Olivia Newton-John defends 'Grease' from modern day criticism

Ben Arnold
·Contributor
·3 min read
1978:  Left to right: actors Jeff Conaway, Olivia Newton-John, John Travolta and Stockard Channing walk arm in arm at a carnival in a still from the film, 'Grease' directed by Randal Kleiser.  (Photo by Paramount Pictures/Fotos International/Getty Images)
Grease (Paramount Pictures/Fotos International/Getty Images)

By today's standards, some of the depictions of teenage life seen in Grease do not sit right with a modern audience.

But Olivia Newton-John, who played the lead role of Sandy in 1971 musical, has said that it's not right to judge the film by today's standards.

Read more: Olivia Newton-John recalls Travolta screen kiss

When the movie was replayed on TV over Christmas, many took to social media to pick up on misogyny, homophobia and racism.

Now, speaking on the A Life of Greatness podcast, she said: “I think it's kind of silly. I mean, this movie was made in the 1970s about the 1950s.

“It was a stage play, it's a musical, it's fun. It's a fun movie musical not to be taken so seriously.

Cast members John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John are interviewed at a 40th anniversary screening of "Grease" at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., August 15, 2018. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta are interviewed at a 40th anniversary screening of Grease. (Reuters/Mario Anzuoni)

“We need to relax a little bit and just enjoy things for what they are. I didn't see it like that at all, I think it's a fun movie that entertains people.”

The versions of the movie are often edited for broadcast, notably the song Greased Lightenin', which features numerous expletives and sexual references.

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In the movie, John Travolta's character Danny, having met Newton-John's character Sandy over the summer, returns to school to rejoin his leather-clad gang of drop-outs.

But when Sandy arrives at Rydell High, she finds a very different young man, and rather than stick to her prim ways, transforms herself in order to snare him, wearing skin-tight trousers and smoking cigarettes by the film's climax.

Actors John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John embrace in a promotional still for the film, 'Grease,' directed by Randal Kleiser, 1978. (Photo by Paramount Pictures/Fotos International/Getty Images)
John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John in a promotional still for Grease. (Paramount Pictures/Fotos International/Getty Images)

One viewer called the film, as it aired on Boxing Day at 5pm on BBC1, a 'sexist piece of s**t'.

Many others weighed in on Twitter.

Newton-John has retreated from acting, since her most recent diagnosis of breast cancer in 2017.

She has since become an advocate for the use of cannabis for treatment of cancer and other illnesses.

Watch: Olivia Newton-John won’t take the coronavirus vaccine