The Trouble With Grease Song ‘Summer Nights’

The Trouble With Grease Song 'Summer Nights'
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“Tell me more, tell me more, did she put up a fight?”

October 4th, 2018 – John Travolta may be well known today for fumbling Idina Menzel’s name at the 2015 Oscars, but luckily for him he’s also still remembered as bad boy hunk Danny Zuko from Grease. The 1978 film has remained a classic as new generations watch Travolta’s Zuko change his ways for Olivia Newton-John’s good girl Sandy.

Sandy and Danny’s love story started out strong when it was just the two of them on a beach during summer vacation. Fast forward to fall, and they both wind up going to the same high school with very different reputations to protect. Danny has to maintain his big man on campus image with the T-Bird gang while Sandy wonders if she’ll ever truly fit in with the Pink Ladies.

Musical numbers, dance offs, pep rallies, and dates at the drive-in ensue. Oh, and teenage pregnancy, underage drinking, and cars that’ll make chicks “cream.” As the movie has moved further into history and our world has moved closer to recognizing problematic language, Grease tends to be a movie that reminds people that some films just don’t age well.

Evidence of that was seen when Fox’s production of Grease: Live changed several lyric from the iconic musical. The network was contending with 2016 as well as the goal of being a family-friendly block of entertainment. At the time, viewers were quick to call out that “Greased Lightning” got most of the remixes while other questionable lines were left in.

“The chicks’ll cream” became “the chicks’ll scream” and “You know that ain’t no shit, we’ll be gettin’ lots of tit'” turned into “You know without a doubt, I’ll be really makin’ out.” And don’t worry, the “pussy wagon” morphed into a “dragon wagon.”

What was left in, however, was a line from another song that has stood out to people for decades now. “Summer Nights” is a musical number heard early on in the film. Danny and Sandy’s friends are dying to know about their summer flings, and throughout the call-and-response style song, the T-Birds are really dying to know if Danny had sex with Sandy.

They phrase it like this:

“Tell me more, tell me more, did you get very far” 

“Tell me more, tell me more, did she put up a fight?”

“Did she put up a fight” has long been used an example of how language helps soften more serious issues in society. Twitter users lit up their feeds with thoughts on the lyric in 2016, and in 2018 they’re using it to highlight the sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Grease Song 'Summer Nights' Gets Brett Kavanaugh Meme Makeover
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Kavanaugh has now been accused, by multiple women, of sexual assault, misconduct, and belligerent actions while under the influence of alcohol as a high school and college student. He’s also been defended by Donald Trump and many other republicans who vacillate between “he didn’t do it” and “should a person be held accountable for the ways most boys behaved 30 plus years ago?”

Some people have argued that the song, and the film in general, shouldn’t be dragged too much because it’s essentially being honest about the fact that these boys are just pretending to know a lot about sex: Danny clearly didn’t get that far with Sandy, Kenickie was a virgin, and Doody tells Frenchy that she looks like a beautiful, blonde pineapple.

But, then again, it’s 2018 and elected officials are shrugging off accusations that mimic that very line from “Summer Nights.”

Excerpt from Christine Blasey Ford’s opening statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee detailing her accusations against Brett Kavanaugh.

What are your thoughts on the lyrics from “Summer Nights?” Do you find them problematic or are they taken too seriously?

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