Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Baby's in the Corner

Am I the only one who's sort of sour about Jennifer Grey winning Dancing With the Stars? I mean, I don't know who Kyle is (should I?) and, well, there are other "teen activists" I'd rather see be crowned than Bristol Palin. But I still feel like Ms. Grey betrayed all the goofy-looking girls in the world when she got her nose job, after becoming a national heroine simply for being, as Patrick Swayze put it, "the cool, funky Jewish girl who gets the guy."

I'm aware of the hypocrisy that comes for judging someone on their looks when that's supposedly all I'm against. And Jennifer Grey has a right to do whatever she damn well wants to do with her body and face. That doesn't mean that I wasn't cringing as I watched her paso doble. Her technical proficiency was remarkable, certainly. But the paso doble, as any good teenaged drama geek circa 1992 knows from Strictly Ballroom, is a dance of passion. It's meant to mimic the bullfighter entering the ring; the lead is the matador, the follow, the cape, swirling around the matador in a tight but fluid dare. It's a dance that requires skill, yes, but also: bravado, courage—hell, it requires chutzpah.

And sure, one's bravado, courage, and chutzpah isn't necessarily reflected in one's features. But it speaks volumes to me when I see a face that once had courage—the courage to be a teen dance queen despite nontraditional looks; the bravado to play Baby (Baby! Baby who nobody could put in the corner! Baby who always made the right choice, even when the right choice was the wrong choice! Baby whose courage inspired Johnny Freakin' Castle to be a better man! Baby who carried the watermelon!) ; the chutzpah to live her ethnicity—do her damndest to mimic the intensity that appeared to come so naturally more than 20 years prior. Jennifer Grey's new face, courtesy of a nose job she's publicly regretted, showed little of that character. I take comfort in her public regret, much as I wish I didn't care, much as I wish I could take a more libertarian attitude toward the whole thing. I wish that I could have received her triumph on Dancing With the Stars in the way I received Baby's so long ago—as a woman claiming what she felt was rightfully hers, the perception of others be damned.

I can't, though. I wanted Baby to stand for something I wanted at the age I first met her; I didn't want my proxy to womanhood to have the human foibles I had. As long as I'm stuck with those foibles I want my messengers to be purer than myself. Jennifer, your dance was perfect. Baby, your dance was brilliant.


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