I think it’s safe to say we’ve all seen Grease. (If you haven’t, please stop reading and go watch it immediately.)
It’s a classic tale of two teens from opposite sides of the
track world who fall in love over the summer expecting to never see each other again. But then, wouldn’t ya know it, they end up attending the same high school come fall.
While the story focuses mainly on Sandy (played by Olivia Newton John) and Danny (John Travolta) and their teenage love, my favorite character in Grease has always been Rizzo (Stockard Channing).
Now, I know what you’re thinking, “You like Rizzo?” Sure, she comes off as brash and a bit of a bully in the beginning of the film, especially when compared to Sandy’s doe-eyed innocence. She uses Sandy’s unexpected presence at school to get back at Danny for jilting her in the past, and sits with a Cheshire grin while Sandy gets sick off dessert wine and an unexpected ear-piercing at the hands of Frenchy (Didi Conn). But as the story develops, Rizzo’s character is revealed to be much more complex.
The leader of the “Pink Ladies” (admit it — didn’t we all want to be in the Pink Ladies at some point?), Rizzo makes it known that she’s experienced, and while part of that tough exterior might be a façade, it’s clear that she’s maybe just a little envious of Sandy.
I’m not saying that the choices Rizzo makes are necessarily the right ones, but the thing about Rizzo is that she makes mistakes and gets angry. Sandy spends the film moping around, focusing on how she can make Danny like her again, and is willing to change her entire exterior to become what she thinks he wants (and I’m definitely not saying that Danny is without some serious faults here, he does end up in a Letterman sweater, after all).
Eventually it is revealed what kind of “trouble” Rizzo has gotten herself into, but rather than feel ashamed, she confronts her beau Kenickie (Jeff Conaway), and holds her head up high amidst a sea of whispers and rumors, looking her accusers straight in the eye. Eventually, she warms up to Sandy, who offers reassurance and friendship, and reveals her vulnerability (through the art of song, natch).
+ What summer romance films are on your must-watch list? Any favorite supporting characters? Let us know in the comments!