It’s Time to Retire Dirty Dancing Jokes

Last night’s premiere of The Millers brought Will Arnett and Margo Martindale (among others) back to prime time. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the show is not good, at all. And the worse news: The episode ends with a big Dirty Dancing homage dance sequence.

No. This is unacceptable.

No more Dirty Dancing dances! Mercifully, The Millers did not do “the lift,” but it’s still just the latest in a very long line of dozens and dozens of other Dirty Dancing allusions. (There was a Dirty Dancing bit on Modern Family last week, too, though it was not a central plot issue.) Dirty Dancing jokes have become shorthand for “lady quirks” — you know, those things ladies like, the existence of which men begrudgingly acknowledge in the hopes of pleasing said she-human.

The idea that we can learn anything about a character based on the fact that he or she loves Dirty Dancing is false. Pretty much everyone loves Dirty Dancing; it is a pro-choice dance movie about love and Judaism and summer and watermelons and sisters and Jerry Orbach. A character who can quote “nobody puts Baby in a corner”? Yeah — everyone can quote that line, even people who have never seen the movie. At this point, a character lovingly referencing Dirty Dancing is the equivalent of someone making an “I’m so excited … I’m so scared” joke. It is not a clever insider dog whistle reference; it is utterly pervasive. Do you also know the pledge of allegiance? Has this television character also seen Star Wars?

Can’t someone redo the “Brr! It’s! Cold! In! Here!” dance from Bring It On? (There must be some Toros in the at-mos-phere, no?) What if a character’s favorite 1987 movie were Moonstruck and not DD? If someone were devoted to the Swayze oeuvre based on To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar? That would tell us so much more about that person and what his or her interior life looks like, how they see the world, how the world sees them. There is no character-development value left in a Dirty Dancing reference.

Perhaps this is a cry for help. Maybe we, as a culture, simply need more dance movies. But for the love of the Pechenga, please: Let’s give these Dirty Dancing jokes a rest.

It’s Time to Retire Dirty Dancing Jokes