Greased: How a confected Culture War story jumped from the Mail On Sunday to Good Morning Britain

Katie Hind turned a handful of tweets into a crisis. Now Piers Morgan and pals take the bait because it makes good telly.

… and then the wokeists came for Grease, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not Olivia Newton-John…

Seemingly in desperate need for a page lead, The Mail on Sunday’s Showbiz Editor, Katie Hind, took a smattering of tweets and turned them into a bit of scurrilous culture war bait. Here’s how she introduced her Twitter tale:

It was one of the highest-grossing films of the 1970s and has been delighting audiences ever since.

But now the hit musical Grease has become the latest target of ‘woke’ critics who have condemned it for racism, sexism, homophobia and ‘slut-shaming’.

Wow! That sounds serious. Who’s condemned it? Was it the British Board of Film Classification, an esteemed film critic, or some obscure UN body dedicated to discovering movies that haven’t aged well?

No. It was… ‘Henry Webb’ (651 followers), a right-wing trolling account, and a number of other low-follower Twitter accounts, several of whom love the film.

In her piece, Hind writes:

In the film’s final scenes, student Sandy ditches her good-girl image for skin-tight PVC trousers and takes up smoking so she can impress Danny. 

It prompted one outraged Twitter user to write: ‘Grease is far too sexist and overly white and should be banned from the screen. It is nearly 2021 after all.’

That quote is from ‘Webb’. Here’s the tweet:

Even without the context of the rest of the account’s output (racist goading, transparent trolling, and right-wing talking points), it’s obvious from this tweet alone that ‘Webb’ is taking the piss. Beyond that, the message has only had 3 retweets (one direct retweet and two quote tweets) and 22 likes as I write this.

Still, Hind finds two other people to quote so that’s almost a trend right? Let’s see what the other ‘outraged’ individuals had to say:

Another furious viewer complained: ‘Grease sucks on so many levels and the message is pure misogyny.’ 

A third user agreed, saying: ‘Grease is just the most sexist piece of s***.’

The first quote is from a tweet sent in November — completely unrelated to festive TV showings of the film — by another US-based account with just 128 followers:

The “third user [who] agreed” is a UK Twitter user, but he wasn’t ‘agreeing’ with F Montell. He was responding to the BBC’s Boxing Day airing of the film but it was a single tweet and garnered 1 retweet and 9 replies. It’s hardly the snowflake-fuelled cancel campaign that Hind wants us to believe is revving up.

Steve has even clocked that Hind has picked up his tweet and twisted it for her own purposes in The Mail on Sunday:

With the next two quotes dragged from Twitter for The Mail on Sunday story, important context is removed to make them seem more ‘outraged’. Here’s what Hind has to say:

Other viewers complained about the lyric ‘Did she put up a fight?’ in the hit song Summer Nights, when Danny describes seducing Sandy.

‘So turns out Grease is actually pretty rapey,’ wrote one aghast viewer, while another said: ‘Misogynistic, sexist and a bit rapey.’

Sensitive viewers also targeted female characters for criticism. 

Here are the original tweets…

… notice that the women were talking about wanting to watch the film / the film being one of their favourites. It’s hardly unreconstructed outrage is it?

The next quote ditches a caveat from the original tweeter.

Here’s how Hind frames it…

Nevertheless, the glaring lack of LGBT awareness angered one young Twitter user, who complained: ‘All couples must be boy/girl? Well Grease, shove your homophobia.’ 

… and here’s the original tweet and follow-up:

Hind sculls around and finds another tweet about Grease and homophobia (“Another simply wrote: ‘Grease peak of homophobia.’”) but it’s not connected to the BBC showing of the film or part of a wider conversation. It’s an @ reply to another user on Christmas Day who had said didn’t know why some people saw Grease as a gay film:

Still desperate to fill out her theory that there’s a woke groundswell to ban Grease from television, Hind manages to find two more quotes:

One viewer wrote: ‘I caught the end of Grease, the movie, and noticed there were no black actors or pupils at the high school.’ 

Another added: ‘Watched Grease on the BBC, surprised they let it go, full of white people.’

I’m sure you’re familiar with the pattern by now — both of these quotes are utterly out of context. The first is a stray observation by a man who doesn’t seem to be making a political point…

… and his tweet has zero retweets and just a solitary like.

The “full of white people” quote has been edited by Hind to omit the last part of the original tweet, which comes from a profile picture-free troll account:

If Hind had included the “yet the pogues had there [sic] song edited to suit the woke” part her whole thesis about the ‘wokeists’ trying to take Grease down would have held even less water than it already does.

Hind had a page to fill and needed some red meat for the culture warriors so she made something up, built on a foundation of a few tweets, stripped of context and in some cases edited to remove their full meaning. But these stories take flight because they fit with the right-wing assertion that ‘snowflakes’ are constantly trying to ban things, even as tabloid newspapers are the ones who spend the most time screaming about ‘offensive’ things on television. Just ask Nish Kumar.

As well as Hind’s story being lifted by an Australian tabloid site and predictably jumped on by The Sun, it’s set to be a segment on Good Morning Britain today:

So we’ve got Piers Morgan gearing up for a rant about ‘woke’ people who want to ban everything he loves despite the catalyst for his rage being a completely confected story.

And once Morgan and Reid have debated with some tame guests this morning, the Grease story will be picked up by Dan Wootton, Mike Graham and other bloviating bullshit artists on talk radio.

The argument will move rapidly beyond the original story with none of the now-outraged individuals taking the time to look into whether anyone actually wanted to ban Grease. It won’t matter. The mere idea that someone might is enough for it to become another clash in the phoney culture war.