Why, this article is automatic. It’s systematic. It’s hydromatic. Why it’s greased lightning! Grease, the 1978 movie adaptation of the 1971 musical Grease which all ultimately lead to the novelization by Ron De Christoforo! (A mouthful right?) Nonetheless, what I’m really here to talk about is the prevailing fan theory about the ending of all three! Let’s take a deep dive into this Grease conspiracy theory and why I think that it’s true.
And just to get it out of the way, I’m aware that the directors don’t love this theory (honestly kind of crushed my spirit)! But, they can’t stop me, so come join me. Welcome to the rabbit hole that I’ve spiraled, I’ll be your guide, please keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times.
Brief Overview of the Grease
So Grease follows Sandy and Danny as they embark on a love-sick summer romance. Only, the summer lasts for the first like five to ten minutes of the movie. Once it ends, Sandy has plans to go back to her parent’s house in Australia and Danny is going back to his hometown to finish high school. We get to Danny’s first day of school and meet all his friends, The T-Birds and Pink Ladies. (Little side note, I always wanted to be a Pink Lady, I mean who wouldn’t they were bosses)
Turns out there’s a new girl at school this year, and she’s telling all the Pink Ladies about her whirlwind summer romance with a (yet-to-be-named) boy. Danny (said yet-to-be-named boy) is also telling his friends about his summer situationship. And being adapted from a musical, this whole story-telling process is set to the snappy tune of Summer Nights in which Danny is playing it up for his friends, exaggerating his relationship with Sandy.
We go through the whole movie where Sandy is grappling with being the good girl in love with the bad boy who is a total jerk now he’s around his friends. This isn’t the boy she met over the summer and she isn’t quite sure what to do. And to comfort her, we get this amazing line from Frenchie. In a better effort to get over him, Sandy goes on a date with a jock, Tom Chisum and Danny is not happy with this development.
But little does Sandy know, Danny wants to be with her, so he’s willing to change (one of my favorite romance tropes).
In the end, we see Danny in a letterman jacket he earned from running varsity track. However (!), we also see Sandy in full black (a fact I’ll come back to in a minute)!
The grand finale is set to the toe-tapping We Go Together and during the last few seconds, Sandy and Danny hop in a car. And just before— just before– the credits roll, the car lifts off the ground and starts flying.
Prevailing Fan Conspiracy Theory
It’s not anything new that fans have created theories around (semi) classic movies. This one was initially proposed around 2013-ish, gaining popularity on Reddit. The theory claims that Sandy died at the beginning of the movie. During the previously mentioned Summer Nights, Danny recalls that on the beach where the pair met, Sandy got a cramp on the beach. He says, “I saved her life, she nearly drowned.” Well… fans think that maybe Danny wasn’t able to save her. I think that I could go further to say that Sandy’s next line of “he showed off, splashing around” lends to the credibility of the theory.
The consensus bullet point of the fan theory is that Sandy did actually drown on the beach that day. And in her final moments, Sandy’s brain thought of a thrilling love story to guide her into the afterlife easier. As the movie continues, the happenings (visions) get increasingly outlandish until Sandy sees herself flying into the afterlife as Danny attempts to resuscitate her. Dark, right?
Public Reception of Theory
The theory grew so popular that even John Travolta, the actor who played the infamous bad boy lover Danny, weighed in on the subject. On a call with USA Today Travolta remarked, “I love it; imaginations are awesome.” He did go on to remind us that during Summer Nights, Danny was playing up his relationship for his friends. “He’s bragging; it’s made up to impress the boys”.
At that time, the director of Grease, Randall Kleiser, kept his thoughts to himself, claiming a tell-all book would reveal everything in due time. However, the original creator of the Grease musical, Jim Jacobs, was decidedly not a fan of the theory. He told TMZ, “Whoever made up the theory must have been on acid. Sandy was very much alive.” (Little side note, what a trip would this movie be on acid? *I’m not promoting drug use here, just think about it*)
My Theories Stemming From This Fan Theory
While I am one of those fans who doesn’t love the ‘coma’ cop-out when it comes to crazy endings, I think this one has merit. The original theory claims that Sandy was hallucinating everything because she drowned at the beach and Danny wasn’t able to save her in time. My theory adds a bit of depth to that. I think that Sandy and Danny had already formed a connection, meaning that if she did drown at the beach it would make sense for her to have all of this knowledge.
I think that Sandy was always hinting at it throughout the movie, every song she sang, every piece of clothing she wore, and every decision she made was helping her accept that she was dying. To backtrack a bit, Sandy and Danny had previously formed a connection. She had maybe developed a crush on the cute boy from the beach. Over the summer, they told each other about their home lives which is how she knew about The T-Birds and Pink Ladies.
Based on Danny’s willingness to change for Sandy, I believe that this was the idea of Danny that Sandy created in her head. You know how we get attached to the idea and the reality somehow always disappoints? That whole thing happened with Sandy. Our first song was Summer Nights, Danny’s line about having to save her, Sandy’s line about him showing off, splashing around? Come on, that’s a direct link to him trying to save her from drowning!
To pile onto Summer Nights, it just makes sense that this would be Sandy dying in Danny’s arms or something. Morbid, I know, but hear me out! When the song turns a bit more somber, supposed to indicate the end of summer, Danny and Sandy talk about the weather getting colder and that Danny promised they would still be friends. “Then we made our true love vow, Wonder what she’s doin’ now” You can’t convince me this isn’t Danny trying to comfort her in her last moments! “Summer dreams ripped at the seams”? Even the “tell me more, tell me more” is Danny pleading with her to stay alive.
Gosh, let me lighten this again, I mentioned clothing, didn’t I? Everytime that we see Sandy, she’s always in a relatively pastel or light color. Those fabrics are typically light enough to be read as white on screen (at some points), and as we all know, white is associated with purity and cleanliness. And what do (some) people say about cleanliness? It’s next to godliness. Yet another indication! Now, the only time we see her in a distinct, stark color is when she’s repping the Rydell red and at the end of the movie when she’s fully decked out in a black leather fit.
Supposedly we have like seven seconds of concise thought before we die, right? I think all of the warning signs, the reprise of Look At Me, I’m Sandra Dee with the famous “goodbye to Sandra Dee” line, and even another line in Summer Nights, “It turned colder, that’s where it ends” all lend to the credibility that Sandy was dying and this was an elaborate hallucination.
Maybe I’m just a dedicated fan
(crazy), but I think this argument holds water. As complicated and convoluted as that theory may be, the 1978 movie version of Grease was preserved by the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant”. Obviously, these filmmakers knew what they were doing, and until we can get solid confirmation that Sandy didn’t die (and maybe even afterward, I’m pretty stubborn), I’m claiming this hill to die on!