Saturday, May 9, 2009

Movie Kiss of Taste, 6: "Be My Baby" (Dirty Dancing)

Johnny (Patrick Swayze): What's your real name, Baby?

Baby (Jennifer Grey):Frances. For the first woman in the Cabinet. [laughs]

Johnny: Frances. That's a real grown up name.

--Dirty Dancing (1987)

Stef is coming over for breakfast this morning, and I had to run out early to the grocery store to get some yogurt. Standing in the check-out line, I saw Patrick Swayze on the cover of the National Enquirer. They exaggerate things, of course, but I got kinda choked up to see how ill he is with cancer. I walked home thinking, How many women, me among them, would point to Swayze as Johnny in Dirty Dancing as playing a role in their early sexual imagination? A lot, I bet.

I read a study once that reported that women are afraid men will physically hurt them, while men are afraid women will laugh at them.
Swayze falls in the category of a certain sort of man attractive to women: physically powerful, masculine men who you trust would never rape you. (Compare with Marlon Brando, for instance, who is not in this category.) And he was never better than as Johnny, the object of sexual desire for "Baby" (Frances) the girl-woman protaganist of Dirty Dancing, who doesn't laugh at him.

How could I not have already written about this movie? Besides being a steamy dance movie set to a classic soundtrack, it's got one of the most interesting seductions--and tastiest first kisses--in film.

The film is among my Top 100 Movies. Written by a woman, Eleanor Bergstein, it's about the sexual awakening of a girl, Baby, told, rather unusually, entirely from her point of view.
Feminism has never looked better, entirely lacking the shrill edge it sometimes scrapes your ears with. In Dirty Dancing, feminism sounds like the Ronettes' "Be My Baby".

The story is told as a memory of the summer of 1963, before the assassination of JFK, before the arrival of the Beatles, and before the young woman everyone calls Baby goes off to college. Baby is staying with her family--her father's a doctor--at a holiday camp in the Catskills. There she sees Johnny, a working-class hunk, who keeps the rich, bored women campers happy with dance lessons ...and more.

To do a favor, Baby ends up replacing Johnny's usual dance partner for one performance. She's instantly attracted to him, but the movie captures how girlish she still is. When they rehearse, she keeps breaking down in giggles when he touches her ticklish waist.

He's used to mature women coming on to him and he pretty much just leaves her alone. She has to seduce him, which she does when she goes to his cabin late at night, after they perform their dance. Johnny's standing shirtless in front of a ripped poster of a matador, listening to Otis Redding's Love Man. He tells her he admires her--he's just a nothing, while she's afraid of nothing.

She tells him he's not a nothing, and as for her: "Me? I'm scared of everything. I'm scared of what I saw, I'm scared of what I did, of who I am, and most of all I'm scared of walking out of this room and never feeling the rest of my whole life the way I feel when I'm with you."

The camera follows her point of view as she dances with Johnny, and as she touches him. They kiss, eventually, and go to bed together, but the really tasty stuff is in this playing around with who's leading whom in the dance of seduction.

I bet some film student has written a dissertation called "Dirty Dancing and the Female Gaze," but I certainly wasn't thinking analytically when I first watched it. I was just melting. Like I said about the Star Trek movie, if you're sitting in a dark theater thinking about film criticism, it's maybe not such a great movie. (Or it's French.) But years later, I'd say one of the things this extraordinary film is about is how looking at and saying what you want is a powerful act, sexually and personally--even politically. Being able to do that is the mark of a grown-up.

"Baby" becomes Frances--no one in the film asks her her real name except Johnny--when she looks at Johnny, knows she wants him, and finally gets the guts to acknowledge that, not just to herself, not just to him, but to her father, who thinks Johnny's a loser.

And Johnny is a man, not a "nothing" whom rich women use for stud service, when he gets real with her. He too has to get up the guts to challenge her father, which he does in a classic movie moment, returning to the camp after he's been fired and calling her out from where she sits in a corner with her family, saying the famous line, "Nobody puts Baby in the corner."
Look at me, he tells her early on when they rehearse, and she does. (And so do we.) You just know there's a Cabinet position in Baby's future, like her namesake, Frances Perkins.

