Danny Zuko has hips like Tony Manero with a full-blown case of Saturday night fever. He has a slick image like Vincent Vega from Pulp Fiction. And considering the weird fantasy he has in which Kenickie's car becomes a souped-up Greased Lightin' hot rod, he might have a brain tumor like whoever the heck Travolta played in Phenomenon.
…but we really hope not, because Danny's a sweetie-pie.
The difference between all of Travolta's other characters and this one is that Danny Zuko is still a teenager. We could see him becoming any one of these iconic characters, but first he has to decide what he wants his image to be. And that internal struggle is Danny's main conflict: who does he want to be?
It's something we all struggle with as teenagers, although not all of us—the Glee kids excluded—break into song while we're figuring it all out.
Saturday Night Fever
Danny's first step toward forming his identity is realizing that the image he presents may not necessarily be in line with how he wants to be perceived. He begins experiencing doubts when Sandy tells him what she really thinks of him.
SANDY: You're a fake and a phony and I wish I'd never laid eyes on you.
When an Aussie who knows how to kill you two ways with a boomerang calls you out, you listen.
Danny, like any young man, is stubborn. It takes him a while to apologize, and even then, he doesn't take the blame for it. He blames it on his image, telling her at the jukebox,
DANNY: The way I acted, I was terrible. I mean, it really was. I mean, it wasn't me, you got to know that. I mean, it was me, of course, but it wasn't me. You see, Sandy, I got this image, right?
In other words, #sorrynotsorry.
Sandy sees through his faux-pology quicker than a kangaroo eating a shrimp off a barbie, which makes Danny realizes he can't just talk the talk, he has to walk the walk and dance the dance.
Danny's gang, the T-Birds, pride themselves on being almost counterculture. They're anti- the wholesome jock image. Instead of wearing white and running track, they wear black, grease their hair, and smoke.
But Sandy likes the whole wholesome thing, and Danny wants to impress her. To do that, he goes against his friends' customs, and joins athletics. Not only that, he "letter[s] in track" and gets a sharp white jacket to wear for his accomplishments.
If Danny did all this in secret, or for Sandy, it might be kind of sweet. But Danny actually wears the jacket in public, even though he knows his friends will rag him for it. When they do, Danny tells the guys that they might need to branch out and follow their own dreams, too.
DANNY: You guys can't follow a leader all your lives, can ya?
One question we have to ask about Danny—and Sandy as well—is this one: what will stick with them as they grow older? Will Sandy and Danny last? Will Danny let his jock side shine, or will he change to meet the next girl he meets? Whatever he does, or doesn't do, we think he'll be fine as long as he keeps dancing.