Dirty Dancing: Nice Guys Finish...Somewhere
Now, following on from my last post I am going to look at the view of revenge in popular mainstream media. For the sake of identity, I am going to delve into the past and look at the movie Dirty Dancing and I will compare it to 3 Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. My stance is in favour of the latter.
To explain, Dirty Dancing, to me, perfectly represents the outlook of turning the other cheek. It allows the villains of the piece to create havoc and leaves the failure of their schemes to be the sum amount of punishment they receive. Sorry, but I am way more reactionary. That's why I loved the outlook of 3 Billboards. Nowhere is anyone going to say “just ignore them/they’re not worth it” in that town. FM puts vengeance in a supreme light.
Firstly though, do not let me confuse things. I am not saying Dirty Dancing is a bad movie. Far from it. It is a refreshing take on the teen(sort of) romance drama, Its heartfelt, earnest, and makes a real effort with its scenery, the songs written and performed by the cast deserve respect. Its originality was prophetic as it was made before the said genre was full of tired yuk. It was the time of John Hughes, before the peak of Ten Things I Hate About You and Clueless, way before the swansong of Shes All That and before countless insulting tripe like Honey pt 1-3, Step Up 1-14 Dance Me Up, I’m Rich and White and You’re Not so lets Learn a Lesson by Dance (the last one may be spelled wrong).
That said, I have some issues with it.
Firstly, what on earth is that place? Some weird old folks retirement village that shares a site with some chalets for rich WASP families. It provides a comprehensive slutty tits-shaking dance class. However, it is not all about nepotism and spoilt middle-class brats, as unfathomably they appear to make the children of the guests work, carrying fruit, providing cabaret, painting scenery, and assisting waiters. Also, it is a vocational sort of a learn-on-the-job parenting class. Displayed when the super strict father quite correctly banishes his daughter from seeing the úber horny entertainment staff but doesn’t stretch that banishment to preventing her from nipping out ten minutes later to be deflowered to by one of them.
He also gives his underage daughter the equivalent to nearly $3500 in today's money without asking her to justify it. Finally, on the last night he sits his minor daughter between his wife and himself at dinner, and he looks like he has finally got the drift but then when Danny Zuko from the sixties berates him for putting her in the corner he fails to say, “I will sit her there you statutory letch she is my daughter” he takes one step towards him and then capitulates like a French Marine when his wife with the ludicrous bust cups his shoulder. Bafflingly, just before this, he does also give a letter to the sperminator Richard Burton-cum-Dexter Fletcher waiter to help him be a doctor. I think that the misjudged act also has him marked down. Even though the prodding waiter for some unbelievable reason decided to make a sort of nudge nudge all blokes together comment to the father of his on-off customer underage lemon about how all pregnant girls deserve it and how all blokes should be able to blow goo happy and free. Then dad decides he wants his envelope back. He shows progress in parenting so they invite him back for another year.
Sadly though, Johnny, the dancing hard-on is sacked but dances goodbye to a strangely mid-tempo choice anyway. Just before the most gratuitous case of racist tokenism since Song of the South with the soulful subservient conductor. Then there is the most choreographed unchoreographed impromptu dance sequence outside of Rydell High.
Anyway, that's my Cinemasins-esque analysis. It doesn’t mention the point in reference for this post though, which is revenge. Now, what sort of unsatisfying world is it? That awful and ratty nephew manager, Neil (perfect) The winner of "The Most Eerie Sleaze in Cinema" award for the scene by the lake with Baby. Seriously, he would have been marginally less subtle if he was prodding her with his erect penis and had dollar signs tattooed on his cheeks and horns coming out of his head; “I love to watch your hair in the wind, Baby…squelch squelch, thwack kerching” That said, he still gets away with being basically a total bastard.
He even gets a dance with Dr. Houseman's wife, Mrs. Tits. So he doesn’t pay Swizzle his bonus because he's violated the agreement to leave quietly and you know little Neil is all about the pay-off caveats, he makes Baby his set designer with a rubbish brush action (watch it) and he bullies and marginalises anyone poorer or junior to him. He will no doubt go on to continue to be a fat cat pig, as he shows any sign of humility or does anything to make you think he would ever change his ways. Basically, he is Percy from The Green Mile and rather than sexually assaulted by Justin Hammer, he gets to buff up to the good doctors' wife’s frankly sublime sweater cows. We NEED to see this fascist nepotism soaked walking date-rape suffer. Not that he is the only one.
The spurned middle-aged whore/gamblers wife/dancer who frames Patty Swayze after realising he forswore her date so he could rutt Baby. Anyway, she was mounting Robbie the waiter, so it wasn’t like she had cause to feel jaded, she was married and was still getting some summer beefcake anyway. All we see is her sat and looking annoyed at the movies final act. She could have ruined his career. She was spiteful and evil and would continue to be this way with each new crop of waiters and dancers because SHE WASN’T TAUGHT A LESSON!
That is what a movie is about, the good guy flourishing, the bad guys perishing or at least learning and realising and changing. Here though, if anything she will be even worse because she will be extra bitter. I always said that no one has more capacity for evil than middle-aged wealthy WASP housewives. So in three years, you can bet there were jail cells across the state full of horny waiters framed for stealing diamonds. Because SHE NEVER GOT PUT IN HER PLACE. Revenge; Its a movie trope we need to hold on to. What sort of movie would Death Wish been without revenge, or imagine the movie that is one of my favourite ever endings, Shallow Grave, no spoiler here but those who know, know.
So what about Fountainhead margin-marking Robbie? Well, he didn’t even get a beating when he had unfathomably wound up the clearly physically superior Johnny with the most ill-timed and ill-advised trash talk in history, he’d made it legally justifiable by throwing the punch but he was “Not worth it”…..Wow, how satisfying for moviegoers. He was happy to ruin how many girls lives? How many girls would he seduce and leave the kids to grow up fatherless in a time when that was taboo and a very very tough and lonely route. Thats presuming he never advanced to 'Roofies' and date-rape which is a stretch. What if at the end of Unforgiven, Clint Eastwood got back on his horse and left Gene Hackman alive and told him “You are just an unhappy person and I am not going to sink to your level because I have got some good friends and that's what life is about”. We work and struggle all our lives to go to the movies and see passion, vengeance, good defeating bad and the hero to ride off bloodied into the sunset. Not to have had a breakthrough in his life that he can’t wait to share in group.
Okay so he doesn’t get the doctor's recommendation letter, but he didn’t lose anything, that was a coincidental perk. He needed to suffer, be beaten by a conquest sister, develop syphilis or go to jail for statutory rape.
Harry Potter is another one. Just look at the Malfoys. The dad tried to flat-out murder a pre-teen kid for causing a short in his household staff. the kid is guilty of conspiracy to commit murder, felony assault, and malicious poisoning, as well as possession of stolen materials and God knows how many other serious crimes. They just walk off back to their millions and the mansion they came from.
That is why I love Frances McDormand kicking that kid in the groin, setting fire to the racist pigs, and going off with Sam Rockwell to fuck up the guy that needs fucking up. Not because he harmed them, he didn’t but because HE was bad, THEY are good and THATS a movie. We want to be thrilled, not humbled, we want a story, not a lesson, and most of all we want the bad guy to feel the pain he causes, not to acknowledge it.