May Mr Swayze have comfort in his illness.
____________________________________
Dirty Dancing screencaps here.

9 comments:

Gia's Spot said...

Great Post! I recently watched the stage adaptation of Dirty Dancing at the Boston Opera House and though it was good, nobody plays Johnny Like Patrick Swayze. I wish comfort to him also!

fresca said...

Thanks for commenting, Gia!
Oh, I bet a stage version is a lot of fun---all that great dancing. But yeah, for me recasting Johnny is like recasting Capt. Kirk--no one could truly replace the REAL one.

Anonymous said...

otimo post lindo filme mas so falaremos do filme e sobre a atuaçao magnifica de JENNIFER GREY quanto A PATRICK SWAYZE DEPOIS DE COMENTARIOS HORIVEIS POR ELE E LISA NIEME POSTADOS EM SITES SOBRE NAO GOSTAR DE FILMAR COM JENNIFER GREY SO ACHAMOS QUE GORA SIM CAIU DE VEZ A MASCARA DELE ALEM DE PESSIMO ATOR SEM TALENTOO SEU CARACTER ERA HORRIVEL A PESSOA DELE NAO VALIA NADA MUITO DECEPICONANTE ELE E SUA BAIXA PASSOA ADORAMOS FILME O UNICO DELE QUE ADORAMOS OLHAR MAIS AGORA POR CAUSA DE JENNIFER GREY COMO (BABY)E SOBRE ELE NAO FALAMOS DEPOIS DE TAIS COMENTARIOS ODIADO PESSOA BAIXA SEM CARCTER E DECEPCIONANTE E SOBRE ELE NAO QUEREMOS FALAR E NEM SABER NADAAAAAAAA FOI ALGUEM EM DIRTY DANCYNG ELE MORREU E AGORA DEPOIS DE SEUA COMENTARIOS CONTR JENNIFER GREY ELE FOI ENTERRADO DE VEZ SUA NOJENTA PESSOA E SUA FRACASSADA CARREIRA E FILMES ,NAO FALMOS SOBRE PESSOA COM O CARACTER DELE NUNCAAAA E NADAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA,UMNINGUEMMMMMMMMMMMM.OTIMO FILME ADORADO LINDAS CENAS E JENIFER GREY COMO SMPRE LINDA SORRIDENTE MARAVILHOSA FILME 10000000000 POR CAUSA DA ATUAÇAO DE JENNIFER GREY E A COREOGRAFIA DE KENNY ORTEGA SEXI LINDO UM CAVALHEIRO EDUCADO DE CLASSE E CARCTER LINDO ADORAMOS FILMEEEEE E ATRIZ MAIS AINDA JENNIFER GREY,LINDO FILMEEEEEEEEEE.

Anonymous said...

sabem agora depois de sabermos que patrick swayze era alcoolatra de 17 anos ate 2007 pelas declaraçoes da propia lisa nime no livro nao damos a minima para o que le disse ou dizia jennifer grey e linda magnifca e talentosissima amamos ela como o unico filme da vida desse alcoolatra e fumante de 3 carteiras de cigarretes por dia ,nao tinha nunca tave moral para falar u criticar alguem entao so nos fez amamrmos mais e admirarmos 1000000000000 vezes mais jennifer grey por filmar com esse sem talentoooo alcoolatra e fumanteee suicida ,suicida e assim que se chama laguem que morreu da bebida bebendo e fumando como patrick ,nasceu 1958 e MORREU PARA O MUNDOOO E HOLLYWOODD 1987 FIMMMMMM.LOVERRRRRRRRRRRR JENNIFER GREYYYYYYYYY E DIRTYY DANCYNGGGGGGGGGGG LOVEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE NOWWWWWWWW FOREVERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.

