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  1. Thank you, Jezebel! at New York Abortion Access Fund

    […] Feministe: I Had The Time of My Life–Dirty Dancing, Remakes, and Battles We’re Still Fighting Eleanor Bergstein, Screenwriter, Talks Dirty Dancing […]

  2. Steph Herold
    Steph Herold August 11, 2011 at 1:07 pm |

    Thank you for this thoughtful piece, Sarah! For anyone who is interested in supporting the New York Abortion Access Fund, here is more information: 100% of donations go to women who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford an abortion.

  3. anna
    anna August 11, 2011 at 1:43 pm |

    I also love the fact that Penny has a big nose and it doesn’t stop her from getting the hot guy. Especially since Jewish women are still often cast as the bitchy princess or the overbearing mother and not the romantic lead.

  4. Comrade Kevin
    Comrade Kevin August 11, 2011 at 2:51 pm |

    I didn’t watch the film until years later, but I remember at the time it was released how controversial it was. My first cousin, very much a product of the 1980’s, went on and on about it back then. I was quite young, but I can still remember the discussion.

  5. Evamaria
    Evamaria August 11, 2011 at 3:25 pm |

    This. Dirty Dancing was the first movie I ever saw more than once – me and a friend spent the summer when we were about 10 sneakily using her parents’ VHS every chance we got, and I’m glad my first “teen movie” gave me such a good first impression!

  6. Andie
    Andie August 11, 2011 at 3:53 pm |

    This is where my film geek and my feminist collide. All the points made in this essay are excellent and reasons why I love this film (I’ve recently rediscovered its awesomeness).

    That being said I do NOT want to see a remake. Mostly because with a few exceptions (have both versions of a Little Princess, and the 90’s version is way better) remakes tend to be horrible, and take classic films and infuse them with all the things that make modern day film terrible.

    I wish they’d leave this one alone.

  7. Sanoe SC
    Sanoe SC August 11, 2011 at 4:08 pm |

    I’ve never seen Dirty Dancing. Maybe I should check it out.

  8. katrina_iskierka
    katrina_iskierka August 11, 2011 at 5:59 pm |

    I am in my late 20’s, from a fairly not-affluent suburb, and I get the sense that my high school class thinks of that movie with fond nostalgia, never really grasping the politics of it, just mouthing “nobody puts baby in a corner.” I saw it in my early 20’s and was so surprised when i “got” the plot! But as children or very young adults all i got that we got was the romance of the story, and the possible tittillation at it being “dirty.” Thanks so much for this!

  9. AK
    AK August 11, 2011 at 6:05 pm |

    I really hope there isn’t a remake, though it doesn’t surprise me that there is one planned. I really doubt they could approach the original, and it really really doesn’t NEED a remake in my opinion. It was perfectly cast, well-acted, and even though the fact that abortion is illegal in it dates it somewhat, it’s pretty timeless overall. Actually I think it’s really valuable in part *because* it takes place when abortion is illegal, and Penny’s is shown without judgment–she does what she has to do, even Baby’s father doesn’t judge her, and the only judgment expressed is towards the “doctor” who performed it, and towards what’s-his-name who got Penny pregnant and then skipped out and tried to place all the blame on her. I think a lot of young women who grow up pretty privileged really don’t get what it is like to NOT have access to abortion, and a lot of young women who have never experienced it (or had a loved one go through it) really don’t understand that “good girls” get pregnant too. Penny is presented as working class, but kind and honest and if I remember right she’s shown as having been really in love with what’s-his-name, not just sleeping around (not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I’m trying to say that it shows her as a very sympathetic character to someone who might not call herself a feminist and might still buy into all those “good girls don’t sleep around” myths). I would kind of like to see a movie where a woman has casual sex and gets an abortion and it’s no big deal, but I think Dirty Dancing’s presentation is fairly unique in popular movies and important as well.

