John Travolta’s 1978 classic Grease is considered by many as one of the best films of the 1970s and one of the best cinematic musicals ever. However, two high schools in Australia have canceled their joint production of Grease, the 1971 musical Travolta’s film was based upon, stating that the themes are outdated, questioning whether the musical is appropriate in modern times.
According to The Hill, two Australian private schools have halted their planned co-production of the Grease musical, later adapted in the same-name film starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. Students from two K-12 schools in Perth – Presbyterian Ladies’ College and Scotch College – have protested against future productions of Grease, claiming that the piece is offensive, sexist, and anti-feminist. The co-production between two educational institutions was already underway when students halted plans for the upcoming performance.
In a joint statement to the New York Post, PLC Principal Cate Begbie and Scotch College Headmaster Peter Burt stated that a number of PLC students had raised concerns about whether the musical was appropriate in modern times. Both schools have agreed a different musical would be better suited for their joined production in 2022. Unfortunately, neither school has announced which show would replace the questionable 1971 musical. Several parents have complained about the schools’ decision to remove Grease from their repertoire, stating that the entire student body was unintentionally deprived of an opportunity to weigh in, given that the students that found the musical offensive make up just a tiny minority of both schools Some parents are even calling for students and faculty to conceive a modern adaptation befitting today’s younger generation.
Though the cancellation of one of the best musicals in history may seem unreasonable to some, 1978’s Grease was previously accused of being anti-feminist. The film’s recent reviews point out that it promotes questionable representation of women, considering that Sandy — portrayed by Olivia Newton-John — vastly changes her appearance to win back John Travolta’s Danny. Even recent screenings of the film sparked massive backlash, especially on Twitter, with many viewers saying that the film didn’t age well, calling it misogynistic and “rapey,” as well as claims it promoted toxic behavior.
John Travolta’s co-star Olivia Newton-John spoke out againsy those claims in her interview with The Guardian by saying that Grease is just a film, with its narrative placed in the 1950s when things were supposedly different from today. She argued that, while Sandy does change her appearance for Danny, Danny also changes for Sandy. Those particular narrative elements, according to Newton-John, are pretty real. Ultimately, the actress branded the Grease film as a funny little love story, devoid of any deeper meaning.
The 1978 film Grease, starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, is based on the “questionable” 1971 musical of the same name by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey. And while it does omit certain plot elements depicted in the original musical, the movie Grease was both a commercial and critical success and the highest-grossing musical film at the time. As a result, Paramount Pictures’ streaming service, Paramount+, decided to give Grease a prequel series, which is currently in development.