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Grease: Sandy Is Dead All Along – Theory Explained

The most notorious Grease fan theory suggests that Olivia Newton-John’s Sandy is in fact dying throughout the movie and the infamous teenage love story is no more than a fantasy. Arguably one of the most famous movie theories of all time, it offers a completely different perspective on the movie’s otherwise mostly upbeat tone, adding darkness where otherwise the musical is filled with light. And while the theory has its detractors, it remains incredibly popular, because it is tied to the film’s strangest mystery: what its end really means.

Starting out as a stage play with a far raunchier spirit than the eventual adaptation, Randal Kleiser’s 1950s set high-school musical was a mostly grounded navigation through the struggles of supposedly typical teenage years. Supposedly, of course, because the cast were, at least partly, closer to middle age than their school days. Through each of Grease‘s exceptional and enduringly popular songs, viewers were taken through issues of identity, self-expression, and the specific pressures of growing up. While it may have seemed like a happy-go-lucky frivolous romp, Grease has messages embedded in it about moral expectations, societal oppression, and young adults finding their ways despite pressures to conform and abandon their dreams. And while it has its moments of fantasy – like the “Greased Lightnin'” and “Beauty School Dropout sequences – the ending, in which Danny and Sandy fly off to their hopeful future always felt like it didn’t belong.

That ending’s weirdness and one particularly pertinent line from Grease‘s first big musical number – “Summer Nights” is exactly why a compelling fan theory suggested a grim undercurrent to the iconic musical including a dying teenage girl living her last moments “down in the sand“. The theory posits that Sandy never made it off the beach, never fell in love with Danny, and never sewed herself into a pair of leather trousers to bring the house down at the end-of-year carnival event. Here’s everything you need to know about Grease‘s Sandy Is Dead theory.

Why Grease’s Strange Ending Inspired The Search For Answers

Grease isn’t all just a school-set realistic comedy drama. It contains two big fantasy sequences for the songs “Greased Lightnin'” and “Beauty School Dropout”, which very obviously play out in the imaginations of the characters singing those songs. The former is the T-Birds imagining their triumphs and how well the car will boost their boyish boasts of machismo, while the latter is Didi Conn’s Frenchy imagining the bleakness of her future if her dream fails. Both are very much tied to dreams, even if Greased Lightnin’ appears to play out in real time, but that only makes the final sequence of Grease all the more confusing, because when Danny and Sandy fly off from the carnival in Greased Lightnin’ it happens in the real world with all of the characters very obviously awake. Notably, Sandy is taken aback by the car taking off, which doesn’t fit with it being a dream sequence. Sandy’s shock is nothing compared to that of the audience, who have just watched a fairly conventional high-school musical that operates within normal rules of reality end with a car literally flying off towards a happy ending. In that respect, it was no wonder that there was an opportunity for a fan theory to fill in the gap in logic.

Theory: Sandy Actually Did Drown During Her Summer Holiday (And Danny Couldn’t Help)

The starting point of the theory, which was initially posted on Reddit, is one of the lines in “Summer Night”, as Sandy and Danny tell each of their listening audiences what happened during their holiday romance at the beach. While the Grease prequel, Summer Lovin‘, will presumably tell the actual story of what happened during that tryst, the only account the audience can trust is the mention of the young couple bowling in the arcade, holding hands, and drinking lemonade. Crucially, the lyrics suggest that Danny and Sandy met when she got a cramp while swimming, and Danny saved her from drowning, before showing off “splashing around“. That may sound like Danny exaggerating what happened to make himself seem cooler in front of his friends, but the theory suggests that it actually happened, but Sandy only imagined her would-be hero rescuing her and her dying thoughts imagine a happy ending that blossomed out of their meet-cute.

The Ending (And “Goodbye Sandra Dee”) Confirm Sandy Died

From there, the theory suggests that from the prolog onwards, every event that happens in Grease plays out in Sandy’s mind, and the reason everything wraps up so perfectly for every character, despite all of the conflict on the way to the finale is that it’s all Sandy’s tragic wish fulfillment. As a newcomer to Rydell High, Sandy would have been an outsider, but her reality plays out just as a dream would; she is immediately accepted by the coolest group (the Pink Ladies), meets the boy of her dreams (again), and overcomes every issue that faces her. And it’s not just her: Rizzo’s pregnancy scare, the dance competition that Danny wins (albeit with Cha-Cha), the drag race on Thunder Road… Everything ends with a happy ending, no matter how unlikely that may seem. Some suggest that that’s because the story is actually one remembered through rose-tinted glasses, but either way it’s all a little too convenient and then when Greased Lightnin’ takes off for its maiden flight, the reason becomes clear. It’s all been a fantasy.

The theory also suggests that Sandy’s mournful reprise of “Look At Me, I’m Sandra Dee” and the final two lines “Take a deep breath and sigh, Goodbye to Sandra Dee…” specifically secretly confirm that Sandy lost her battle and died. In that respect, the image of Greased Lightnin’ flying off with Danny alongside Sandy at the end of Grease is actually symbolic of her ascending to the afterlife and her transformation is not one of self-realization, but of death. That metaphorical rise, then, is her rising to heaven in the final moments of her life eking out with her final breaths on the sand. It’s tragic and dark, but there is a hint of beauty to it.

How Grease’s Creator (And Olivia Newton-John And John Travolta) Responded To The Theory

The Grease theory gained so much notoriety when its popularity rose that it came to the attention of stars John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. The former called it fun, though he poured scorn on it in telling USA Today that he knew “the writers of Grease, and I was around in the original days. I can’t take it too far.” He went a little further too, explaining that he didn’t believe Sandy even had a brush with death as Danny had claimed and that his bragging was no more than the same sort of showing-off that made him believe Greased Lightnin’ would be a near-heavenly car: ‘[Danny’s] bragging; it was made up to impress the boys. [Sandy and Danny] have two different stories and somebody is lying. Most likely, it’s Danny.’

Meanwhile, Olivia Newton-John calledthe theory “hilarious” and reveled in the idea of Grease being the first-ever zombie musical. Unfortunately for fans of the theory, the most notable response to the theory came from Grease creator Jim Jacobs, who wasn’t as big a fan and nay-sayed Sandy being dead. He told TMZ that “Whoever made up the theory must have been on acid. Sandy was very much alive.” But then, it’s rare that the wishes of the creator are taken into account when fans come up with theories, and this one in particular actually does improve the Grease viewing experience, true or not.

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