I watched the movie, “The Outsiders” a few days ago, from the comfort of my uncomfortable old couch. I saw the movie when it premiered back in the day…when I had a metabolism and far less chin hair.
I really didn’t like the movie then. I still don’t like it lo these decades later. I didn’t even care for the book which was assigned reading my Sophomore year in High School. I remember reading SE Hinton’s name on the paperback’s spine.
I had no idea who SE Hinton was, whether this was a person with a nether region that included either a PROtrustion or INtrusion, but whatever the sex was, I thought he or she had a weak grasp of how a 60′s era Greaser would think, talk and act. Not that I would know myself. I was six years old in 1965 when this schmalz was to have occurred and in South Texas about seven hundred miles or south of Oklahoma City or Tulsa or Enid or where ever the hell this story took place. The word “Greaser” to me was someone covered in Crisco or a fry cook.
The dialog drove me crazy.
I hear they stamp your face to make gorilla cookies-- Keith “Two Bit” Matthews
And speaking of names, I always thought the names Hinton chose were so silly. Her Wikipedia entry says she based most of them on real people; namely her boyfriend at the time and her brother-in-law. Names like Ponyboy Curtis and his brother, Sodapop and elder brother, Darry which I think is short for Darrel. Then, add Dallas (Dally) Winston to the mix, along with Two Bit and you have a juvenile salad with a toss of effeminate dressing.
I fell on my knees and thanked obscure gods I don’t believe in when I read the wonderfully normal character name of “Tim Shepherd” mentioned in the book. Johnny Cade was an acceptable name as well. I don’t know, call me foolish but shortly after I began reading the book, I started thinking–even as a young, concave titted sapling auteur– that this was a book written by a chick who thinks she writes as a dude would think. Knowing the guys I knew which included cousins and neighbors–hell, even my own father–I found it nearly impossible to believe that these rough and tumble male children from the wrong side of the tracks could be that caring, that loving and that compassionate (providing its for those who like them, styled their hair with 30 weight).
I give props to Hinton (which in Laurie-ese means I “forgive” Hinton) for the areas where I think her book lacked. She was just 15 when she started writing the book. Admirable. It was published during her Freshman year in college, several years later. Even more admirable. My Freshman year in college the most I dared to attempt from a literary standpoint was to write my name, the date and my college ID number on my tests–which at times were the only things I knew for sure on the whole damn exam.
But here’s where I have an issue…
As an aspiring writer myself, I’ve been told time and time again that one must write what one knows. This book was based on two rival gangs at Barry Switzer High School (not sure of the exact name of the institution OTHER than it was in Oklahoma) where she attended. The were the Greasers–named as such because they slicked back their hair with enough grease to make an axle jealous) and Socs (which until the movie came out, I thought was pronounced like ‘socks’, which I NEVER understood) The Greasers lived on the north side, next to (one would assume) a sea of loan sharks, pawn shops, bars, pool halls and every train track known to man while the Socs (pronounced Soash-long ‘o’) lived in the well-to-do part of town with palatial homes with manicured lawns; where residents were well healed and well wheeled.
Man, that was one tough car. Mustangs, they’re tough.-Johnny Cade
If memory serves, I do believe ‘tough ” means ‘cool’. (circa 1966)
“Cool” means ‘fine looking’ (circa 1974)
“Fine looking” means ‘awesome’ (circa 1998)
“Awesome” means ‘chill’ (circa 2009)
Beyond that, I’ve not a clue. I am hopelessly out of touch with the kids these days.
As for SE Hinton the girl/woman, as best I can tell, she was neither a Soc or a Greaser. She was probably somewhere in between; a good girl who dreamed of being bad; who had perfectly normal impure thoughts of Paul Peterson on “The Donna Reed Show” and Bandstand appearances by Gary Puckkett and Mark Lindsay–especially when he wore his very tight, religious-revealing Paul Revere and The Raiders pants.
In additional “Outsider” condemnation, the lovely Cherry Valance was actually named Sherry but in keeping up with Hinton’s penchant for crazy ass nicknames, Ponyboy et. al., would come to know her as “Cherry” because of her red hair. I always envisioned her looking a lot like Diane Lane.
And wouldn’t you know, Frances Ford Coppola thought so too.
Johnny Cade is a little runt of a guy with abusive, alcoholic parents who don’t ‘give a gosh darn”about him. Dallas “Dally” Winston is hood, also shaped by parental neglect and glorified with an (to other Greasers is an….) enviable rap sheet that reads like a scroll. His character is hackneyed– a rebellious, angry young man with a huge chip on his shoulder–portrayed in similar roles by actors such as Marlon Brando, Robert Blake, Judd Nelson, Johnny Depp ( in about four other movies between 1982 and 1991) and Jodie Foster.
I’ve read several of Ms. Hinton’s other works, and dare I say “The Outsiders” is by far her magnum opus. One other book she wrote is entitled, “That Was Then; This Is Now” and personally, I think it pales in comparison. This book focuses on the late Sixties drug culture and acid-dropping with a long-haired, soft spoken, gray-eyed character named M&M or Hershey or Zagnut–I can’t remember. But based on this and other literary efforts, I think “Outsiders” is the best. It was/is a very successful manuscript which over the years, has won a plethora of awards. It was critically acclaimed at a time when young women weren’t writing books. She broke an acrylic ceiling and for that, I admire her..
I just didn’t like this particular book.
However, I am thinking about naming my new dog, “Bronco Bottle Cap Ft. Worth Two Quarters” as an homage to the movie.