There are movies that everyone has seen, like Top Gun. These movies give us a common lingo, a pop culture lingua franca.
When you meet someone who doesn’t speak the language, you notice. My best friend Linds knows me better than almost anyone. But the fact that she’s never seen Top Gun really hurts our ability to ever truly know one another. How can I really connect with someone who hasn’t experienced the agony of Goose dying in that ocean? Someone who hasn’t felt the erotic snap of an in-his-prime Val Kilmer, wrapped in a towel, chomping his teeth at Maverick in the locker room?
Tom is even more aghast that Linds hasn’t seen Top Gun, because he considers Tom Skerritt’s role in that movie to be an archetype of manhood. Simply put, Tom wants to be Viper when he grows up. And I second the motion.
When I was a teenager, I made a list of all the movies my parents wouldn’t let me see. I planned to view them all in quick succession as soon as I turned 17. I remember nothing about that list except that Tequila Sunrise was at the top of it. And that Dirty Dancing was somewhere farther down.
Dirty Dancing is my Top Gun. I never saw it as a kid. Tom has no interest in seeing it, and it’s not a movie you feel good about watching by yourself. But this last Friday, that’s exactly where I found myself. In front of the TV, alone, watching Dirty Dancing.
Title aside, I assumed the dancing in the movie would be cheesy and awkward. I was not prepared for it to be, in fact, dirty. I mean, the movie was made in like 1985. Had dirty dancing really even been invented yet?
Turns out it had. Patrick Swayze spends essentially the entire movie with his crotch stuck between someone else’s legs. Watching him writhe against Jennifer Grey with “Hungry Eyes” wailing away in the background, I looked nervously around my living room and wondered if I should close the curtains. As if the movie I was watching was actually porn. Unfortunately, it wasn’t porn, because there isn’t even a real sex scene. After an hour of libidinous pelvic thrusting, I felt downright cheated that the sex all happened off screen.
Still, no wonder my parents wouldn’t let me watch this movie. I mean, if I had seen this movie as an impressionable teenager, I would definitely have spent my late teens and early twenties trying to get laid by a dance instructor.
As an adult, there were many things that I found challenging about Dirty Dancing. It was jarring and unpleasant that the guy who plays Baby’s dad is the corny cop from Law & Order. I found it unbelievable that in the space of three days, Baby went from dressing like Laura Ingalls Wilder to the trampy Sandy at the end of Grease. The scene where Johnny and Baby go into the woods to practice their dance moves on a log? Why would they practice their dancing on a log? That scene sucked and I fast-forwarded most of it.
Speaking of that scene, why does Johnny need to break into his own car to drive it to the forest? I found it hard to believe that Johnny Castle, using nothing but his tender dancer feet, would be able to kick a concrete post out of the ground. I have hit like twenty of those posts with my CAR and they didn’t budge. That whole scene was supposed to tell me something profound about Johnny Castle, but I wasn’t getting the message. Probably because I was too busy focusing on Patrick Swayze’s pants and shoes throughout the movie, which were distractingly cheap and hideous, like the bottom half of a Panda Express uniform. Lastly, I feel pretty damn certain that the real Johnny Castle would not have had a shaved chest. The real Johnny Castle would have had a hairy mat on which to nestle a heavy gold chain.
All told, Dirty Dancing was kind of a scandalous movie, at least to this 37-year old. After all, the events in the movie are set into motion when a character has an abortion. AN ABORTION. Kind of heavy for a movie about learning how to mambo at summer camp.
I pushed the “info” button on my remote control to verify that this movie was PG-13, which it was. My older kid is almost 8. That means he could technically watch this movie in five years. Over my dead body. I made a mental note to add “Dirty Dancing” to the list of things I needed to protect my kids from, right before “carcinogens” and after “girls.” Then I played the whole movie again. For this blog. For research.