Makeovers in the Movies: Grease

There’s nothing like the vicarious thrill we get when we see a makeover in a movie. In the blink of an eye, a made-over character reveals a transformation that would take months, even years, in real life – and we thrill at the possibility of such dramatic changes in our own lives.

The first movie in this series of reader-suggested makeovers is Grease, a favorite for its 1950’s nostalgia, its song and dance numbers, and especially, its makeover of Sandy Olsen. Sandy, the fresh-faced Australian cutie whose dreamy summer romance with greaser Danny Zuko ends with the fear she’ll never see him again, finds herself at the same high school as Danny, who has returned to his rude-boy ways.

The high school cliques of boys and girls bluffing their way through teen sexuality almost succeeds in keeping Sandy and Danny apart. His cool act at school keeps his group of Greasers together, and the Pink Ladies are not sure they want to help Sandy out anyway.

Grease actually treats us to two makeovers: as Sandy and Danny try to work out how to be together, it’s Danny who gives in first. His repeated attempts to prove he can be a “jock” of sorts show that he’s really giving his all. But his “letter in track” makeover is nothing compared to Sandy’s. And Sandy is not going to be sidelined as a little girl. If she has to be a bad girl to get her man, then so be it. And she does it with gusto, getting Frenchy and her friends to help her:

What’s so thrilling about this makeover is that it’s a rock’n’roll feminine coming of age story: yes, Sandy’s getting herself made over to get her man, but in the end, she’s powerful as well as stunning. As a leather and stretch satin-clad badass, she is overpoweringly sexual, and Danny had better work to keep up with her in her new role. No more clumsy bluffing about, he’d better man up and fast! Having likely been coached by Frenchy and the Pink Ladies in far more than hair and makeup changes, Sandy is not an immature high school “bad girl” that might get “talked into” sexuality – she’s the one in charge. And the girl bonding and teamwork involved are an affirmation that coming of age can be more than awkward and painful.

Sandy’s makeover in Grease is an ultimate feel-good makeover. We all want to be Sandy: the good girl who gets to be badass, bond with her girls, and get her man as well. All women have to make the transition from naif to seductress – if only we could all do it as successfully (and via a slumber party makeover!) like Sandy.

Grease Poster at

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