How old are they supposed to be in dirty dancing

How Old Baby & Johnny Are In Dirty Dancing

By Quinn Hough


Dirty Dancing features an iconic pairing in Patrick Swayze's Johnny and Jennifer Grey's Baby, but their characters are far from the same age.

Dirty Dancing features an iconic pairing in Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, but how old is Jennifer Grey, how big is their age gap, and does it make the movie problematic? Dirty Dancing is somewhat autobiographical for screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein, as it's based on her own teenage experiences. This fact only brings the question of Baby and Johnny's age difference further into the light. While the movie doesn't explicitly state the two protagonists' ages, there's enough evidence to suggest that the years between them borders on creepy.

Johnny and Baby's ages in Dirty Dancing (of which Patrick Swayze hates the best line) come into question simply by looking at Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Gray. The two don't even look like they're in the same age group, and the movie takes no strides to explain any part of it. While this could be a product of the time it was made, Dirty Dancing might not hold up well under today's magnifying glass in terms of its more problematic areas. So, how old is Jennifer Grey? Here's exactly how old Baby and Johnny are in Dirty Dancing, and whether their age is far too wide.

Related: All HBO Max Original Shows & Movies Releasing In 2022

How Old Are Baby And Johnny

How old is Jennifer Grey? Well, clues in Dirty Dancing place Johnny's age at 25 years old and Baby’s age at 17. At the beginning of Dirty Dancing on HBO, Baby's narration references the "summer of '63." Early dialogue reveals that she's planning to attend Mount Holyoke (an all-female private college in Massachusetts) to study the economics of underdeveloped countries. In the politically charged Dirty Dancing, Baby also states that she plans to join the Peace Corps shortly before laying eyes on Johnny for the first time. Some reports have suggested that Baby is supposed to be 18 or even 19 years old. However, based on iMDB's trivia notes and a 2017 interview with Grey (via Closer Weekly), it seems that Baby was presumably born in 1946 and is supposed to be 17 years old. The character doesn't actually reveal her age in Dirty Dancing, nor does Johnny ask on-camera. If Baby is indeed a minor, that would explain her father's confrontational attitude toward Mr. Castle throughout most of the film.

In Dirty Dancing, Johnny's 1938 birthdate makes him 25 years old. The character initially questions why Baby gained access to a private dancing area, but then invites her to boogie and subsequently teaches her some moves. Johnny and Baby/Frances slowly become friends while dealing with Penny's medical procedures (Jake Houseman provides the appropriate assistance), and they eventually become romantic partners. Dirty Dancing on HBO never addresses the eight-year age difference between the two characters, which makes the film somewhat controversial – both then and now – because Baby is indeed a minor. In 1963 America, though, it wasn't uncommon for men and women to commit at a young age. The focal Dirty Dancing relationship may not be appropriate, but the age gap isn't enough to make Baby's father concerned during the climactic performance. In fact, Jake Houseman essentially apologizes to Johnny.

How Old Were Patrick Swayze And Jennifer Grey During Dirty Dancing?

The late Swayze was approximately seven years older than Grey in real life. When Dirty Dancing premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May 1987, Roadhouse star Patrick Swayze was 34 years old and was best known for portraying Darrel "Darry" Curtis in The Outsiders and Jed Eckert in Red Dawn. As for Grey, she had just turned 27 and had previously portrayed Jeanie Bueller in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. She also appeared alongside Swayze in Red Dawn as Toni Mason. In 2010, Grey won Dancing with the Stars season 11, just over a year after her Dirty Dancing co-star, Swayze, passed away at age 57 from pancreatic cancer.

Johnny And Baby’s Age Gap In Dirty Dancing Is Questionable At Best

Johnny and Baby's ages in Dirty Dancing are certainly problematic. And worse still, if she was 17 years old, and he was 25, then New York state law would deem nothing wrong with their relationship. This is a problem, as the age gap is discomforting to think about, technically legal, and would definitely raise concerned discussions were a movie to feature it today. Despite this, age gaps like in Patrick Swayze's Dirty Dancing are unfortunately too common. Movies like Licorice Pizza can get away with extensive lovers' age differences, and people seem to be forgiving of its inclusion. After all, Dirty Dancing is still a beloved and critically acclaimed movie when it comes down to it. The film is so prolific that it got a (pretty terrible) TV remake in 2017. Dirty Dancing remains popular, but when put up to today's standards, the age gap between Johnny and Baby wouldn't fly unquestioned were a script to include it today.

