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Grease Plot Holes That Everyone Just Ignores

There are some movies that you watch obsessively as a kid, only to re-watch them again as an adult and wonder what the heck your parents were thinking. The 1978 musical "Grease" staring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John is one of those very movies. The story takes place at an average American high school in 1958, when greasers ruled and rockabilly was the rage. Danny (Travolta) and his friends make up the greaser gang called the T-Birds. Sandy (Newton-John) is his summer fling from Australia who finds herself at Danny's school and becomes the ridicule of Rizzo (Stockard Channing) and the rest of the Pink Ladies girl gang.

Filled with sexual innuendo that our young minds probably didn't understand, "Grease" is one of those popular musicals that we all seem to have seen as kids, whether it was appropriate or not. But in addition to catching all of the sex jokes you didn't notice as a child, re-watching "Grease" might also make you notice some of the plot holes that everyone just ignores.

How Sandy ends up at Danny's school

As the film opens, Danny and Sandy have just spent a glorious summer together at the beach, falling in love and getting a little frisky. Sandy, who is from Australia, plans to head back there with her family at the end of the season and laments that she'll never see Danny again. Danny promises her his love is just beginning and that they'll certainly reunite. Of course, Danny doesn't know how right he is. When Danny starts his senior year at Rydell High, he runs right smack into Sandy, whose family has decided not to head back to Australia.

But hold on a minute, isn't it a little convenient that Sandy would end up at the exact same high school as Danny? It's not exactly clear where "Grease" takes place. It was shot in west Los Angeles' Venice High School (per Smithsonian), but based on Radnor High School in Pennsylvania (via The Philadelphia Inquirer). So which beach that was where Sandy and Danny spent their summer isn't really definite. If the beach were so close to Rydell, would Danny really spend his days sporting the khakis and pastel collared shirts he's seen wearing at the opening of the movie, risking being caught by his fellow T-Birds and ridiculed? But if the beach isn't close to Rydell, how did Sandy so conveniently end up there? It's never explained. 

Danny was a completely different person at the beach

Speaking of the beach, it's odd that Danny is a completely different person there than he is throughout the rest of the movie. At the beach he's kind, caring, and he actually takes no for an answer when getting a little too frisky with Sandy. As previously mentioned, he dresses in bright colors, lets his hair wave in the wind, and digs his toes in the sand. This is in great contrast to the Danny of Rydell high, whose black leather wardrobe, greased back hair, and misogynist attitude are markedly different from "Beach Danny."

All of this makes one wonder, was his beach behavior just an affectation for the sake of seducing Sandy, or is the Danny of Rydell High a persona he puts on to impress people? At the moment he sees Sandy, his reaction is one of excitement and love, but as soon as he realizes that his dude friends are watching, he turns the Danny Zuko T-Bird persona back on — cold, cool, aloof, and not the Danny Sandy fell for. But he also acts that way when the boys aren't around. So who is the real Danny Zuko?

Some of these teens are clearly over 30

High school movies are notorious for not actually casting high school-aged actors. It's pretty normal in Hollywood to have adults playing teens, mostly to get around things like labor laws and shooting restrictions, and the production of "Grease" was no exception. But "Grease" seems to have gone to an extreme when casting its high schoolers. There are some actors who were over 30 at the time, and you can absolutely tell by looking.

John Travolta was 23 when filming began, making him not all that much older than his 18-year-old character. Olivia Newton-John however, was 29. She didn't look it, but the same cannot be said for some others in the cast. Stockard Channing, who plays Rizzo, was the oldest member of the lead cast at 33, and while she didn't look like a high schooler, she didn't look bad. Pink Lady Jan (Jamie Donnelly) was 30. Jeff Conaway, who played Kenickie, was 26 at the time, though he actually looks older. And 31-year-old Michael Tucci, who played Sonny, definitely looks the oldest, with his receding hairline and forehead wrinkles. Hollywood has gotten better at casting adults to play high schoolers in the decades since "Grease" came out, and thank goodness, because it's straight-up distracting.

None of the characters should graduate

"Grease" takes place in high school, so you'd think one of the main goals of the main characters would be to graduate, right? Not really. Throughout the entire movie, it's pretty rare that we even see any of the characters in class at all, let alone studying, doing labs, or involved in any of the usual high school tasks. Then again, most high school movies spend way more time on the social aspects of high school rather than what really takes up most of a teenager's time, which is class and homework.

