no need for me to stay on my high horse. Now occasionally Rosie appropriates my kitchen ipod speakers and plays the original sound track; Sally plays her Black Eyed peas album including the cover version; and we dance and sing around the kitchen to both. (Sally has a particular skill in doing hilarious moves to the rap bits. She has us all in stitches!)

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2 Responses to “Dirty Dancing”

  1. zhisou said

    “Nobody puts Baby in a corner” – I must try and use that line. I never quite got the whole Patrick Swayzee thing, perhaps because I am not, and never was, a teenage girl.

  2. Earthpal said

    Well, believe it or not, I have yet to see this film. I’ll make it my plan for this weekend. I have to say though, Patrick never did it for me, not even in Ghost when he played the pottery scene. I am the exception though among my friends.

    jenny, thinking about your previous post, have any of your girls been through the Audrey Hepburn phase? My eldest, Charlotte skipped it but Anna, my fifteen-year old is quite into her. She has a gorgeous picture of her on her bedroom wall amongst lots of other Hepburn-related merchandise. She adores her.

    Amusing post Jenny.

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