Related: Why Road House Is Patrick Swayze's Most Misunderstood Movie

Dirty Dancing's Problematic Age Gap Isn't Alone

While the age gap in Dirty Dancing is certainly creepy, it's not the only movie to feature a problematic age gap between the two leads. Whether it's the ages of the actors themselves or the characters they play, Hollywood has pumped out plenty of iconic films that showcase uncomfortable age differences between romantic partners. Take, for example, any Woody Allen film. The romance between Colin Firth and Emma Stone in Allen's 2014 rom-com Magic in the Moonlight is a more modern example. The age gap between the two actors is 28 years, with Firth being 53 at the time and Stone being 25. While legal, the knowledge Firth was 28 when Stone was born made many viewers uncomfortable.

A more overt example of narrative enabling uncomfortable, and also illegal, age gaps is 90s classic American Beauty. American Beauty shows a 42-year-old Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey, then 39) falling in love with his teenage daughter's 16-year-old friend Angela (Mena Suvari, then 19). The 1980 Martin Scorsese drama Raging Bull shows an adult Robert de Niro fall for a 15-year-old character played by a 17-year-old actress. Finally, Entrapment, starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Sean Connery, showed sparks fly between the two characters, but did nothing to explain Sean Connery and Zeta-Jones' nearly 40-year age gap. The age difference in Dirty Dancing may be problematic, but it doesn't exist in a vacuum. In the end, the movie isn't alone in its depiction, and it's far from the worst offender.

Next: What Happened To Dirty Dancing's Jennifer Grey

5 misconceptions about Dirty Dancing: Is Johnny Castle a pedophile?

Having revisited Dirty Dancing I realised I was harbouring misconceptions about Johnny Castle being a pedophile. 

A film that I held in high regard during my childhood; Dirty Dancing was the ultimate coming-of-age holiday romance. The unforgettable Hungry Eyes ‘gu-gung’ heart tapping and iconic lake scenes filled my heart with a sense of young love.

The narrative follows Baby (Jennifer Grey) and her family on holiday at Kellermans resort, where the elite come to relax. While there she meets dancer Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze) and falls madly in love with him while gyrating on his crotch.

She gets herself into this precarious position when she fills in for Johnny’s pregnant dance partner Penny, while she endures a back-street abortion.

Baby’s doctor father swoops in and saves Penny when the abortion goes awry, and presuming Johnny is the father, forbids his daughter from ever seeing him again.

Despite my feelings of love towards the film as a child as I got older and viewed it through the cynical eyes of maturity, I poured over the message it delivered and found it to be seedy.

Was Baby groomed by a dance troupe? 

Baby gives a voice of God narration over the opening scenes, illustrating how naive she was when she arrived at Kellermans holiday resort.

“That was the summer of 1963, when everybody called me ‘Baby’, and it didn’t occur to me to mind. That was before President Kennedy was shot, before the Beatles, when I couldn’t wait to join the Peace Corps, and I thought I’d never find a guy as great as my dad.”

Upon meeting the convention-defying dancer Johnny Castle, she finds herself caught in the turbulent whirlwind of first love, removing the magical sheen that clouds childhood forever.

As my pessimistic adult brain processed this information, I came the realisation that Johnny Castle is a pedophile, and the film descended into a tragic tale of innocence lost against a backdrop of romance and mambo.

This step-ball-change in perception put me off. I shied away from the film I once held close, and cast it off as yet another damaging Hollywood love story.

I was wrong.  

Articles like 11 Dirty Dancing plot holes previously solidified my beliefs, alongside the countless Google results slandering Johnny as a predator. I have decided to set the record straight by rectifying the 5 (technically 4) misconceptions I had about Dirty Dancing.

1. Johnny Castle is a Pedophile

Misconception numero uno has to be calling this film ‘Dirty Pedo’ on account of Baby being underage.

As her father said: “When I’m wrong, I say I’m wrong,” and I am going to follow suit. Baby is 17 years old and due to start college, while Johnny is supposed to be 25. Despite there being a large age-gap, there is no law breaking here.

Sorry Johnny!

2. The film condones disrespect for authority and trust

I really couldn’t understand why Baby got away with disrespecting her father. It seemed as though her dad was clued in to what Johnny was doing, and this leather-clad cherub was leading her down a bad path of lies and rebellion.

What it actually does, is show that Baby has an extremely strong sense of morals and is fearless enough to stand up to wealthy white men’s discrimination.

Having the courage to respectfully disagree with your nearest and dearest  is a real testament to her strength of self and determination.

3. Baby is weak 

I figured Baby was a bit too naive and that her very name was there to drill in the dangers of teenage girls led astray by older guys…Baby is actually a feminist powerhouse.

