The OUTsiders

Although I was the right age, I never read The Outsiders. I also never saw the Francis Ford Coppola movie (released in 1983). But after hearing a typically amazing installament of  “American Icons” on Studio 360 on the book and the movie, I finally watched the film nearly 30 years after its release.

And I liked it. But I’m an adult, not a middle school student for whom the story is intended, so I didn’t LOVE it. How did the movie & book affect those of you were young teens when you first encountered it?

I noticed a few things:

  1. Totally understand why girls have loved this film (and presumably the book) – It’s about hot wrong-side-of-the-tracks bad boys who are secretly sensitive in a harsh world.
  2. There is a great movie make-over as Ponyboy gets his hair first cut by a pocket knife and then dyed by a 16-year-old greaser – and yet it looks fabulous!
  3. What a cast! Mostly unknowns or barely-knowns, they all became famous: Tom Cruise, Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe, Matt Dillon, Emilio Estevez, Ralph Macchio, C. Thomas Howell, Diane Lane, Lief Garrett and Glenn Withrow.
  4. Everyone except for Glenn Withrow.
  5. Macchio and Howell are the true leads, but the rest of the cast is arguably more famous. Howell was 16 when he filmed his 14-year-old part. Macchio was 21 when he played the 16-year-old Johnny.
  6. Rob Lowe is utterly unconvincing as a greaser. He would make a better Soc.
  7. The Socs rumble in polos and slacks. That’s the good old days. Plus I got to use the word “rumble”.
  8. Sophia Coppola appears as a little girl. If you know she is coming, you can’t miss her. She’s credited as “Domino” as she was in her next few films.
  9. This is one of the gayest non-gay films ever.

Now just to expand on point 9. As the book was written by a teen girl, many of what a teen girl wants isn’t so different than what a teen gay boy appreciates. And yet…

  • There is a shirtless boy in most of the movie.
  • The lead character’s name is Ponyboy, which could be gay film star name.
  • The relationships between some of the boys are verging on romantic: Johnny and Ponyboy, Two-Bit and Ponyboy, Dally and Johnny.
  • It is the story of a teen struggling with his identity and how he is different from everyone else.
  • There are practically no girls in the story.
  • The fight scene takes place in the rain.

So even though I am pretty sure that 16-year-old Susan (S.E.) Hinton in Tulsa didn’t have anything gay in mind…it’s still pretty gay. This happens now and then. See other Unintentionally Homoerotic Films like Superbad and Top Gun.

Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold.

4 comments on “The OUTsiders

  1. Karen H says:

    One of my favorite books as a teen! When I told each of my sons my response to the book when they were asked to read it in school, they said “Oh no—not an old book that Mom loved!” And then they read it and liked it a lot—it’s timeless and the movie didn’t ruin the book, especially with the talent they pulled together in the 80’s. I WOULD recommend taking the time to read it (it’s fast) in addition to the film. Thanks for the post—nice trigger to my memories.

  2. Jeff Sternstein says:

    So much about this film made it dark and meaningful, with themes of doing the right thing and being true to those who depended on you.

    I haven’t seen the film in years, and probably shouldn’t. After all, its not for me. This is a film for my 16 year old about facing scary and poignant decisions at the cusp of preparedness.

    It included more famous kids — Ralph Machio, River Phoenix, Leif Garrett, Corey Feldman – all of whom had their own back stories adding to the depth of this film’s impact

    Sent from my iPhone

    • mkaiserman says:

      I am sure I’d think differently about the film if I had seen it (or read the book) as a teen.
      BTW, Cory Feldman and River Phoenix weren’t in the film. They were 11 and 12 respectively when it was filmed so a little young for this cast.

  3. […] of The Outsiders (another film I didn’t see until I was an adult and it suffers from it – see my review here). The supporting characters are cartoonishly drawn and the villains are particularly over-the-top […]

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