Skip to main content

Bringing Up Baby: generic hybridity and Dirty Dancing

Jeffers McDonald, Tamar E. L. (2013) Bringing Up Baby: generic hybridity and Dirty Dancing. In: Tzioumakis, Yannis and Lincoln, Sian, eds. The Time of Our Lives: Dirty Dancing and Popular Culture. Wayne State University Press, Detroit. ISBN 978-0-8143-3624-3. (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:31628)

The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided.


Dirty Dancing’s narrative privileges the maturation of its female hero, granting ‘Baby’ Houseman both desire and agency as she attempts to negotiate the tricky etiquettes of romance and dancing in the summer of 1963.

Skilfully, the film co-opts elements from different genres, pillaging melodramas, rites of passage movies, musicals, romances. Even romantic comedies are ransacked for tropes: alongside straightforward comic moments, such as Baby’s giggling and clumsiness during training, the romcom tradition of the “wrong partner”, who the central character must outgrow and forego, is borrowed by the film. Fascinatingly, however, because of the film’s fusion of romcom with family melodrama, the wrong partner who must be discarded is the heroine’s own father. Romance in Dirty Dancing not only emerges through the formation of the new young couple, but exists already in the pairing of Baby and her Dad.

While the former couple inheres in action, both on and off the dance floor, the latter is permitted verbal expression. Baby and Johnny never exchange words of love - “I’ll never be sorry”; “Neither will I” is as near as they get to a declaration - but Baby does make the familiar romantic confession in a big dramatic scene - to her father.

A further key moment occurs when Baby advises Lisa not to sleep with Robbie because ‘the first time should be with....someone you kind of love’. Ignoring the tacit declaration of lost virginity, her sister declares that Baby resents sacrificing her status as Daddy’s favourite. Lisa’s seeming non-sequitur actually exposes the link between Baby’s rebellion against paternal authority and the sexual act, the inevitable replacement of Jake by Johnny which signals the healthy working-through of Electra issues. The underlying psychosexual politics of the film’s romances thus account for its accent not only on kisses, on love and romance, but on tears, on trauma and upset.

Item Type: Book section
Uncontrolled keywords: Dirty Dancing; genre; generic hybridity; proliferation; romantic comedy; 'the wrong partner'.
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1993 Motion Pictures
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Arts
Depositing User: Tamar Jeffers McDonald
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2012 12:30 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2021 10:09 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Jeffers McDonald, Tamar E. L.:
  • Depositors only (login required):