She stands up for the oppressed and tries to put her best foot forward. She might be spoilt and entitled, but Baby is no coward.

Given that her awakening to ‘how the other half live’ happened in her first two days of staying at Kellermans, she is able to point out stereotyping and prejudice from a mile away.

Baby calls out her dad, stands up for her beliefs and refuses to let social status bother her – while dreaming of joining the Peace Corps and learning a whole dance routine.

She puts herself out to help someone else, fights her fear of dance and performance and rumbles a couple of petty wallet thieves because of it! That’s pretty good going.

4. Johnny is just as bad as Robbie

When Johnny first swaggers in and knocks Robbie’s napkins on the floor, you figure he is the bad apple. He seems to be ruthless with Baby by constantly undermining her abilities and making her appear to be less than what she is – perhaps Swayze played this role so believably because of their famous disagreements in real life.

Robbie is utterly awful as far as characters go. He sexually assaults Lisa and refuses any help to Penny despite being ‘well-off’ and sleeps with the adulteress.

If anyone is a villain it is Baby’s father, whose prejudice and judgement causes a disequilibrium of disastrous consequences.

5. Lisa is the most unlikable character in the whole movie 

Lisa’s character is fuelled by a lack of attention, something which is explicitly dealt with when she finds out Baby slept with Johnny.

Starved of fatherly-attention and clearly pitted against her sister, Lisa is struggling under the societal pressures to be like her conforming and mostly-silent mother. With her focus firmly on fashion and coral shoes, Lisa has been conditioned to accept the world as it comes.

Baby, who is favoured by her father, has been raised with the belief that she can directly affect the world from a position of privilege. Lisa happily participates in the pageant of Kellerman’s wealthy guests, encouraging all to “join hands, hearts and voices” – while Baby gatecrashes it with an influx of cuban dance rhythms and diversity (well, as much diversity as they would allow).

Lisa is admittedly very annoying, but the hatred I had for her is rapidly ebbing away…





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Favorite movie. Dirty Dancing

America in the early 1960s. A high school student nicknamed Baby, who came to the resort with her parents, starts an affair with a young dance teacher. They rehearse a performance on a show for tourists together, but the girl's parents forbid her to communicate with the guy, since he is lower than her in social status and because they mistakenly believe that the dancer's previous partner had to have an abortion because of him. In the end, the guy is fired, and he has to leave the resort. However, on the day of the scheduled performance, he suddenly returns, enters the hall where the performance has already begun, and sees that his beloved is sitting at a table in the corner, “locked” by her parents on both sides. The hero throws them: “The baby cannot be driven into a corner,” and then takes the girl by the hand and takes her to the stage to dance the prepared number.

The 1980s in mainstream Hollywood was the age of "male" cinema. Action, thrillers, sci-fi, fantasy… Even the romantic films of that time were often intended primarily for male eyes, connecting not-so-handsome men with the most attractive women. However, there were striking exceptions to this rule, and one of them was released in 1987. There was not even a hint of a male point of view in this romantic drama - she looked at the world only through female eyes. And this made it a long-term, still popular hit. This wonderful picture was called "Dirty Dancing".

Novelist and screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein has always loved to dance, especially as a young girl, when her wealthy parents took her and her sister to the fashionable 1950s and 1960s resorts in the Catskill Mountains of New York State. While the "ancestors" played golf, the girl danced until she dropped. She was the "queen of mambo", participated in dance competitions, and later, while studying at the university, worked as a dance teacher. So when she started writing professionally in the 1970s, she included in her first producer-purchased script, the romantic tragicomedy Now My Turn, an erotic dance scene between the two protagonists.

The 1980 film, however, did not include this scene. The producers considered it superfluous and threw it out of the text. It was a painful but important lesson: "If you want something in your script to survive, make it an integral part of the story." And Bergstein decided to dedicate her new script entirely to dancing - as well as illegal abortions.

Why were there abortions? Despite the fact that abortion was fully legalized throughout the United States only in 1973, as a result of the decision of the Supreme Court of the country in the case of Roe v. Wade. This decision was an example of so-called "judicial activism" - reshaping US laws not in accordance with the opinion of the people or their elected representatives, but in accordance with the position of appointed judicial officials. Therefore, the Roe v. Wade case immediately became one of the main stumbling blocks in American politics, and conservatives are still aggressively fighting to overturn it.

