On the Church and Society
April 30, 2007
Nostalgia just ain't what it used to be.
That's clear from the flurry of activity surrounding the fact that the 1987 movie "Dirty Dancing" marks its twentieth anniversary in May.
Various theaters across the country will be showing the film on May 1 and 2. A new DVD version arrives in stores on May 8, along with a new CD. For good measure, "Dirty Dancing" is on stage in Europe and is headed to the U.S. next year.
All of this is strange enough, but even more bewildering is the reminiscing, as if it were some kind of classic.
In the April 26 New York Post, MacKenzie Dawson wrote: "'Dirty Dancing' tends to inspire nostalgia, excitement and borderline feminine hysteria."
On April 24, a USA Today feature on the movie offered a series of reflections by fans. For example: "'I probably began watching "Dirty Dancing" when I began dancing class at the age of 5,' says Becky Auslander, 23, an entertainment publicist in New York, who had a 'Dirty Dancing' poster on the wall of her college dorm room." The reporter also spoke to a Julia Derbyshire: "'I was 12 years old,' she says. 'My parents took me to see it with my friend Roberta. Straight after the film, we came home, put on music and danced around the basement for hours. There aren't many movies that I remember seeing as clearly as "Dirty Dancing."' And Leanne Norris said: "I think the film is a favorite for me because it is an innocent story of first love."
New York Sun columnist Lenore Skenazy went so far as to declare: "'Dirty Dancing' is about to turn 20, and what once appeared to be a cheesy flick seems to be gaining the status of 'Casablanca.'" Excuse me, "Dirty Dancing" compared to "Casablanca"? Skenazy later gushed: "It's the heartwarming tale of a girl who teaches her parents the evils of prejudice..."
Wow! Oh yes, by the way, central to "Dirty Dancing" was a pro-abortion message. That, of course, makes one wonder about parents at the time taking their kids of five and twelve to the movie. Who were they and what were they thinking?
Many musicals focus on a big show. Recall in "White Christmas," for example, Bing Crosby's Bob Wallace and Danny Kaye's Phil Davis were a song-and-dance team, who decided to put on a show in order to help their old Army general save his Vermont inn.
In "Dirty Dancing," however, the idea was to perform so someone could get an abortion. Put another way: Hey kids, let's put on a show so Penny can abort her child!
It's the summer of 1963, and Penny, a dancer at a resort in the Catskills, gets pregnant. The father is not interested, so it's time for an abortion. But she doesn't have the money. So, a hotel guest named Baby (played by Jennifer Grey) helps out by asking her father, who is a doctor, for $250 without telling him what it is for. But Penny has to a job to dance with the pelvic-thrusting Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze) at the time her illegal abortion is scheduled. Oh, what to do!?
Well, Baby comes to the rescue again by offering to substitute, learns to dance with Johnny, while falling for and sleeping with him. Naturally, the abortion is butchered, but Baby gets her father to save Penny. By the end, Baby and Johnny have danced the big number, Baby and her dad are reconciled, and everybody's happy, including Penny. Well, that is, everybody except the child that Penny aborted. But who cares, let's dance!
"Dirty Dancing" was the perfect post-Sixties-sexual-revolution movie. It had lousy acting (Swayze is particularly bad) and a lame story, though, admittedly, some good music. Sex was of the very casual variety. Abortion was a matter of convenience. And the movie ran thick with a phony caring. Baby wanted to go out and save the world through the Peace Corp or economic development programs (no, I'm not kidding, that's in the film), but she did not hesitate when lying to her father to get money for an abortion. There were no qualms offered by anyone over the abortion. All of the characters ranked as morally immature.
For some, this is what passes as innocent, heartwarming and nostalgia. How sad. How depressing. How predictable.
Raymond J. Keating, also a columnist with Newsday, is the editor and publisher of the "On the Church & Society Report." This column is from the latest issue of the "On the Church & Society Report," which also features "Partial Birth and the Court," "Abortion South of the Border," "Lutherans on Scripture," "Evil and Virginia Tech," "One Bishop Getting Hitched," "Another Bishop Vists." To receive a free four-issue trial of "On the Church & Society Report," send an e-mail request to ChurchandSociety@aol.com.