Looking at “Dirty Dancing” through the lens of the “Victim Triangle”
In the “victim triangle” there are three roles: Victim, Persecutor and Rescuer.
When there is drama and conflict, people enter the drama triangle and work their way around, although if one stays in the victim triangle for long enough, apparently you are likely to end up a victim.
I am not sure what I think about the “Victim Triangle” idea, but it surfaced in my mind when I looked at the moral wasteland and the flat characterisation in “Dirty Dancing”.
Let’s start with Baby. I think she is a “Starting Gate Rescuer”. She carries her own bag. She carries a watermelon. She gets Daddy’s cash. She gets Daddy. She rescues.
She is also aware of a band of persecutors: Robbie, Neil and Mr Kellerman. They bully, they boss, they discriminate. Odd that they should work in hospitality…
Then we have our victims: Johnny and Penny the “dance people”. Put down and used. Undervalued, underpaid, despised and kept in their place. “They were using me.”
Do any of them move around the Victim Triangle?
I think the Axis of Kellermans are pretty entrenched. But there is some movement on the Baby/Johnny axis.
Baby is trapped in her need to rescue. She gets the cash, she trains for hours, she provides Johnny with an alibi – but it doesn’t work. He is fired.
This is crushing for Baby as a Rescuer. She has failed, and the failure detracts from who she is. So she turns persecutor and has a go at her dad – who, in fact is of the rescuer type also. He gave his money, his time, his expertise to rescue Penny.
When Baby’s rescue attempt for Johnny fails, she becomes a victim. She blames herself and her father. She feels let down. She is impotent and sidelined.
Johnny is a “Starting Gate Victim”. He feels others look down on him and use him, and as his career has gone on longer, the more he is aware of this and the more shame he feels. He feels powerless, and unable to change things – which is where little miss optimism comes in. She pushes him into a rescuer role for Penny, but he leaves Kellerman as a victim: sacked for having an unjustifiable alibi.
Of course, it is Johnny that is the rescuer in the end: “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.” He comes in and rescues her, names her to respect her true idenity as “Frances Houseman”.
Robbie, the persecutor of Penny and Johnny has also become the victim. Baby has poured water over him, Johnny has beaten him and Dr Houseman has withdrawn his cash and his approval.
So here we go round the victim triangle…