As a committed (though not radical) feminist, Bergstein did not want this. She well remembered the days of clandestine, often home abortions, often ending in tragedy. However, she did not intend to write a dark moral story that would only arouse the interest of those who did not need to be convinced of the justice of Roe v. Wade. So she decided to write a historical romantic tragicomedy, where the plot would revolve around passionate dancing, but would be driven by the events associated with clandestine abortion. As a result, the picture was supposed to turn out to be beautiful and loving enough to interest the public, and then through a secondary, but key storyline for the story, “slip” into the heads of the audience the idea that abortion should in no case be banned.

This is how the script was born, which received the quite natural name "Dirty Dancing" (as in the early 1960s, rock and roll, which was very frank at that time, was called). Its main character, Frances Houseman, was partly autobiographical—a naive, idealistic girl from a wealthy Jewish family who loves dancing and sighs for an attractive instructor who reciprocates her feelings. Eleanor borrowed the name of the girl from her sister, but the family nickname Baby belonged to the screenwriter herself. The prototype of the protagonist was Michael Terrance (real name - Michael Gutierrez), a prominent Broadway dancer and choreographer who once worked as a dance teacher in the Catskills and was among the first American popularizers of mambo, a dance style that was born in Cuba in 1940s and came to the US through Mexico.

In the course of the action, the permanent dance partner of the instructor had an underground abortion, which ended unsuccessfully, and the girl was deprived of the opportunity to dance for a long time, which opened the way for the Kid to the stage podium and into the arms of the protagonist. Further events developed according to the classic Romeo and Juliet scenario about the love of two representatives of conflicting worlds (in this case, rich tourists and poor servants), but, in accordance with the positive Hollywood tradition, they ended with a happy ending, not a tragedy.

Following the success of Saturday Night Fever in 1977, dance cinema in America experienced a brief but tumultuous renaissance, with hit films such as Glory, Flash Dance, and Free » (Footloose). All of these films, however, looked at dancing in terms of male passions and male experiences. So, when choosing an actress for the lead role in Flashdance, then-Paramount boss Michael Eisner ordered a survey of studio workers and find out which of the three main contenders they would prefer to “fuck”.

On the contrary, "Dirty Dancing" was emphasized by a female narrative with a discussion of abortion, a fixation on the heroine's relationship with her father and the love of a romantic handsome man and a naive "simple girl" (a classic cliché of female tabloid prose). Male producers were cold to such a movie, and the project was treading water until a high-ranking MGM employee, Eileen Misel, became interested in it. She brought Bergstein together with producer Linda Gottlieb (who actively participated in the development of the script and urged the screenwriter to use as much details from her life as possible) and tried to organize shooting at her studio, but she was soon fired, and the project again became homeless.

In search of a new home for the Dances, Gottlieb and Bergstein went to all the Hollywood studios and received dozens of rejections. No one wanted to make women's films, and even historical, dance and Jewish films (although the nationality of the heroine does not matter much for the action, it is still an essential script detail). Finally, Vestron, an independent studio based in Connecticut, which mainly dealt with video releases, but occasionally released films, became interested in the script. Vestron agreed to finance the film on the condition that the producers would meet $4.5 million and that the film's wide release would be very short. A week or two in the movies - and then all sales on video. Gottlieb and Bergstein had no choice, and their partners (Bergstein became a co-producer of the film) agreed to the conditions of tight-fisted Connecticutians.

By the time they signed with the studio, they already had a director. Emil Ardolino, Oscar-winner for his 1983 documentary about a dance teacher, I Want to Dance With Him, went to the producers himself and persuaded them to give him the job. Before he did not work on feature films, but he knew a lot about dancing and, thanks to his unconventional orientation, agreed with the producers that the hero of the film should be more beautiful than the heroine. The studio, by the way, objected to this, but the authors of the tape were adamant. They wanted to make a fairy tale for women, not a trivial love story between two exceptionally attractive people.

Since the prototype of the protagonist was "Latino" Michael Terrance, the producers initially looked for Johnny among actors with Mediterranean and "Latin" roots. But as soon as Bergstein saw a photo of Patrick Swayze from Red Dawn and The Outcasts and learned that he was not only a handsome actor, but also a professional dancer, she knew that Swayze needed to be hired immediately. And she was absolutely right - it's not every day you meet a Texan macho who loves women and ballet (Swayze inherited a love of dancing from his choreographer mother) and who played figure skating and American football at school. Later, the screenwriter admitted that only after meeting Swayze did she fully realize what Johnny Castle was supposed to be.

