Will this alleged "reboot" of Dirty Dancing include the iconic line, "Nobody puts Baby in the corner?" All we know is that were it to be made in German, the line would translate to, "My baby belongs to me. Is this clear?"
Last night, a bunch of us watched Dirty Dancing to benefit the New York Abortion Access Fund. Watching with us til the end was the film's screenwriter and producer Eleanor Bergstein, who entertained everyone with that account of how the film was translated into German. (Of that Teutonic rendering, discovered in the stage show adaptation, she protested, "You've got to take that out, I'll never get to feminist heaven now.") She also described encountering Australian truckers who faithfully watch the film nightly.
But given the occasion and the not-coincidental fact that abortion is a linchpin of the movie's plot, she also reflected on the continuing fight for choice. (If we have any say in feminist heaven, she'll have no problem.) Bergstein's insistence on depicting the reality of illegal abortion in the film — out of her then-fear that Roe v. Wade would be overturned — meant a loss of a major sponsor (Clearasil) that she didn't want on the posters anyway. (The trick, she said, was making it an irrevocable part of the plot that couldn't be edited out.) And she lamented that a generation or two later, this battle still needed to be waged more than ever.
Antichoice activists have succeeded in making abortion so publicly poisonous that the candid portrayal of one woman's choice in Dirty Dancing seems not ahead of its time, but anomalous. Here's Eleanor discussing how contemporary pop culture, even the ostensibly progressive kind, implicitly declares having a baby the more moral choice. It might even get you a rich guy and an apartment on West End Avenue. Bonus: A soap opera plot that blew all of our minds. (The outfit coordination was sheer coincidence.)
It remains to be seen whether this Kenny Ortega remake will display the same dogged moral courage, or whether it will just be about love on either side of the tracks set to dance. Bergstein didn't have much to say about all that besides telling the audience she had spoken to Ortega that day and many things were up in the air. She stayed until the end of the film — it had been years since she'd seen it on a big screen — but told me as she left that it was difficult to see so many friends and colleagues who had since died. Including, of course, Patrick Swayze, whom it seems almost sacrilegious to imagine replacing.
Video by James Crugnale