Heroines of Cinema: Rizzo from 'Grease'

by Matthew Hammett Knott
August 30, 2012 9:58 PM
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Stockard Channing as Rizzo in "Grease"
For a film so obsessed with cool, “Grease” is surprisingly naff. Perhaps it was inevitable. A film set in the 1950s and filmed in the 1970s was always set precariously amid the ebbs and flows of fashion. John Travolta’s ever more bizarre reputation can hardly help its cool credentials. And maybe the odds were always against a film whose concluding number contains the lyrics “shoobop sha wadda wadda yippity boom de boom”.

But there is one aspect of “Grease” that is indisputably, enduringly cool, and that is Betty Rizzo, as played by Stockard Channing. I am not one to praise coolness for the sake of it - it’s not like cool needs an image boost. But in the context of this column, there is no better word to describe the presence of Rizzo, as the saving grace to an otherwise not particularly edifying attitude to female sexuality.

They say you can tell a lot about a girl from whether she wants to play Sandy or Rizzo in a production of “Grease”. (They don’t say what you can tell about a boy, but for the record, there’s no contest). Olivia Newton-John’s Sandy is never more directly at odds with Rizzo than when she recounts her delightful yet chaste summer romance with John Travolta’s Danny. When she admits they didn’t have sex, Rizzo is unimpressed. “True love and he didn’t lay a hand on you? Sounds like a creep to me”.

The is a snippet from Heroines of Cinema -- a new weekly column on Indiewire by The Lost Boys contributor Matthew Knott. Read the entire article here.

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