Swayze's Red Dawn co-star Jennifer Grey, also known for her supporting role in the teen comedy Ferris Bueller's Day Off, is cast as the main character. Like Swayze, Gray came from a musical family. Her father was Broadway actor and choreographer Joel Gray, Oscar winner for the musical Cabaret, and her grandfather was the prominent American-Jewish comedian Mickey Katz. From her family, the girl inherited an impressive nose, which was ideal for the role of Baby, but did not really like the actress herself. Later, she underwent plastic surgery ... and ruined her career, as she was no longer recognized and invited to audition.

It is worth noting that 26-year-old Gray and 34-year-old Swayze were ten years older than their characters, but they looked young enough that it was not conspicuous. They also did not like each other very much, as Swayze was highly professional and pedantic, and Gray was emotional and flighty, with seven Fridays a week. They did not like each other even during the filming of "Red Dawn", but on the screen and in the dance, this hostility miraculously turned into a romantic "spark". That's really true - from love to hate . ..

The father of the main character of "Dancing" was played by Broadway and theater artist Jerry Orbach, the future voice of Lumiere in Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" and detective Lenny Briscoe in the TV series "Law & Order". Animated voice actress Lynn Lipton was cast as Baby's mother, but she fell ill during the first week of filming and was replaced by Broadway artist Kelly Bishop, a future Gilmore Girls star who was originally hired to play one of the tourists at the resort. Since it was already too late to look for a replacement for her, the second choreographer Miranda Garrison took over her former role. The boss of the last and, accordingly, the main choreographer of the tape was Kenny Ortega, a student of the legendary musical star Gene Kelly, dance director in Madonna's Material Girl video and future employee of Michael Jackson and choreographer of the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Why did all the main roles in the film go to Broadway people or professional dancers? Because Ardolino didn't want a repeat of the Flashdance scandal, where lead actress Jennifer Beals "danced" with the help of multiple stunt doubles, one of whom was a man. Coming to feature films from documentaries, the director wanted to shoot really dancing actors, and not create characters by editing and shooting in the shadows or from the back (so that faces were not visible). In addition, Broadway performers were cheaper than famous Hollywood performers and were more industrious.

When looking for filming locations, the producers quickly discovered that they could not afford to film in New York State, as the locally required contracts with unionized workers and filmmakers were too expensive for a film that was filmed at a third of the normal rate for the time. budget of $12 million. So instead of resorts in the Catskills, the picture was created at two lake resorts in Virginia and North Carolina, where there was no need to get involved with unions and where workers were much cheaper.

As if trying to punish the filmmakers for betraying New York, nature unleashed a series of weather tests on them. Filming took place in September and October 1986, and in the early days there was a heat of 40 degrees Celsius, from which members of the group, forced to work in the sun, sometimes fainted. By the end of the filming period, the temperature dropped to almost zero, which made filming the dance in the lake life-threatening (the heroes rehearse support, what to do in the water is safer than in the hall - of course, if the water is warm). Also, filmmakers suffered from heavy rains, from withered grass (to make it look like summer, it had to be painted) ... And from the desire of Patrick Swayze to do all the stunts himself, which once, after filming a dance on a log, led him to the hospital (from a series of falls he his injured knee was so swollen that he could not walk).

However, filming in the outback, far from megacities, had some advantages. The main one was that the group living and working in the resort boarding house quickly and firmly became friends. Every night Hollywood had discos, and this helped the actors to get used to the roles and identify with the characters. Swayze and Gray, however, never became friends. On the contrary, the relationship between them worsened every day, and at some point the studio was afraid that the stars would not be able to finish shooting. Fortunately, the producers managed to set the couple in the right mood, showing the actors a screen test where their relationship had not yet been hopelessly damaged.

To immerse the band in the early 1960s, Bergstein played her favorite records during filming. When it came to composing the soundtrack, music producer Jimmy Yenner bought the rights to a number of classic hits from the writer's collection. He also arranged for the recording of several new compositions, among which was the ballad She's Like the Wind, composed and performed by Patrick Swayze. The actor wrote this song for the tragicomedy "Grenview, USA", but the composition was not useful to its director Randal Kleiser.

The picture's biggest hit (I've Had) The Time of My Life, played during the climactic dance, was composed and recorded as a demo track by former Franke and the Knockouts vocalist Frank Prewit. The film, however, did not use this version (in Swayze's opinion, the best), but a professionally mixed version performed by Bill Medley of The Righteous Brothers and solo singer Jennifer Warnes. By the way, a few years later, The Righteous Brothers' classic Unchained Melody became the biggest hit in the film Ghost, where Swayze also played the title role.