That being said, it's pretty surprising that any of these characters manage to even move forward in high school, let alone graduate at all. When the first bell rings, the guys are still hanging out in the hallway. Kenickie, Danny, and the T-Birds spend more time in the auto shop or hanging out on the bleachers. Danny doesn't even appear to understand athletics (a point we'll get to in a minute). As for the Pink Ladies, we do see a bit of worry over grades, and Frenchy does have a bit of a mid-school crisis (put a pin in that, too), but how this gaggle of teens have made it from freshman year to senior year is a total mystery. Presumably, that's why a lot of the side characters have to come back to summer school and make an appearance in "Grease 2."

Everyone is totally sex crazed

This one isn't so much a plot hole as it is unrealistic. Sure, we all remember being teenagers — we were all flirty and joking and making passes at one another — but the teenagers in "Grease" are on a whole other level. These teenagers are sex-crazed and constantly thinking about doing it or having it or getting it, so much that it basically becomes their entire personalities. 

Sure, some characters do so more than others. Rizzo is definitely the most sex-crazed female character in the film, though many of the other gals are swooning or crushing or flirting. But Danny, Kenickie, and the T-Birds are out of control. Lest you think the song "Greased Lightning" is a love song to a car, it's actually all about sex, filled with not just innuendo, but some absolutely filthy lyrics that aren't even trying to be subtle (per Romper). How did we watch this movie when we were kids?!

They can just smoke at high school

With the slow elimination of smoking in a lot of television and films over the past couple decades, it's a bit jarring anytime someone lights a cigarette up on screen these days. In 2019, IndieWire reported that Netflix even formalized this trend by pledging to eliminate all smoking in any of its content rated below TV-14 or PG-13. Needless to say, smoking on screen isn't as popular as it used to be.

So it comes as a bit of a shock to see Danny and some of the other characters smokein "Grease," not only because of the diminished occurrence but because they're high schoolers smoking right there on their high school campus. Bear in mind that "Grease" takes place in 1958 and though the dangers of smoking were known by then, the tobacco lobby had successfully convinced many states to lower the minimum age to buy cigarettes and tobacco marketing to kids was becoming more widespread, according to a report from The National Library of Medicine. It was common for some schools to allow smoking on campus in the 1950s. Some had limitations, like allowing only seniors or those over 16 to smoke. Whatever the age, though, it's super weird to watch now, especially the moment when Danny smokes right in his gym teacher's face. 

Frenchy's beauty school dreams

Back to how badly all of these kids do in school, one of the side plots of "Grease" involves Frenchy doing so poorly on her mid-terms that she decides to drop out of high school and attend beauty school. One day she shows up at the diner wearing a head wrap and reveals that she accidentally dyed her hair a bright, bubblegum pink color. In a bizarre dream sequence, Frankie Avalon appears as her guardian angel and sings her the song "Beauty School Dropout," advising her to go back to high school.

But what doesn't make any sense is why the bubblegum pink hair would bother Frenchy anyway. Sure, maybe she messed up the one assignment, but Frenchy spends the entire movie experimenting with hair. She owns multiple wigs, her color at the beginning isn't what anyone would call a natural red, and later in the movie she goes platinum blond with her dance date telling her she looks like a pineapple. Dropping out of beauty school over pink hair makes no sense for Frenchy, but hey — at least she gets back together with her friends.

Danny doesn't know what basketball is

After Danny brushes Sandy off with his fake pompous personality, Sandy starts dating a jock. Naturally, Danny tries to win her back by getting into sports. He joins the basketball team, but on his first day, he makes a total fool of himself. When the coach gives him a play, Danny tugs the ball under his arms and goes at the defensemen shaking his fists like he's going to punch them. Later, he socks an opponent in the stomach.

How does a young man in the 1950s get to his senior year of high school without knowing a single thing about basketball? He doesn't know that you're supposed to dribble or that you can't just move around with the ball? It makes Danny look like a real dope. Thankfully, Danny finds a more appropriate sport by the end of the movie and actually ends up lettering in track. Running is a nice solo sport where Danny doesn't have to work with teammates, so basically it's perfect. 

Sandy makes the cheer team

Related to Danny not knowing a gosh darn thing about basketball is Sandy somehow earning a spot on Rydell High's cheer squad. At the first pep rally of the season, we get a glimpse of Sandy's cheer skills: She's out of sync with the others, doesn't know the cheers, and when she tries to do a cartwheel, she falls flat on her butt. 

