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:
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- Everyone except for Glenn Withrow.
- 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.
- Rob Lowe is utterly unconvincing as a greaser. He would make a better Soc.
- The Socs rumble in polos and slacks. That’s the good old days. Plus I got to use the word “rumble”.
- 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.
- 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.