When the film was completed, edited, and shown to the Vestron bosses, they unanimously agreed that they had paid for a piece of something stinky. One of the film's early viewers, producer Aaron Russo, even joked that the studio would make more money from Dance if they burned the negative and demanded insurance. The film's financial prospects could have been saved by Clearasil, an acne cream maker who wanted to run an advertising campaign with Vestron (who else would sell acne cream if not to young viewers of a teenage romantic film?). However, the owners of Clearasil demanded that all references to the abortion be removed from the painting, which was impossible to do. Bergstein made sure that abortion was the cornerstone of the narrative, without which the film crumbled like a house of cards. So the acne cream had to be abandoned.

At the very end of the film's release, the disillusioned studio also had to endure a conflict with the MPAA, which awards film ratings. Although there was no eroticism, violence or swearing in the film, the tape initially received an “adult” R rating - solely because of the “dirty” of passionate dances. Fortunately, the studio still managed to convince the association that "vertical sex" was not real sex, and on August 21, 1987, the film was released with a PG-13 rating.

The very first week of the release showed that the abundance of early negative reviews was due to the fact that the film was not being watched by those for whom it was intended. In just ten days, the tape, whose final budget was $ 6 million, earned ten million, and not due to a powerful advertising campaign, but due to numerous fans. When women and girls left the hall, they either bought a ticket again, or ran to call their friends and invite them to the cinema. Visually, narratively, emotionally, musically, it was an all-female film with no compromises for the men in the audience, and it acted like a drug on the audience. Professional reviews, however, were not too flattering, but this did not prevent the film from earning $ 170 million at the worldwide box office, becoming one of the biggest hits of the year and receiving an Oscar for best song.

And that was just the beginning. When Dirty Dancing was released on video, it became the first movie in history to sell over a million copies. In 1988, no cassette was as popular in American theaters as the Dancing cassette, and in subsequent years the tape sold only slightly worse, first on VHS and then on DVD. American television also fell in love with "Dancing", and they became the same frequent guest on the "blue screen" in the States, as in our country the comedies of Gaidai and Ryazanov. And when British broadcaster Sky Television asked female viewers in 2007 which films they preferred, Dirty Dancing came in first place, beating female hits such as Grease, Pretty Woman and The Sound of Music (in second place, by the way). , hit "Star Wars" - first place in a similar men's list).

The film was also lucky with the quotes – the phrase “Baby can't be cornered” became one of the most popular movie phrases of the 1980s. She appeared in an early version of the script and survived all the rewriting and improvisation, despite the opposition of Patrick Swayze, who considered her too stupid and vulgar. But, like many critics of the picture, he was simply not its target audience. And over the years, he appreciated this phrase and twisted it more than once in dark jokes about the cancer that brought him to his grave. It took him a long time to appreciate what the phrase meant to American women, who, even after the official victory of feminism, are often cornered or pushed aside - especially in Hollywood, which remains a male kingdom. And America will need many more films like Dirty Dancing to stop responding to the phrase about Baby and coal as violently as it was reacted to at 1987 - and how they sometimes react to it even now.

"Dirty Dancing" - a masterpiece of feminism

"Dirty Dancing" - one of the main movie hits of the 1980s, a rare film that was ahead of its time and absolutely not outdated even now. To the news about the continuation of the cult film, we explain why it is impossible.

Lisa Birger



film classics

Patrick Swayze

Dirty Dancing is one of the most unexpected film successes of the 1980s. No one expected good things from a film with a budget of 6 million and a filming period of a rapid three months: the bosses of the Vestron Pictures studio, after looking at the footage, at first offered to burn it right away in order to recoup at least some insurance costs, and then insisted that the film should not dishonor the studio and went directly to the video store. And yet, it came out and in a few weeks grew into a giant hit: there was even a movement of viewers (to be fair, female viewers) who watched the film in cinemas a hundred times.

Those who attribute the film's success to erotic overtones have obviously never seen it - "dirty" in the context of these dances just means "wild", and in the only remotely erotic scene, the viewer is shown a Chinese red paper lamp. The film was not about dirt at all, and not even completely about dancing. He beckoned the viewer with a freedom that could not be repeated either before or later: that every girl can choose her fate and her sexuality for herself. And if you are seventeen years old and you really want to fuck this handsome instructor, then nothing should stop you. This freedom of Dirty Dancing was ignored yesterday, it is often turned a blind eye today, but this is the main thing in the film and not at all the secret reason for its incredible success.