Anonymous said...

sabem adoramos filme lindo unico que esse alcoolatra fez na vida que valeu apena que assistimos patrick swayze nascu e morreu depois dess filme para o mundooo e para nos amamos o filme um classico unico maravilhoso jennifer grey linda como sempre mamae hoje de uma fulhinha linda e maravilhoso filme cenas de amor e sexo lindas ,so de tal alcoolatra par de jnnifer grey no filme so comhecemos ele desse filme nem sabemos s e vivo ou nao nem nos interessa aho que ja morreu de tantoooooo beber fumar maconha co donovam swayze e amigos ou de fular e beber como sua baba de bebadooo lisa nieme alem de horrivel de feai e fumante como ele alcoolatra tambem ,bom filme e lindooo jenifer grey linda amamos tanto dirty dancung como jennifer greyyyyy loveeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee foreverrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Anonymous said...

saben agora que lisa nieme disse as revists e sites que patrick swayze nunca se livrou do alcoolismo e cigarro e morreu aloolatra e fumante e que ele nao era a pessoa que parecia quando tinha um copo ou garraf por perto sabemos que ele era mesmo como dua mae dizia o amaldiçoado mesmo alcoolatra sem talentoo velho depois de dirty dancyngg ele era sim o amaldiçoado de hollywood do seculo casou com uma mulher horrivel de feia ,esteril nunca deu um filho a ele drogado alcoolatra ate morrer eera mesmo como sua mae dizia o amaldiçoado da familia swzyze alcoolatra um nadaaaa ,uminguemmm um amaldiçoado do seculooo memsooooo eternamente um nada ninguem um amaldiçoadoo am tudo ate na morte esse era o laccolatra patrick wayne swayzeeeeeee .

Anonymous said...

E AGRADECEMOS A DEUS POR FAZER NOSSA ESTRELA JENNIFER GREY LOGO APOS O FILME FICAR LONGE DELE DESSE ALCOOLATRA DROGADO E NAO PEGAR SUA MALDIÇAO POIS ERA FRACASSADO ALCOOLATRA SEM TALENTOO CASADO COM UMA MULHER HORRIVEL DE FEIA ESTERIL,GRAÇAS A DEUS JENNIFER GREY FIOU BEM LONGE DESSE AMALDIÇOADO PATRICK SWAYZ ,POIS HOJE jennifer grey continua lindaaaaa,empresaria dona de produtora casada com ator talentoso clark crayy e tem uma filhinha linda chamada stela ,que deus abençoe nossa estrela super starrrr jennifer greyyyyy foreveerrrrrrrrrrrr loveeeeeeeeeeeeee foreverrrrrrr jennifer rey e familyyyyyy loveeeeeeeee foreverrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.e quem perdeu de nao ostar de gravar filmar com nossa super starr jennifer grey foi ese alcoolatra amaldiçoado um nada um ninguem e nos fez amarrrrrrrrrrr more more mais admirarrr more more mais jennifer greyyyyyy loveeeeee super starrr jennifer grey loveeeeeeeeeeee foreverrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Anonymous said...

como pod uma pessoa como patrick swayze alcoolatra fumnte dentes sujos no filme que e lind vir falar da super starrrr jennifr grey em sites isto e admissivel jennifer grey sempre foi otima ariz linda,sorridente e nossa diva rainha super starrr foreverrr achamos eu e o mundo que emile ardolino se enganou com o caracter de patrick swayze talentooo nunca teve mas quanto eleonor ela era apaixonada pelo alcoolatra dentes podres por isto o pos no unicooo unicooo filme que esse almadiçoadooo fez que prestou ele nasceu em dirty dancymgg e morreu logo depois do filme par o mundo e hollywood alcoolatra fumane dentes sujos podres burro do texas ,JENNIFER GREY ANO IMPORTA O QUE NINGUEM VENHA CRITICALA SEMPRE FOREVERRRRRRRRRRR NOSSA RAINHA DIVA ESTRELAAAA UNICA UNICAAA DE HOLLYWOOD FOREVERRRRRRRRRR LOVEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE JENNIFER GREY SUPER STARRRRRRRRRRRR LOVEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE FOREVERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR,LOVEEEEEEEEEEEEEE JENNIFER GREYYYYYYYYYY SUPERRRR STARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR JENNIFERRRRRRRR GREYYYYY LOVEEEEEEEEEEEEE FOREVERRRRRRRRRRRRRR.

Fresca said...

Sorry, I don't speak Spanish, Anonymous, but I hear you!
You love Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey forever.
Me too!