I was 13 years old when my mom took my little sister and me to see Dirty Dancing on a hot August afternoon in 1987. Years later, my mom would admit that she was slightly horrified to realise she'd taken her two young daughters to a movie that she thought was about dancing, but was really about class, feminism, sex, rape and abortion. If she gave any indication of her squirming discomfort at the time, I didn't notice.Read the whole thing here.
I was too busy balancing on the edge of my seat, obliviously cocooned in the exquisite joy of watching for the first time a film that felt like a personal gift.
...For an A-student who didn't want to disappoint her parents, but was already seriously (but quietly) questioning the dogma of church and kyriarchy, finding alternative views hidden out in the open in ostensibly frivolous fare was magical. My escapist entertainment was the exhilaration of being able to put my well-worn VHS tape of Dirty Dancing into the VCR and find myself instantly transported to the Catskills, where life was just complicated but solvable enough, given a firm commitment to principle, that I might learn to be brave.
Like Baby, my hero. The plucky star of my feminist awakening. Baby, who believed she could change the world, who wanted to send her leftovers to starving children, who seemed at first glance like the perfect match for aspiring model of comfortable complacency Neil Kellerman, and even might have been, if it weren't the sinewy, smouldering dance instructor who stirred within her urgent feelings of possibility and need. Baby, with her deck shoes and her warm, envious gazes at the beautiful Penny and her fierce sense of right and wrong. Baby, who carried a watermelon.
Posted by Melissa McEwan at Wednesday, September 16, 2009
I've got a new piece up at The Guardian's CifA, about how Dirty Dancing was a meaningful film to me when I was a thirteen-year-old girl in the early throes of her feminist awakening: