Study Guide

Dirty Dancing Society and Class

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Society and Class

KELLERMAN: There are two kinds of help here. You guys are all college guys, and I went to Harvard and Yale to hire you. And why did I do that? Why? I shouldn't have to remind you, this is a family place. That means you keep your fingers out of the water, your hair out of the soup, and show the goddamn daughters a good time. All the daughters. Even the dogs. Schlep them out to the terrace, show them the stars. Romance them any way you want.

Kellerman divides his staff into two camps: the haves and the have-nots. The "haves" are the rich kids who have his permission to do whatever they want with the girls at the resort. The "have nots" are the poorer kids who are dancers and will be out of a job if they so much as touch any of the guests at a time when they're not doing the tango.

KELLERMAN: Well, if it isn't the entertainment staff. Listen, wiseass, you've got your own rules. Dance with the daughters. Teach them the mambo, the cha-cha, anything they pay for. That's it. That's where it ends. No funny business, no conversations, and keep your hands off!

"You've got your own rules," says it all. Kellerman imposes extra restrictions on the dancers simply because he can. He looks down on them all because they're from a lower economic class. Or maybe he's just jealous of their salsa step. He seems to assume that they've got no self-control and will be all over the female guests any chance they get.

KELLERMAN: This is your waiter, Robbie Gould. Yale medical school.

Where else other than Kellerman's does your waiter come with a resume? "Hello, here are today's specials and why I think I'd make a good husband." Baby, who's interested in having her own life and career, is only interested in the salad.

ROBBIE: If tips keep up, I'm gonna have enough for my Alfa Romeo.

Robbie Gould, ladies and gents. Enough money to buy a sports car. Not enough class to help a woman he gets pregnant.

BABY: So you were really a Rockette? I think you're a wonderful dancer.

PENNY: Yeah, well, my mother kicked me out when I was sixteen. I've been dancing ever since. It's the only thing I ever wanted to do anyway.

BABY: I envy you.

Penny storms off after Baby says this, and her angry reaction is totally understandable. Penny doesn't need to hear that Baby, a girl who hasn't faced a day of hardship in her life, envies her almost being homeless. To Baby's credit, Baby isn't being mean spirited. She's just ignorant about how her comment might come across.

NEIL: If they think you're with me, they'll be the happiest parents at Kellerman's. I have to say it. I'm known as the catch of the county. […] Last week I took a girl away from Jamie, the lifeguard, and he said to her, right in front of me, "What does he have that I don't have?" And she said, "Two hotels."

Neil thinks he can buy his way into a relationship or marriage. Frankly, he probably can. But he can't buy his way into Baby's heart. She wants substance over cash any day. Neil is the film's poster boy for condescension and obnoxiousness.

PENNY: Baby? Is that your name? Well you know what, Baby? You don't know s*** about my problems.

This line harkens back to Baby's ignorance about Penny's life. Penny's right. Baby doesn't know anything about Penny. The difference between Baby and her peers, though, is that Baby is willing to learn.

ROBBIE: Some people count. Some people don't. Read it. I think it's a book you'll enjoy, but make sure you return it. I have notes in the margin.

There isn't enough ugh in the world for Robbie's statement here. His ego trip is reinforced by one of the most polarizing books ever written, Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead, which praises true-to-self individualists, and places pushover conformists on the other end of the spectrum. Although, on second thought, maybe we do agree. Robbie's such a despicable guy that he shouldn't count. But with his status, he does.

BILLY: If they cancel, they lose this season's salary and next year's gig.

A dance show might not seem like very high stakes on the surface, but it's important to see the situation from Johnny and Penny's point of view. It's not a five-minute dance that is at stake. It's their careers and their lives. They have no safety net to fall back on.

JAKE: I don't want you to have anything to do with those people.

Baby is infuriated that her dad would refer to Johnny and the dancers as "those people." But like Baby at the beginning of the movie, her dad only says this because he doesn't understand them. It takes him a little longer to see things from their point of view, but he eventually comes around.

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