The story of Dirty Dancing begins with screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein and producer Linda Gottlieb having a dinner together. “I have a good idea for a film,” Bergstein said. “It is based on my life. True, there will be a lot of mamba dancing in it. “Tell me about your life,” Gottlieb asked. Bergstein said: In the 1960s, America, tickets to Europe still cost a little less than planes, and wealthy Jewish families went on vacation to the boarding houses of the so-called Borscht Belt, nicknamed so for its exclusively Jewish population - in Catskill, a mountain range in the Appalachian belt, where, according to Washington Irving, according to legend, Rip van Winkle fell asleep for 20 years. It was here that the entertainment hotels were living their last days, where the rich from Brooklyn settled into expensive - very expensive - bungalows, and they were entertained nightly with dancers, magicians, comedians, musicians and artists. For many of these artists, performing on the "borscht stage" was the first step to a real career - for example, Woody Allen, Lenny Bruce and Jerry Lewis started here. But for decent Jewish girls, the hotels of the Borscht Belt were the only territory of freedom - many of them came here to part with their bored virginity or at least to dance passionately. So it was with Eleanor Bergstein, the daughter of a doctor whose family spent all summer at the Grossinger Hotel in Catskill. Here Eleanor learned to dance the mamba - so much so that she won several competitions - and secretly had an affair with the teacher. The film that Gottlieb and Bergstein came up with that evening was to be called I Was the Teenage Mamba Queen. We were lucky that in the end they decided to turn it into something more interesting: not just by chance, but into a fairy tale.

The main character of the film, seventeen-year-old Frances Houseman, nicknamed Baby, "baby", comes with her parents and her stupid older sister to relax for a week and immediately falls for the local dance instructor, a young rude Irishman Johnny. While her parents watch performances and cut into bridge, she eats through the eyes of Johnny dancing with older women rich enough to let a fur coat casually fall from her shoulder to the floor. But then Baby gets a chance to prove herself - Johnny's dancing partner, Penny, flew into the air from one of the waiters who work part-time in a boarding house between studies at Yale. When Baby tries to withdraw money from the waiter for an abortion, he slips Ayn Rand's "Source" to her, saying that all means are good in achieving greatness. And, having borrowed money from dad "for a good cause", Baby goes to learn mamba from Johnny to perform on stage with him while Penny lies under the knife of a passing doctor. After the dance, and after having to once again call on dad to help the dying Penny, Baby will come to Johnny's room and make him dance with her again - her hand will stop on his ass as an unambiguous announcement of intent. It won't break for a long time.

This is a woman's story, and not at all in the sense of the excessive romanticization that is usually considered feminine, although the kisses here are really tender. This is the story of a woman who herself wanted, chose, seduced, without limiting her sexual desires in any way. She, we recall, is 17, and she is a virgin. She not only chooses herself with whom and how she will lose this virginity, she also saves her chosen one twice, if not three times. The first time is when she dances with him instead of Penny. In the second, when she admits to the whole boarding house that she spent the night with him in order to clear charges of theft from him. And most importantly, when he convinces him that he is not just a boy to please customers, but an adult independent person. Unlike all romantic stories, which, as they say in large studios, women like, the woman here not only does not have a commercial relationship with a man, but also saves him from these commodity relations. It is for this rescue that she gets her name: if at the beginning of the film she was a Baby girl who was going to Harvard to learn how to help starving children in third countries, then at the end she becomes Francis (“in honor of the first woman in the office”), who proved to everyone and daddy, that she is no longer a baby.

Daddy there, by the way, is practically a metaphor for relations with society. At the beginning of the film, Frances says that she came to the boarding house without imagining that there is a man in the world equal to her father - so for her this is a story of getting rid of parental influence. And poor Johnny, who is very burdened by his social status and poverty and is ready to make a coherent speech only about her, literally raves about Dr. Houseman, he wants so much that he notices him and considers him his equal: he goes to talk with dad, tells the girl in bed, that he saw at night how her dad hugged him by the shoulder. In the finale, it was proved to dad, and this is perhaps the most important thing, because it is obvious to everyone that the love of heroes is one-time, like summer, time of my life happens only once in a lifetime and does not stretch for a lifetime. It is important to prove that you have a right to it.

So Dirty Dancing is also about acceptance. When in the finale Johnny comes to the most boring of parties and pulls Francis on stage with the phrase "Nobody puts Baby in the corner" (Nobody puts Baby in the corner), which later became iconic (however, in this film everything is iconic), this is also about the soft power of women and other empowerment: she changed him, he supported her, also in the air, so much so that she didn’t crash. Unlike many who later tried to repeat this scene of support in the air, how many of them ended up trying in the emergency room.

