To Glee or Not to Glee

My girls have reached the “musical” stage of their childhood. Eve got to go see “Oliver!” last year with her class and she came home singing all of the songs and begged me to get the music. Lola’s music teacher taught them most of the songs from “The Sound of Music” last year and she went around singing them until I thought I’d throw up. Repetition aside (or maybe repetition-inspired), I decided to expand their repertoire by finding some more musical soundtracks to introduce them to.

“Annie?” Check.
“Mamma Mia?” Check.
“Grease?” Triple check.
I loved that movie. It came out in 1978 and I must have been too young to see it in the theater, but I watched it a dozen times as an adolescent (we weren’t delineated into teens and tweens back then, of course). I saved my money and bought the album as soon as I could and I listened to it over and over again. In fact, I’m fairly certain that green cover with the photo of Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta sat empty in my cupboard for a long time since the record rarely came off of my record player. Twenty-five years later I still remember all of the words to all of the songs and just hearing them conjures up images of Frenchie’s pink hair and Rizzo dancing in her underwear at the slumber party as she sang “Sandra Dee.”
My girls quickly fell in love with the music to “Grease” too. And it wasn’t long before they began asking to watch the movie.
Eva is nearly twelve and Lola just turned nine. Are they too young? I don’t honestly remember how old I was when I first saw “Grease,” but I know that some of the concepts are pretty grown up. Even some of the song lyrics are a little edgy – “…I’m Sandra Dee, lousy with virginity.” (Mom, what’s ‘virginity?’ I can imagine Lola asking.) The boys singing “Greased Lightning” and talking about the girls “creaming their pants.” Hmmm.
I don’t recall my reaction when I heard lines like that in the movie. I know there isn’t any sex or nudity and, other than the sexual inferences and stereotypical bad behavior from teens, I don’t think there is anything objectionable. But do I want to be responsible for my girls learning concepts like “creaming your pants?” Of course, the cat’s out of the bag for a lot of it if they slow down and really listen to the song lyrics. And they already listen to a lot of music with words I don’t allow them to say – heck, even the Indigo Girls drop the f-bomb here and there.
I’m stuck wondering whether I want to let them see me squirm and, thus, set them up to pay closer attention to the movie, wondering what it is that I’m worried about. Maybe they will watch the movie, absorb the parts they care about and are developmentally able to, and chuck the rest, only realizing what was really going on sometime about the age of 20.
Eve has been pressuring me to let her watch “Glee” since most of her friends and classmates watch it and love it. It’s not that I won’t let her, but it isn’t a show I watch, so it doesn’t occur to me to record it and even see if it is okay. And then there is the logistical issue of how to let Eve watch something that Lola isn’t allowed to. Don’t get me started on that.
I suppose the worst that could happen is that they bump up against a concept they are unfamiliar with or one that makes them uncomfortable and we have to talk about it. I’m more than happy to do that, although Lola has been teasing me lately about giving her “too much information.” In my defense, the questions she asks are getting more complex. “What’s a foster home?” “Why are there so many homeless people?” “Why is Eve so cranky all the time?”

Or maybe none of these things is that complicated. Maybe I’m just seeing it that way through my complicated-colored glasses.
7 replies
  1. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    This is great! I remember watching the TV-version of Grease, which meant all the questionable parts were cut out for TV audiences. I thought nothing of it … until many years later when I saw the full movie and was shocked at what I'd missed! I still love the music though (and have been known to blast the CD in my car).

  2. chriswreckage
    chriswreckage says:

    'grease' is a classic. i think the adult stuff kinda goes over most kids' heads at those ages. it's only later that one realizes how adult some of that stuff is. plus compared to so much of what's out there now, it's unbelievably wholesome. great songs though!

  3. Dee Ready
    Dee Ready says:

    This is a hard decision, Kario. In thinking over the import of your posting, I find myself agreeing with Chris that most of the "adult-stuff" will go over their heads.

    And if Eve and Lola ask questions, you are a fine mother and can sit down with them and talk about their impressions and questions–or have a snack together and as we used to say, "chew the fat."

    BUT if you decide against Glee and/or Grease then in my mind this is no big deal. They can always look at both later–when they're older.

    Often we try–from childhood on–to gobble up too much of life too quickly. Time needn't be our enemy. It can be a friend. And a later time may be more friendly than now.

  4. Lauren
    Lauren says:

    I had a similar experience to the commenters above – I vividly remember watching Grease a million times as a little girl, but it wasn't until much later that I realized how much sexual innuendo and adult content were a part of the movie. I even sang many of the songs verbatim, but I had no clue what I was saying (I can imagine how my mother must have cringed at that, in retrospect!). I wouldn't know how to begin to navigate that as a parent, especially since my son is still so young!

  5. Sandi
    Sandi says:

    I asked my resident "musical expert" (my 20 year old daughter who was involved in theater all through high school!) what she thought of "Grease" (which is one of her all time favorite musicals) for pre-teens. Her comment was that she thinks she was about 5th grade when we watched it the first time, and most of the sexual stuff went right over her head! She loves "Glee", but isn't sure about younger girls watching, as the message is mostly about high school being all about relationships and sex! She suggested "Bye Bye Birdie" and "Thoroughly Modern Millie" as favorite musicals they did in high school and that she has watched on video. There are lots of great ones!

    That said, Kario, we've rarely censored books or movies/TV and often had great discussions during and afterwards. Both girls grew up to have good heads on their shoulders! Yours will, too!

  6. brenda
    brenda says:

    It's hard one. I made sure my kids understood the difference between fact and fiction early on, but I confess that I was the last person to sensor. I always tell them our house our rules and not every house was the same. I grew up in a house when all the arts around me and wasn't prohibited, so… As for Greece…I don't think I paid attention to the 'dark stuff' being a lover of musicals all I heard was the music..

  7. Deb Shucka
    Deb Shucka says:

    I don't envy you this sticky wicket. But I do know, after years of watching you parent, that you'll make the exact right choice for your girls.

    This was such a fun post to read. Your tongue seemed firmly planted in your cheek in several places. 🙂


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