Danny the Douche: A Critical Analysis of Gender Representations in Grease

By Jamie Bechta, Noah Brodsky, Hailey Corkery, Anika Grevstad, Thomas Striegl, Zoey Zhou (Block 2 2017)

Grease (Original Print)“In the poster, Danny is positioned standing up, combing his hair and confidently staring at the camera with minimal facial expression. Sandy is shown lying on the car, placing her arm around Danny’s leg, looking at the camera with a big smile on her face. In “The Naked Truth: Advertising’s Image of Women,” Jean Kilbourne points out that the body language of women in advertising often implies passiveness, vulnerability, and submission. The specific codes that are used to construct femininity in advertising are further explained in Sut Jhally’s The Codes of Gender: Identity and Performance in Pop Culture when he notes that women are often portrayed lying down, a position that makes women defenseless to potential threats and more dependent on surrounding environments. He articulates that this position conveys the qualities of submission and vulnerability, which are often associated with femininity. The Grease poster adopts this trope, depicting Sandy as completely dependent on Danny.”

Grease (New Print)“The changes we made to the Grease poster challenge the gender norms that are depicted in the original. We wanted to keep both Sandy and Danny and keep the car that they are standing on in the poster but adjust how gender roles are portrayed. To do this, we experimented with different levels for Sandy and Danny in our photo shoot. In every image that we took Sandy is shown not caring for Danny whereas Danny is shown focused on Sandy. We did this through gaze and physical stance. Sandy is often depicted looking off screen away from Danny or looking directly at the camera.”

Daddies and Diamonds: Problematic Narratives Within Toddlers and Tiaras

original-print“Although we concede that pageant parents have a direct role in the sexualization and objectification of their children, we believe that Toddlers and Tiaras still presents a particularly nasty and harmful image of motherhood. As we analyze the show’s original print advertisement and video alongside our own satirized versions, we will argue that  TLC, as a creator of media, is responsible for perpetuating the problematic narratives of the demonized mother, the uncriticized father, and the bratty, hypersexualized toddler.”
—Isabel Aurichio, Daniel Feder-Johnson, Michaela Kahn, Sophie Mittelstadt, and Gabriel Rosenthal (Block 4 2016)

“As explained by Sut Jhally in The Codes of Gender: Identity and Performance in Popular Culture, objectifying women leads to an increase in sexual assault and rape. Despite this, TLC actively advertises these dangerous aspects in an attempt to draw viewers in on various emotions ranging from disgust, interest, and thrill. However, by also pushing a narrative of the children’s innocence, TLC is partaking in a direct form of sexualization and objectification of children.”

“While the children on Toddlers and Tiaras may not adopt authoritative tendencies, the reversal of roles forces social responsibility onto the child, who is unable to access the resources to handle it. Meanwhile, it alleviates external pressure from the parent, allowing TLC to construct the adults as ‘just being crazy,’ and therefore inherently bad people, uninfluenced by oppressive social constructs and institutions.”

new-print“In keeping with the theme of parental narcissism, the revised poster aims to combat the fetishization of young girls with an opposing image of Francis. He takes on the same childlike expression as the toddler from the original poster, thus reversing deeply ingrained gender roles … The poster combats naturalized ideas about how women and children should act. In the current media climate, only little girls can don pouty expressions and act bratty, even if they learned those behaviors from their parents.”

“In order to expose this problematic normalization of ‘mother blaming,’ we replaced the typical ‘mother’ character in our parody with a father (Francis), twisting the show from Toddlers and Tiaras to Daddies and Diamonds. By placing a father as the perpetrator of the stereotyped ‘pageant mother’ role, we are working to expose Toddlers and Tiaras viewers to the vilification of these mothers. In creating a pageant father who is neglectful, obsessed with winning, and massively self-absorbed, viewers are able to see how ridiculous and exaggerated these characters are, and begin to question the role of mothers and absence of fathers on the show.”