‘Grease’ gets a Woke prequel series with ‘disenfranchised’ main characters, queer and anti-racist storylines

An upcoming Paramount+ spinoff series for John Travolta’s 1978 hit film Grease takes aim at an ultra-awakened theme, focusing on characters with a “marginalized identity”, lesbian kissing scenes, and more – all set in 1954, supposedly four years before the events chronicled in the films.

Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies will air on the Paramount+ streaming service starting in April and is supposed to follow the creation of the all-female gang called the Pink Ladies.

The group was led by Rizzo (Stockard Channing) in the 1978 film and was made up of the misfits and outcasts of Rydell High School. The new series will be set in 1954, just before rock-n-roll dominated the country’s imagination and before the original series’ characters entered high school, according to Deadline.

But despite being set in 1954 – decades before Wakeism and even before the Civil Rights movement – the series will apparently focus on awake sex roles, lesbian relationships, transgenderism, racism and characters with “marginalized identity”.

The series will also not feature any of the original characters. There will be no Rizzo, no Frenchie, no Marty or Jan. The series takes place years before any of the films’ characters enter Rydell High. Also, Rydell has a very diverse student body, which has apparently been all but wiped out in just four years between this storyline and the events of Grease.

In remarks made during a Television Critic’s Association Press Tour panel on Feb. 6, showrunner and executive producer Annabel Oakes spoke about why she’s making a series that diverges so far from the originals. At the event, she spoke about the “beautiful, interesting and unexpected stories from people from all walks of life”, she heard when she started looking back to the 50s and 60s before producing the new series. She claimed she spoke to “popular girls” as well as “radical lesbian feminists” and people of all races for her research on the era.

After this groundwork, Oakes outfitted his writer’s room with diversity and began expanding the Grease universe to attract a new audience.

The result is stark. The series “dives into diverse narratives about race and sexuality. The show’s main characters are primarily women of color and queer women, and the series explores what it meant to be marginalized in the 1950s,” reported AdWeek.

At the same panel, one of the cast, Ari Notartomaso, who plays Pink Lady Cynthia, stated that the series should tackle many serious themes. “Our characters will have experiences from a different lens and how those experiences overlap with others with a marginalized identity,” Notartomaso said. “I think we have an opportunity to represent another struggle that overlaps with things we deal with today, like racism.”

Even the music won’t follow the template of the original films, and instead of featuring new rock-n-roll-inspired music, the series will evoke “Latinx” and black music from the 40s and 50s, according to weekly entertainment.

Despite appearing to have none of the hallmarks of the original films, Oakes insisted that fans of the original should be “happy” with the new series. However, she opined, “Whenever you do a period piece, you’re using a bit of a modern lens and you’re talking about what’s different and also what hasn’t changed.”

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