What Dirty Dancing teach us about love 25 years later
“Nobody puts baby in a corner.” It never fails: every time I hear that line, my heart still goes gu-gung. I mean, of course, the iconic moment that Patrick Swayze grabbed Jennifer Grey‘s hand and told her to stop being ashamed of who she was in 1987′s classic dance film, Dirty Dancing. It is a coming of age story set in 1963 about a teenage girl who falls in love with her dance instructor while on vacation with her family in the Catskill Mountains. Despite its semi-cheesy premise, there’s a reason why I – and you – get excited every single time we see DD pop up on a random Sunday afternoon, and why, though we’ve seen it 80 thousand times, we can’t stop watching it. In honor of the movie’s 25th anniversary, here is what Dirty Dancing can teach us about love…and ourselves.
- NOBODY PUTS BABY IN A CORNER. Johnny Castle (Swayze) utters these words to Baby a.k.a. Frances Houseman (Grey) after being fired for something he didn’t do. He takes her hand – in front of her disapproving family as well as everyone else who thought they shouldn’t be together – and makes her feel strong. The message: Never let anyone – man or woman – keep you down or diminish how you feel about yourself.
- YOU’VE GOT TO GROW UP SOMETIME. Frances — and everyone else in her life — calls her ‘Baby’ until Johnny calls her out on it. “Frances. That’s a real grown up name,” he muses. It’s true. We can’t be immature in life or love forever.
- DADDY DOESN’T ALWAYS KNOW BEST. Baby’s father, Dr. Jake Houseman (the late great Jerry Orbach), thinks Johnny is a bad guy because he believes he got his dance partner pregnant; he judges a book by its cover. It is, in fact, her sister Lisa’s (Jane Cantor) summer boyfriend Robbie (Max Cantor) that is the true cheating piece of shit.
- WHEN YOU FEEL TRUE PASSION, YOU’LL KNOW IT. Re: above — gu-gung. Awkward, gawky Baby might have been afraid of her feelings for Johnny, but when the rhythm overtook her during their steamy dance sessions, she suddenly knew exactly what to do.
- DON’T BE AFRAID TO FALL. Baby struggles with doing ‘the lift’, a dance move which requires she run, jump and that Johnny will catch her. She is uncertain, she is young, she’s afraid to get hurt. But when push comes to shove and the stakes are high, Baby is confident enough to perform the move, and totally unafraid to fall.