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How "Dirty Dancing" is the 1980's Romeo & Juliet

Rebecca is an aspiring journalist and editor who started and ran her school paper, and whose favorite thing is analyzing cinema.

Time of my Life

Time of my life  Jennifer Grey (left) Patrick Swayze (right)

Time of my life Jennifer Grey (left) Patrick Swayze (right)

Short Summary

This film is about a rich Jewish family who decides to spend their summer in the Catskills, a popular spot for families like them who want to take a break. The Houseman family consists of Dr. Houseman- the father and a very wealthy physician, Marjorie- the mother, Lisa- the older sister who is dumb but pretty, and Baby- the young, naive, and talented sister who dreams of being in the Peace Corps. In their resort, one of the activities planned is to have dancers. What was not planned was that the main female dancer, Penny, gets pregnant by a scumbag waiter, and has a horribly botched abortion. Her male partner, Johnny, tries to handle the situation but needs a dance partner. So, stubbornly and secretly, he trains Baby to dance since the rich guests are technically not supposed to be so close with the low-paid employees. Slowly but surely, Baby becomes the best partner Johnny has ever had, not just for skill, but also because of their romance. It’s not all happiness though, because they were as star-crossed as it gets. Once people found out that a guest related to such a famous doctor is with a dancer from the streets, Johnny nearly loses his job and everything he has. Even so, the film ends beautifully, with the famous, “Time of my Life,” dance.


The Star-crossed Lovebirds

Love is Strange

Love is Strange

Romeo and Juliet

The Balcony

The Balcony

Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet

Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is all about tragedy between the two rivaling families, The Capulet’s and The Montague’s. Their century long feud is fueled constantly by a simple thing- their insane amount of pride. Every fight, every death, and every insult is just a person or a group of people from one of the families trying to be a little better than the other. The two young lovers are almost illegally together, and their silly teenage relationship causes so much turmoil between their families that many die. Something like a war is started from a tiny relationship because when their two families connect, they become something like the Allies and the Axis powers in the second World War, but instead, both sides are equally at fault.


Feel the Music

Their Tension is Rising

Their Tension is Rising

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Let's Begin the Comparison

In Romeo and Juliet, the two teens meet at a ball, and one is instantly star struck by the other- like a lightning bolt. In Dirty Dancing, the two meet at something like a ball; they first see each other at Johnny’s dance performance with Penny, but they first interact at a secret employees-only dirty dancing club during the night. In the play, the two lovers fall for each other almost in seconds, and Romeo spends hours trying to be with Juliet, whether it be at the ball or at her home. Similarly, Baby instantly develops a crush on Johnny, and tries to help him as much as she can. He doesn’t necessarily get a crush on her, but attraction is sensed because he takes her and teaches her a dance move- which in some ways is his love language.

Another extremely important similarity is the wealth difference- although in the play it is barely noticeable- it is still important. Romeo and the Montague’s are very wealthy, but if counted, Juliet and the Capulet’s do have more than them. In the film it is extremely evident and even called out several times. Baby comes from a very well off family, with a full ride to college and everything. Johnny, on the other hand, is a well- trained dancer but he lacks education. He usually takes any job he can get, and came from the streets. In simpler terms, he’s just trying to survive dollar to dollar.


The Families

The Two Rivaling Families

The Two Rivaling Families

The Biggest Similarity

Last but not least, what I think is the most prominent similarity between the two: both couples are willing to risk everything that they cherish for one another. Johnny almost loses his job for Baby- he couldn’t bear to see her suffer from her family, even if he won’t admit it. Baby is a daddy’s girl, there is no other way to put it. And for her to go to her father, tell him that she is seeing someone who he very clearly disapproves of, and still ask for help? That was extremely brave of her, clearly showing how much she loves Johnny, as well as anything he finds important. She risked her most cherished relationship for a guy she just met, woah. Shakespeare’s lovers didn’t risk anything small either. In fact, it wasn’t a risk, it was a pure loss- they killed themselves for each other. Now although it is ridiculous, it still shows how much the two love each other since they refused to live without one another.


In Conclusion

In conclusion, both are very similar but very different. Yes, one has a happy ending and the other has one of the most tragic in all of literature, but still! Johnny would do anything for Baby, and vice versa; just as Romeo gave his whole life for Juliet just like she did when she thought he had died. The 80s' do have a lot of Shakespeare inspired things if you dig deep enough. Thank you for reading.

The Boyfriend, the Girlfriend, and the Best friend

© 2022 Rebecca Viknyanskiy

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