I watched Dirty Dancing last week for, I don’t know, the 580th time in my life? I’ve written many “hot takes” on it over the years, so I didn’t expect to have any new takes on it this time around, but what do you know? A new one presented itself, and here it is:
Johnny Castle is the ultimate pick-up artist, and should be killed with a rock.
Now, if you know anything about modern pick-up artistry, it’s that you should be really mean to the girl and she will then go hog-wild for you. It’s called “negging”, meaning that you say negative and mean things to the girl and bludgeon her self-esteem until she feels like such a lowly loser that she’s willing to lower her standards to sleep with a goddamned lowly loser like you. It’s a really mature way to conduct your life, and Johnny Castle is apparently an expert at it.
I was nearly halfway through this movie when I realized that Johnny hadn’t said a single kind word to Baby since the moment they met. Not one! Also, within moments of their first meeting, he rubs his very adult wiener on her teenage body under the guise of “dancing”. Without asking. So there’s that. Does she walk away from the experience thinking he’s a gross pervert? Nope! She stumbles away, drunk on his boundless, vagabond wiener and craving for more, further proving my theory that older men like young women because young women are so stupid.
Thereafter, things that Baby then does to impress Johnny (who is NEVER nice to her) include, but are not limited to:
(a) Lying to her own father so she can borrow an exorbitant amount of money in 1960s dollars to pay for Johnny’s friend Penny’s back-alley abortion. For this favor, Johnny repays Baby by insulting her, acting like a passive-aggressive dick while swigging a beer and looking in the opposite direction, and then incredulously telling Penny that she should take the money anyway. He’s a real king of the “no-win situation”, which is a classic narcissist move. Oh, you wish there were some way to pay for this abortion, but there isn’t one. Oh, there IS one? Oh, it’s not in the form of payment I was hoping for, so fuck you, teenage girl who’s only trying to help! Oh, Penny, why aren’t you taking this money that I just insulted the very notion of? Bitches be crazy! (Note, he is the only person who is acting crazy.)
(b) Bails his ass out filling in for Penny by learning how to do a complicated mambo routine on a moment’s notice for the sole purpose of him being able to keep his standing gig at the Sheldrake Hotel performing the mambo once a year. How much money could this possibly pay to make it worth the hassle? It’s a 2 minute dance routine that happens once a year! What is it? Ten bucks? While training for this dance routine, Johnny acts like a total dick 100% of the time to Baby. A total dick. He rolls his eyes, he huffs, he literally yells at her, day after day. He only starts kinda-sorta being nice to her while she’s changing in the backseat of the car and he’s trying to spy on her nudeness with the rearview mirror. And after completing her dance assignment, does he say, “You’re amazing” or “You’re the best”? Nope! He says, “You did real good.” While being a peeping tom. Oh, be still my heart! Baby stands to gain zero from volunteering for this mambo assignment by the way, besides the possibility of gaining a super virulent form of herpes. They should change the name of this movie to Unsanitary Dancing.
(c) Risking her relationship with her father in order to save Penny’s life after the abortion goes wrong (surprise plot device!). While it appears that Johnny is grateful that Baby went and retrieved her father in the middle of the night to save Penny, he ultimately repays her for the favor by putting his very adult wiener into her teenage body. Because nothing says, “Thanks for saving my friend’s life, teenage girl!” like making hot, sweet unprotected love to her on a dusty cot. I don’t care if she made the first move. She’s a teenager and he’s a grown man for god’s sake! Later, he gives her a compliment by telling her that her real name “Frances” is a “real grown-up name”. I know when I am lying in bed in a post-coital state, what I really want to hear are condescending observations about my birth name. I also assume that by pointing out that her real name is “real grown-up”, this means she’s “aged out” for him. Bring on the Tiffanys!
(d) Admits to everyone at the hotel that she let Johnny give her the hot beef injection, in order to provide him with an alibi for Mo Pressman’s wallet going missing, thereby wrecking everything for her and her family, but keeping Johnny out of jail (for the time being). I’m pretty sure jail is an inevitability in life for Johnny, what with all of the uninvited wiener-rubbing on teenage girls combined with his sporadic-at-best employment. Baby has basically just hit the snooze button on his eventual incarceration, at the expense of her relationship with her family.
Then Johnny leaves like, “LATER!”
At the end of the movie, he comes back and says a couple of nice things about her – in public, even! Then he immediately undoes this kindness by rubbing his wiener on her some more, but this time in front of her mother and father, because what girl doesn’t want her parents to see that? And I tell you what, the folks LOVE it. Because every parent wants to see the human equivalent of a dumpster-possum in dick-pants grind all over their intelligent, Seven Sisters college- and Peace Corps-bound teenage daughter. You name one parent who doesn’t want that. One! Go ahead. I’m waiting.