Angela, her friend Sha, and I watched Save the Last Dance tonight. I had already seen this movie several years ago, when it first came out (in 2001, I believe). However, seeing it again brought back fond memories, not only of seeing and enjoying the movie the first time, but of my high school experiences, as well. One of the features that made the film so enjoyable the first time I saw it was its correspondence to real life. The high school it portrayed was very similar the high school I attended (although mine had a significantly greater white population), and many of the experiences were very accurately portrayed. For instance, the way Sarah (Julia Stiles) has trouble dancing is exactly the way most white people have trouble dancing, while black people seem to have an “innate” sense of rhythm and affinity for hip-hop dancing. When she first tries to dance at Steps (the club her friend Chenille takes her to), she attempts to move her body from her shoulders. Successful hip-hop movements must start with the hips. I learned this early on from attending junior high and high school dances (although I am not particularly successful at applying this knowledge), and it was amusing to recognize Sarah’s development as a dancer in this way.
Another similarity was the crowdedness and chaos of the school. I never recognized it as such when I attended it—although I did acknowledge and complain about our zoo-like hallways. Everything area of the school was noisy, with kids jostling each other, from the hallways to the lunchroom. Sha wanted to know if we had “locker rooms like that” where I went to high school during a gym locker room scene. I hadn’t considered the locker rooms significant or unusual at all, but apparently they don’t have those in Singapore. “Yes,” I told her, “ours were just like that.”
And, of course, the interracial factors were very true to life. While most people don’t cross racial boundaries (black or white), those few who do have very assertive personalities (like Chenille) and usually somehow “integrate” into the opposite culture. (For instance, Derek tended to dress more “white” than his black counterparts, and Sarah had to learn to talk the “hard core” language of the company she kept.) It was very eye-opening to watch this movie and think of the high school chapter of my life “in retrospect.”