    I like this movie too because the relationships between the women are realistic and strong. Penny and Baby become friends, and there’s no jealousy or competition between them even though I think most movies would see them as rivals. The only hint of it is when Penny gets mad at Johnny for getting romantically involved, but it’s out of a concern for them (and she’s mad at him, not Baby) rather than jealousy. Baby and her sister bond over men and beauty rituals, but it feels genuine to me. I mean, that’s what my sister and I talk about and did a lot as teenagers/young adults, even though we were shaving crazy patterns into each other’s hair rather than putting in curlers and updo’s, and since my sis is gay and I’m straight we talked about romance in general rather than men specifically, but you know… ;)

    Also, I recently watched it and really did realize that it is filmed with women’s (or anyone who likes men, really) desire in mind. One of my big gripes in most romantic movies is that, while they’re ostensibly for women (which for Hollywood of course means straight and cis), we don’t really get eye candy in the way that straight men do. Even in “chick flicks” the women seem to wear a lot less clothing than the men, and the cameras focus on them! I love the fact that there really is a pretty equal focus on both Swayze and Grey in a physical sense.

    Um, can you tell I really like this movie? ;) It’s one of my favorites. I love silly romance movies, but this is one I don’t have to feel guilty about watching! As you said, it isn’t perfect but for the genre it is about as close as I’ve seen, at least in a major release.

  10. Gabrielle
    Gabrielle August 11, 2011 at 7:29 pm |

    I tend to go off about how amazing this movie is for being so feminist, pro-choice, and sex-positive, AND it deals with class structure and privelege. AND IT’S A ROM COM. With a cheesy (amazing!) soundtrack. Not enough films like this one out there. I have the 2 disc special edition that comes with all kinds of wonderful special features. I’m glad that other women recognize what a gift this film is.

  11. Tamara
    Tamara August 11, 2011 at 8:54 pm |

    This was so interesting! I also grew up with and loved DD, I saw it over and over and friends had the soundtrack. Great to realise that it had such a positive message! I also saw the stage show a few years back, which was just as fantastic, and really close to the film (except a bit more “adult”). I am not in favour of a Hollywood remake, it spells trouble.

  12. sabrina
    sabrina August 11, 2011 at 10:56 pm |

    I’m twenty and dirty dancing is my favorite movie of all time. It was the only thing in my house that could get away with being the least bit feminist and liberal. As a teenage feminist who was also a dancer I really looked up to baby and appreciated everything about the movie. I think that if the remake sticks to the exact same plot and that they cast brilliant actors/actresses for the roles that it could be okay.

  13. Jenae
    Jenae August 12, 2011 at 12:31 am |

    I’m 33 and I watch Dirty Dancing every time I see it on TV. I still get chills at some parts of the movie (the ultra-hot but still tasteful sex scene, for one). Loved this article!

  14. Frank Lobato
    Frank Lobato August 12, 2011 at 1:39 am |

    They are both great dancers,I believe Sasha should’ve won,but since about 3 weeks ago I saw what was happening and I said to my mum, they are playing the verbal subtle game again.It did not surprise most people.but Sasha is the stronger and more versatile dancer.Watch for her over the years to come.

  15. Complicated
    Complicated August 12, 2011 at 7:19 am |

    I know they air Dirty Dancing on ABC Family a lot – does anyone know if they edit out important parts of the abortion storyline? I assume they edit out the sex scenes.

    I’m wondering partly because I’m trying to remember the first time I saw it. I’ve seen it several times and I always loved it, but I’m not sure I fully understood the abortion plotline when I was a teenager. If I saw it in a context where they cut some of it out, that might explain it, or maybe I’m just not remembering it clearly.

    Anyway, I’m betting a remake will be bad, but you never know. It would be interesting if they kept the original plotline but set it in modern times in one of the states that doesn’t have an abortion clinic nearby because the doctors keep getting shot. I’d be surprised if they do though – it seems really controversial.

    How controversial was the abortion plotline when the original movie came out?

    (I hate when ABC Family shows Cruel Intentions and they cut out so much of it that the plot doesn’t make sense anymore. If you want to bleep one swear word, fine, but if you need to cut out huge chunks of the movie, maybe you just shouldn’t be showing that movie on your channel. That’s why I’ve avoided watching Dirty Dancing when they air it.)

  16. Complicated
    Complicated August 12, 2011 at 7:20 am |

    I also love the fact that Penny has a big nose and it doesn’t stop her from getting the hot guy. Especially since Jewish women arestill often cast as the bitchy princess or the overbearing mother and not the romantic lead.

    You mean Baby, right? Penny’s the blonde and I don’t recall her having a big nose.

