Baby and Johnny live happily ever after. Sure, it’s easy to write off the events of 1987’s beloved Dirty Dancing as a beautiful summer fling set to a kickass 1960s soundtrack — most people do — but I’m here to tell you that they make it. They survive past the credits and the last strains of “The Time of My Life.”
The basic plot of the movie involves a privileged, sheltered, college-bound girl, played by Jennifer Grey, falling for Patrick Swayze’s blue-collar dance instructor. But like so many romance novels we’ve devoured and loved, the emotional core is that they connect despite their differences — and they admire each other because of them. I’ve read summaries that describe Johnny as the worldly one in the relationship — and maybe he is sexually, but in all other ways…? Baby holds the power. Yes, she’s wealthy and educated, but she’s also fearless and brave and strong in her convictions. She goes after what she wants — and who she wants. That floors Johnny. Ultimately, he’s the one seduced, not her.
Johnny: “I’ve never known anyone like you. You think you can make the world better. Somebody’s lost, you find them. Somebody’s bleeding—”
Baby: “I go get my daddy. That’s really brave, like you said.”
Johnny: “That took a lot of guts to go to him! You are not scared of anything.”
Baby learns to dance so that Penny can keep her job. She goes to her father for medical help when Penny’s back-alley abortion goes wrong. She faces down her family and the Kellermans to exonerate Johnny when he’s accused of stealing from guests. Why wouldn’t she fight for an HEA with that exact same passion?
Baby: “I hurt my family, you lost your job anyway — I did it for nothing!”
Johnny: “No, not for nothing. Nobody has ever done anything like that for me before.”
Baby: “You were right. You can’t win no matter what you do.”
Johnny: “Listen to me. I don’t want to hear that from you. You can.”
And I believe she does. Past the summer. Into fall at Mount Holyoke. Baby keeps winning — with Johnny by her side. There is nothing to suggest otherwise. In Baby’s opening voiceover, she notes that she met Johnny “before President Kennedy was shot, before the Beatles came.” Who’s to say they didn’t experience those milestones together? That they weren’t huddled in front of the TV together, stunned and clutching hands, as Walter Cronkite interrupted As the World Turns? Who’s to say they didn’t dance to “Something” at their wedding?
Let’s face it, we’ve taken bigger leaps in fiction — and in life. Opposites attracting and then making a marriage work isn’t a huge hop. And, of course, there’s fanfic that covers all those pesky little skips and jumps that end with Johnny and Baby as a long-term couple. Here are a few that stand out:
A Real Grown-Up Name, by fairy_tale_echo. (Trigger Warning: contains an antisemitic slur.)
As far I’m concerned, this is what happens after that fateful, forbidden, fantastic summer at Kellerman’s: They make it. They survive. They continue to help people in need. And they keep dancing.
(And, most importantly, they aren’t remade into a soulless, money-grab TV movie by ABC.)
Originally published on HeroesandHeartbreakers.com