What if Grease 2 got right everything that Grease got wrong?
Grease was written as a satire, a fact that most people — who have, most likely, only seen the 1978 film — forget, because the movie got it wrong.
Grease takes itself so seriously that it’s hard to remember that we aren’t reallysupposed to root for Danny & Sandy. 1982’s Grease 2 never allows us to believe we should root for (or against) anyone, because they are all in on the joke. And that is the key difference between the two movies, and the reason that Grease 2 will win any contest between them that I might be asked to judge.
(Please ask me to judge a contest between Grease and Grease 2.)
In Grease, good girl Sandy pines for bad boy Danny, who showed her his softer side at the beach over the summer, but performs some sort of masculinity in front of his friends, keeping them from being together. Sandy finally sheds all sense of self and puts on a bad girl costume to attract Danny. Also there’s singing and dancing.
In Grease 2, Michael tries to get Stephanie’s attention, but Stephanie is busy having a crisis because she’s realized she has no interest in being some guy’s chick, and wants to be her own person. She tells Michael her fantasy of the perfect guy, and he tries to become him, but she ends up falling for the real Michael as well as the handsome stranger he pretends to be. Also there’s singing and dancing.
So yes, Grease 2 has the less offensive/more progressive plot, arguably, but that alone is not why it’s the better movie. It’s the better movie because it knows what it is.
Grease abandoned its original 1959 setting to incorporate as much of the latest big thing — disco — as possible, but did so without actually changing the setting, combining greasers and bobby soxers with disco and spandex (which didn’t alarm me as a child but is incredibly jarring now); Grease 2 doesn’t really care when it’s supposed to be, yet remains faithful to its cold war setting without jarring modern audiences (even Dolores’s skateboard — though it reads as quintessential 1980s — is almost period accurate, as is Michael’s motorcycle; both existed in ‘61, even though the props themselves are from slightly later dates).
Maybe it’s a coincidence that Grease is directed by a man and Grease 2 by a woman. I don’t think so, though. The difference between the way Sandy’s and Stephanie’s stories are told is so vast that it’s disingenuous to ignore it.
When I started writing this last year, there were no other voices online speaking up for Grease 2. In the time it’s taken me to put my thoughts together, a few have popped up. It’s nice to feel less alone, but I can’t help noticing a common theme of tearing Sandy down to prop up Stephanie. Sandy is a stereotype, yes, but the only thing wrong with her is the way she is treated. (I was going to link to one of them, but on a re-read it is too cruel to Sandy, and pits the other female characters against each other, too. Pass.)
It’s easy to brush off Grease 2 as “silly,” but isn’t that the point?