You Know That Ain't No Shit!

Beth (Sandy) tells me her mother has been reading my blog! Oh fuck! She's gonna think I'm a fuckin' neanderthal with all this fucking language! I'm totally fucked! (Just kidding, Beth's Mom!)

It made me think about when my mom came to see the musical I had written, Johnny Appleweed, which we produced in October. A musical with 52 fucks in it. Yes, I counted them. After mom saw the show I asked her how she handled the four-letter words (my mother is so clean-mouthed she says Heck's Bells!), and she told me that after the first ten minutes or so (8-10 fucks into the show), she stopped noticing the obscenities. Which of course was my whole point.

But that's not the point with Grease. The language in Grease is about authenticity, and a realignment of morality in America. The other night I saw this brilliant new documentary FUCK, and it made me think a lot about the language of Grease. Much of the language in the show is just colorful, period slang, and any valid depiction of this world has to talk the way these kids talked. But there's also one very important fuck at the end of the show...

Even more significant than Sandy's new sexualized rock and roll persona in the climactic "All Choked Up" is her line after the song: Danny asks her if she's still mad at him and she answers, "Nah, fuck it." That this is the first time we've heard Sandy talk like that is certainly important, but even more so is what her answer means. The phrase is not just obscene; it's also a universally recognized idiom with two related meanings. First, it says to the world that the speaker just doesn't care anymore. Sandy's not just cussing here; she's publicly rejecting all the values of her past life. She's moving from the 50s to the 60s. The other parallel meaning is that regardless of the consequences, the speaker is charging ahead. That's part of this moment as well.

But it goes even deeper than that. Fuck is the granddaddy of all cuss words, the word that draws a line in the moral sand. Especially in 1959 - but even still today - fuck is a word that separates the "nice" (i.e., conforming) people from the "bad" (i.e., less repressed) people. Sandy has picked sides by the end of our tale, and her journey has moved out of the personal and into the political, as she utters this infamous word that will stand at the epicenter of the counterculture of the 1960s, the word that Lenny Bruce will go to jail for. It's a great way to end this story, and it's also why a cleaned-up Grease is worse than no Grease at all.

Then again, what the fuck do I know?

Long Live the Musical!
Scott

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