Now, this one we might give Sandy a little leeway on because she's Australian and maybe the youth sports culture of the '50s was very different there than in the U.S. But if she's so awful, why would they give her a spot on the squad? Of course, it's a plot point that's necessary so she can meet the jock guy she starts dating and hang out with the squares that the T-Birds make fun of, but still pretty embarrassing for her, and the squad. 

Vince Fontaine is a creeper

During the big school dance, Rydell High is set to air a dance competition live on TV, with big time radio host Vince Fontaine (Edd Byrnes) coming in as a special guest. Let's not mince words — this guy is a total creeper. He spends more of the dance hitting on and flirting with Marty (Dinah Manoff) than performing his hostin duties. Now Marty is definitely flirting with him, but bear in mind this girl is supposed to be in high school, and Vince Fontaine has got to be in at least his 40s. He should know better.

Later, Marty reveals that she caught Vince trying to "put an aspirin" in her soda. We all know that it wasn't aspirin at all, and that Vince was actually trying to roofie Marty. And still, none of Marty's friends fill her in one what the pill actually was, or call out Vince's disgusting behavior. The 1950s setting (and even the 1970s production) may have given the impression that this was all in good flirty fun, but watching "Grease" nowadays this is definitely disturbing. 

What's with Cha Cha and Leo?

The T-Birds have a rival gang in "Grease" called the Scorpions, headed up by a guy named Leo Balmudo (Dennis Stewart). It's implied that Rizzo has a history with Leo, while Danny has a history with Leo's current girlfriend Cha-Cha DiGregorio (Annette Charles). The Scorpions and the T-Birds have a menacing rivalry throughout the film that comes to a head during the finale drag race, which we'll get to in a minute, but what's confusing is who the heck Leo and Cha-Cha even are.

During the big school dance sequence it's revealed that Cha-Cha is "the best dancer at St. Bernadette's," so she seemingly attends another local high school — probably a Catholic one, based on the name. But does Leo go to Rydell High? It's hard to say, since like so many of the other actors, he looks like an adult. Is Leo a high schooler? Is he a grown up bothering a bunch of kids? Hard to say. 

The drag race

The rivalry between the T-Birds and the Scorpions comes to such a head that Leo challenges Kenickie to a drag race in Thunder Road, which seems to be an empty aqueduct where they run car races. Kenickie gets knocked out so Danny has to drive the car, and win Sandy in the long run (though why she goes for the dude who drives the drag race when she was going there to talk him out of it is also a little confusing).

But the most what-the-heck moment of the "Grease" drag race is that it's basically endorsed by one of the Rydell High school teachers. Mrs. Murdock, the Rydell auto shop teacher, not only helps them fix up "Greased Lightning," she encourages then to drive the race, and actually shows up to cheer them on. We can only assume that teachers nowadays would report such an event, or at least wouldn't actively support a drag race. But we're definitely dealing with a different crowd here. 

Why does the car fly at the end?

The film ends with two big musical numbers at a graduation carnival. In "You're the One that I Want," Sandy and Danny make up and get back together, while the whole gang celebrates with "We Go Together." They're both super fun numbers, even if the former has kind of a crappy message (which we'll get to in a minute). But the whole movie then ends with something completely baffling: Sandy and Danny hop into a car and start to drive away, and then the car takes off into the sky.

Now, this kind of fanciful visual wouldn't necessarily be out of place in a musical like "Grease," but there hasn't been any kind of hint at magic or magical realism throughout the entire movie. Even Frenchy being visited by her guardian angel is specifically framed as a dream. So it's totally bizarre when Danny's car lifts off and they fly into the sunset. Why does the car fly? Where are they flying to? What is this even a metaphor for? It's a total mystery. 

All in all, Grease just sends a terrible message

Let's face it — there are quite a few terrible messages sent throughout "Grease," a big one being that basically sex should be the focus of your entire life. But hey — high schoolers, right? Next there's the awful way in which the movie treats poor Jan. Throughout the movie she agonizes about her diet, starves herself, and gets mocked for being fat. Not only is all of that uncalled for in any circumstance, but it's especially mystifying because she isn't even any bigger than any of the other girls. She's just labelled the "fat friend."

But the most egregious and terrible lesson of "Grease" is that you should change who you are in order to please someone you date. Sure, Danny starts off the finale wearing the letterman sweater, having earned it for running track, but he rips it off as soon as he sees how Sandy has transformed herself into a leather-glad greaser chick goddess. Sandy changes who she is just to win Danny over, which is not the greatest lesson. We can totally ignore these plot holes, mysteries, and confusing moments of "Grease" as a product of it's time, but watching them again is certainly weird.