‘Grease’ Faces New Scrutiny Being Pulled from School Productions: Here’s Why

by Maggie Schneider

The American musical “Grease” is facing backlash in Australian schools over claims of the show’s sexist and offensive themes.

High school theatre programs love “Grease.” Known for its show-stopping tunes, dance moves, and of course, Grease Lightning, it is a beloved choice by many. Two private schools in Australia feel otherwise.

Presbyterian Ladies’ College and Scotch College are two K-12 schools that are protesting the musical. This protest began after the two West Australian schools announced a joint production of “Grease” for their spring performance. Students voiced their concerns regarding the show’s content being anti-feminist.

“A number of PLC students raised concerns whether the musical was appropriate in modern times,” both schools wrote in a joint statement. “Scotch College listened respectfully to the girls’ concerns and both schools agreed a different musical would be better suited for their joint production in 2022.”

The Reason Behind the Backlash

Students claim that “Grease” promotes a “questionable representation of women,” according to The West Australian. At the beginning of the movie, Sandy is the school sweetheart, giving shy smiles and acting polite. Towards the end, Sandy completely changes her look with the help of Frenchy. Ditching the “girl next door” look for tight leather pants and red heels, she finally keeps Danny Zuko’s attention.

The students view these plot points as sexist due to the fact that Sandy completely changes her appearance for Danny. They argue that this scene is more than just a makeover – it reflects the anti-feminist idea that women should change how they look for the male gaze.

Modern viewers question the portrayal of Rizzo as well. The movie shows how Rizzo is shamed for dating and sleeping with multiple guys. Her humiliation feels misogynistic to some audiences.

A lyric from “Summer Nights” also sparked controversy. The line “Did she put up a fight?” has made some modern viewers uncomfortable due to its possible references to sexual assault.

Several Australian schools have put on the show recently. However, these new concerns may doom “Grease” for good.

Olivia Newton-John Responds to “Grease” Scrutiny

This is not the first time “Grease” has been a controversial topic. Olivia Newton-John defends the show and the characters of Sandy and Danny whenever prompted.

“I think in this particular instance, I think it’s kind of silly, because the movie was made in the ’70s about the ’50s,” the actress said on a podcast. “It was a stage play. It’s a musical. It’s fun.”

She adds that in her eyes, Danny changes for Sandy too. He becomes a jock for her and learns the importance of staying true to himself. “There’s nothing deep in there about the #MeToo movement,” Newton-John shared. “It’s a movie, and it’s a fun story, and I have never taken that too seriously.”