  17. Complicated
    Complicated August 12, 2011 at 7:23 am |

    (Why is my first comment awaiting moderation and not my second one? Did I use some buzzword that tripped an automatic filter?)

  18. Andie
    Andie August 12, 2011 at 8:20 am |

    I think when we talk about whether the original and it’s setting is still relevant, it’s important to remember that it’s also a period piece that was set in the Kennedy era a good 20-odd years before it was released.

    If they do remake it, I hope like hell they DON’T change the storyline or the setting..if they did, why not just write a whole new movie and not hang on the coat-tails of a classic?

  19. Brandy
    Brandy August 12, 2011 at 12:36 pm |

    I really need to watch this movie again. I think I missed a lot watching this movie when I was younger.

  20. anon
    anon August 12, 2011 at 1:06 pm |

    Am I missing something? I remember watching Dirty Dancing 2 (Havana Nights) back in High School…I think secretly because at 17 I probably still wasn’t supposed to watch it. (conservative family)

    Or are they making an actual remake instead of a sequel?

    As for the original, I saw that secretly too, and I’m not sure I understood the abortion thing. I think that growing up hearing that abortion was “killing a baby”… I just didn’t equate that scene with abortion. Thank god I escaped my childhood expectations and became the black sheep of the family (aka feminist, pro-choice, agnostic).

    I need to watch Dirty Dancing again, as a feminist. I think it’d be really good this time around.

  21. Rachel
    Rachel August 12, 2011 at 3:04 pm |

    @ Anon- My thoughts exactly. I love Dirty Dancing 2 because I love the dancing and the story plot, but after reading this analysis of the first one, I can see how Dirty Dancing 2 failed in so many ways. I don’t believe it’s as sex positive as the first one and I don’t remember it touching on the issue of abortion at all.

  22. Andie
    Andie August 12, 2011 at 3:25 pm |

    I think that growing up hearing that abortion was “killing a baby”…

    Sorry this just reminded me of a time I was in the car with my kids, and there were anti-choicers protesting on the highway carrying signs that said “Abortion kills children”

    My kids were all “Uhm.. Mommy.. what’s abortion?” and I remember thinking “Oh great.. now they think there’s some monster that’s going to come and kill them.”

    Sorry, off topic.

    More on topic:
    I just went into my local book/record/various curiosities store today and they had a copy of the dirty dancing soundtrack on vinyl. I thought that was funny. For a moment my movie geek/feminist geek and music geek worlds kind of collided in a wonderful wonderful way.

  23. Michelle
    Michelle August 12, 2011 at 4:11 pm |

    Thanks to all of the recent changes limiting access to abortion, they won’t even have to really change the story line. Set it in a state with one abortion provider, where they have to wait 72 hours (not an option for keeping her seasonal job), it’s not covered by insurance, it’s in a far away location, etc. The idea that she might seek to do an illegal abortion is more believable than some of the other plot elements from dirty dancing.

  24. michelle
    michelle August 12, 2011 at 11:58 pm |

    this is just so supremely satisfying – the confirmation that my favorite childhood film is as awesome as i had always believed it to be. dirty dancing is one of the few movies i grew up with that as an adult i still love as much as i did then. i hardly watch movies, old or new, because politically speaking, they are always so disappointing and/or disturbing. but every time i catch DD on t.v., i am as transfixed as the first time (i was five years old my first time, my friends and i would watch it over and over and over again). i am glad to know that i haven’t just been responding to childhood nostalgia (which was so overpowering the first time i watched it as an adult i missed a lot of the feminist elements, catching more of the class dynamics), but rather to the film’s affirmation of my most deep-seated beliefs and politics. this film is a real jem.

  25. anna
    anna August 13, 2011 at 12:50 pm |

    Duh I meant Baby. Sorry about that.

  26. Skye
    Skye August 14, 2011 at 2:49 pm |

    THANK YOU. I’ve read many a DD editorial rhapsodizing over why women respond to this film so readily. Yours, I think is the most accurate of all. I especially like that Penny’s horrific illegal abortion has a (somewhat) happy ending…she mentions that she’ll still be able to have children. She’s not handed an irrevocable punishment for her sexuality, is what I mean,

    Even Baby’s father’s disgust over the abortion seems to be because a man’s irresponsibility has driven a woman to desperate measures, not that the woman has gone for an abortion itself. Yes, truly a gem of a film.

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