In the movie Dirty Dancing, the main characters are seventeen-year-old Frances Houseman, also known as ‘Baby,’ and Johnny Castle, who is a supposedly twenty-five-year-old dance instructor (Sylwester, 2008) This movie takes place in the summer of 1963 at Kellerman’s, a vacation resort (Ardolino & Gottileb, 1987). Throughout the beginning of the movie, the budding romance between Baby and Johnny becomes apparent; by the end of the movie, they have confirmed a relationship, but Johnny has been fired and must vacate the resort. Due to the setting of this movie, the gender construction and messages are a little more outward than they may be in a more recent movie.
To start, Gender is constructed by society and therefore, it is constantly changing over time (Lorber, 2003). Gender is something that is acted out in each person’s everyday life or the routines of everyday activities. Gender is mostly carried out with simply thinking about the actions of specific genders. Gender roles are often expected soon after a child is born—a girl according to the gender roles, should wear pink and a baby boy should wear blue. Comments are often made before a child can even cognitively understand the idea of gender, such as, “he is going to be such a strong little boy,” or “she is going to be such a princess”. These ideas lead to socially-constructed gender and why men and women behave the way that they do.
In the movie, there are many different ways that the concept of gender is carried out. For example, very early in the movie, Baby’s older sister Lisa is concerned with the fact that she did not bring enough shoes (Ardolino & Gottileb, 1987). This tells the audience very early on that Lisa is very self-absorbed and that she does not pay much attention to anyone outside herself; as the movie progresses, there are other examples of her behaving in such a way. Baby, on the other hand, is introduced as a character that cares more about others than herself. She shows this in the introduction when she mentions joining the Peace Corps after the summer ends (Ardolino & Gottileb, 1987). Baby is depicted as the outlier—she is someone who wants change not only the world around her, but she also wants to change the world. She wants to be a doctor like her dad, and help people. Another example of gender construction in Dirty Dancing would be when Baby offers to help carry watermelons for Billy. He tells her that he has it and insists on carrying these watermelons because women should not have to carry heavy things (Ardolino & Gottileb, 1987). There are other aspects of this movie that comply with the gender construction of that time period. For example, pre-marital sex was looked down upon and in this particular movie, the woman is blamed for it.
Furthermore, Gender construction is an observable aspect of this movie, especially the message that it shows about gender. Throughout the movie, Baby is constantly fighting for something, whether it be a relationship with Johnny...