Nathan Jolly

200 Sad Songs: #179 Stockard Channing – There are worse things I could do (1978)

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Image: Keiren Jolly

Approx Reading Time-8Teen life is tough, as Grease‘s Rizzo (Stockard Channing) communicates perfectly in this week’s 200 Sad Songs entry. While life could be worse than it already is, we know it won’t last forever.

 

 

 

For the uninitiated, the character of Rizzo in 1978’s Grease is Rydell High’s premier stop-out chick. Played by Stockard Channing, Rizzo is the character who suggests a three-way with Kenicke (Joff Conaway) and Danny (John Travolta), who introduces Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) to smoking, who uses the term “flog your log”, who spontaneously writes a song mocking Sandy’s virginity, who has a pregnancy scare (’50s gasp!).

She knows it could only be Kenicke’s, but pretends there were plenty of partners and that it’s not his problem. Being a malleable, bulletproof, wise-cracking, tough chick is her “thing”, you see. She’s a teenager. It’s the ’50s. It’s a sad tale.


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There are worse things I could do basically does what it says on the tin, presenting a laundry list of actions Rizzo perceives as being more horrible than hooking up with a few dudes: leading someone on to no end, wasting her teen years suppressing her desires, settling early with the “right” kind of guy, hurting someone just because you can hurt someone. There’s also a fair bit of sax.

There is a late outpouring of anger – “I don’t steal, and I don’t lie, but I can feel, and I can cry” – but it’s directed inward; the public misconceptions are her fault and she knows it. She is pretending to be tough ’cause she has to. She ranks crying in front of her lover as the worst thing she could do, which is sad in every way.


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Vulnerability is pounced upon in high school, and Rizzo learned early she would be the predator, not the prey. Luckily this stage doesn’t last too long and you learn to mix being vulnerable with not giving a fuck. Eventually. As the old adage goes: T-bird racing for pink slips is wasted on the young.

 

Nathan Jolly

Nathan is a Sydney-based journalist who has written for numerous publications over the years, including Junkee, This Recording, New York Post, The BRAG, SBS, Triple J Mag, Channel [V], and news.com.au. He used to be pretty good at hitting three-pointers, and can still cartwheel, although he never learnt to swim, drive, or manage money.

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