An upcoming Paramount+ spinoff series for the 1978 hit John Travolta movie Grease is aiming for an ultra-woke theme by focusing on characters with a “marginalized identity,” and features mixed race classes, lesbian kissing scenes, and all set in 1954, supposedly four years before the events chronicled in the films.
The series, entitled Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies, which will air on the Paramount+ streaming service starting in April, is set to follow the creation of the quasi girl gang called the Pink Ladies. The group was led by Rizzo (Stockard Channing) in the 1978 film and was made up of the misfits and outcast girls of Rydell High School. The new series will be set in 1954, just before rock-n-roll took over the nation’s imagination and before the characters of the original series entered high school, according to Deadline.
But, despite that it is set in 1954 — decades before wokeism and even before the Civil Rights movement — the series is apparently going to focus on woke sex roles, lesbian relationships, transgenderism, racism, and characters with “marginalized identity.”
The series also won’t even feature any of the original characters. There will be no Rizzo, no Frenchie, nor a Marty or Jan. The series is set years before any of the characters from the movies entered Rydell High. In addition, Rydell suddenly has a very diverse student body despite the example in the films. As seen in the trailer, there are Latino, Asian, black and white kids all at the same school in an era when segregation was still defacto — even in California — based on neighborhood separations.
In comments made during a Television Critic’s Association Press Tour panel on Feb. 6, showrunner and executive producer Annabel Oakes spoke about why she is making a series that diverges so sharply from the originals. At the event, she gushed about the “beautiful, interesting and unexpected stories from people of all different walks of life,” she was hearing when she began looking into the 50s and 60s ahead of producing the new series. She claimed she spoke to “popular girls” as well as “radical lesbian feminists” and people of all races for her research into the era.
After that ground work, Oakes staffed her writer’s room with diversity and set out to expand the Grease universe to appeal to a new audience.
The result is stark. The series “dives into diverse storytelling around race and sexuality. The show’s primary characters are mainly women of color and queer women, and the series explores what it meant to be marginalized in the 1950s,” AdWeek reported.
At the same panel, one of the cast, Ari Notartomaso who portrays Pink Lady Cynthia, claimed that the series is set to take on many serious topics. “Our characters will get to experience from a different lens and how those experiences overlap with others with a marginalized identity,” Notartomaso said. “I think we have the opportunity to represent another struggle that overlaps with things we’re dealing with today like racism.”
Even the music will not follow the template for the original movies and instead of featuring rock-n-roll-inspired new music, the series will instead evoke “Latinx” and black music of the 40s and 50s, according to Entertainment Weekly.
Despite appearing to have none of the features of the original movies, Oakes insisted that “Fans of the original should be happy” with the new series. But explained that “Any time you do a period piece, you are using a little bit of a modern lens and you’re talking about what’s different and also what hasn’t changed.”