Another thing is that, discharging its feminist clip completely, the film does not solve the social conflict at its core. It is obvious to everyone that Johnny will continue to be a poor Irishman, and Baby, having enjoyed his embrace, will go to lead a rich life in the Ivy League. In numerous interviews, the screenwriter said that she specifically chose the summer of 1963, the last summer of liberalism - Martin Luther King had already said his famous speech, Kennedy had not yet been killed. Soon there will be Beatles, hippies, protests, changes that our hearts did not demand. Patrick Swayze, in a late interview, said a completely amazing thing: that for a long time he resisted saying the phrase about Baby and the corner, argued with the producers, and only when he grew up did he understand what it really means: Johnny continues to serve. Only earlier he served rich aunts for money, and now young maidens for human relations. If you think about it, that's the way most worldly philanthropy works.

It is much more offensive that of all the revolutionary ideas of Dirty Dancing, only the sexy “folk” dance invented by the choreographers, hip to hip, migrated to the people. However, the last dance of Frances and Johnny is still customarily repeated as the first dance of the newlyweds, and the song they dance to, written specifically for the film, (I've Had) The Time of My Life has become one of the three most popular in America funeral songs. We can say that the film is behind the times in only one thing: among the many couples on the dance floor, only one is racial and not a single same-sex. Or almost none: pay attention to how in the finale two respectable Jewish old women start dancing with each other and how people around are scandalized by this.

In "Dirty Dancing", of course, everything is a bit from the realm of fantasy, both love and dance. So, Patrick Swayze insisted on doing all the stunts on his own - and as a result, he fell from the very log on which he so easily balanced in the frame, and injured the very knee, due to the injury of which he had ten years before I had to leave my dancing career. And repeating the famous support in the final is completely dangerous for health. It is no less dangerous to repeat the actions of heroes: I would not advise an underage Jewish girl to try to explain to her doctor father that she does not want to go to Harvard, but wants to sleep with a poor Irish dance instructor. A modern person can have only one reaction to this: is this even legal? No insipid partisan feminism of films of recent years can replicate the success of Dirty Dancing, because it requires acknowledging too many living human feelings - attraction, desire, pride.

One of the main myths of Dirty Dancing is that the actors really couldn't stand each other. Their dislike was obviously overblown: if it were so obvious, we would not have, for example, the famous scene where the characters crawl towards each other on the floor to the song Love is Strange Micky & Sylvia, one of several in the film shot without scenario, when the camera was rolling during the warm-up of the actors. In his autobiography, The Time of My Life, Swayze walked over Gray without malice, saying that she giggled a lot and sometimes fell into a stupid mood, because of which the scenes had to be re-shot several times. One of these giggles turned into another canon scene of the film - the director decided to include failed takes in the editing, where Jennifer cannot help laughing when Patrick runs his hand over her armpit. After Patrick's death, Jennifer Gray told The Hollywood Reporter: "He smelled so good, he had such soft skin, he was so strong, so caring. " It looks more like a hidden love than an obvious hatred.

But life, unfortunately, does not look like a feminist fairy tale. It rarely happens in it that a weak girl falls for a guy and drags him into her life by the ass with an unwavering hand. And it often happens that a young actress with a bright Jewish appearance does a nose job to adjust to Hollywood standards - and flies out of the film industry with a whistle, because no one needs her like that, with an ordinary nose - and the actor at this time with rides horses with his wife and earns millions on his Texas ranch. Both actors were not too lucky with their careers: Swayze was slowly forgotten after "Ghost", Gray was immediately forgotten after rhinoplasty. Both made an attempt to return to the 2000s - she participated in "Dancing with the Stars", he played his last, truly great role in the TV series "The Beast", filming 12 hours a day, despite the wild pains from an aggressive form of cancer, and almost literally died under the spotlight.

All his life, Patrick Swayze refused to take part in the remake of Dirty Dancing, no matter how much money he was offered for them. He believed that it was impossible to repeat their success, just as it was impossible to revive the chemical attraction between the characters. For a fee of four million dollars, he starred in the film Dirty Dancing 2: Havana Nights, playing a cameo role as a dance teacher, and clearly showed how he sees the fate of the dancer Johnny: a lonely dancer in a foreign land. Announced in 2020, plans for a sequel in which Jennifer Gray will co-star and produce are not needed for anything other than a last-ditch attempt to save her career.

But, for God's sake, don't improve and modernize Dirty Dancing. It is impossible to shoot anything more modern than them today - even in TV shows they are afraid to talk openly about abortion, show female sexual desire, give teenage girls the right to have sex with whom and how they want, so clearly expose the social system or demonstrate how rich mature women buy themselves for money young male flesh.

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