Storydome: The Outsiders

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Stay gold, Ponyboy.

Greasers and Socs don’t get along. The two rival gangs live on different sides of town, and they come from much different backgrounds. Greasers have slicked back greasy hair, and they wear jeans and t-shirts with leather jackets. Some might call them hoods. Socs have nice clean haircuts, wear dressier clothes and letterman jackets. Some might call them the perfect teenagers. When the two gangs meet up, there can only one result: a rumble!

If you’re looking for a rumble, you just found one. The book and the movie version of The Outsiders are about to face off inside the Storydome.

Two stories enter, one story leaves when The Outsiders steps into the Storydome.

The Contenders 

The Book
Title: The Outsiders
Author: S.E. Hinton
Published: 1967
Pages: 192
 
The Movie
Title: The Outsiders
Director: Francis Ford-Coppola
Released: 1983
Length: 91 Minutes
Starring: C. Thomas Howell as Ponyboy Curtis
Ralph Macchio as Johnny Cade
Matt Dillon as Dallas Winston
 

It should go without saying. There are SPOILERS ahead.

On his way home from seeing a movie, Ponyboy Curtis — a Greaser — is jumped by five Socs (pronounced sosh-es). They hold a switchblade to his throat and start to punch him repeatedly until his two older brothers, Sodapop and Darry, and the rest of the other Greasers scare them off. Ponyboy is the youngest of the Greasers, by a few years, but the others tolerate him because the Greasers are more like brothers than friends. The next night, Ponyboy and two other Greasers, Johnny and Dally, go out to a drive-in movie theater where they meet two girls who just happen to be dating members of the Socs. Ponyboy spends some time with the girls and he realizes that not everyone who comes from money acts like the Socs.

The three Greasers decide to walk the girls home, but they are seen by Socs Bob Sheldon and Randy Adderson, who think the boys are trying to pick up their girlfriends. The girls prevent a fight by leaving with Bob and Randy willingly. But when Ponyboy comes home late that night, Darry — who is also Ponyboy’s legal guardian — gets angry and hits him. Ponyboy runs away and meets up with Johnny. As they wander around the neighborhood, Bob, Randy, and three other drunk Socs confront them. After one Soc nearly drowns Ponyboy in a fountain, a terrified Johnny stabs Bob, accidentally killing him. Terrified, the boys run to Dally for help. Dally tells them to head to an old abandoned church and hide, while he tries to figure things out.

Before I get into the movie, let me just give a quick rundown of this cast. It reads like a “Who’s Who” of actors in the 80’s.

C. Thomas Howell, Ralph Macchio, Matt Dillon, Rob Lowe, Patrick Swayze, Emilio Estevez, Diane Lane, and Tom Cruise.

Add to that, Francis Ford-Coppola, the director of The Godfather, and how could this movie go wrong?

While the movie doesn’t do anything wrong, per se, it’s not fair to say that this is a great movie. There are no moments where I can say, “Right there, that’s what you did wrong,” or, “This is what you should have done!” Without those moments, I can’t rightly say that this is a bad movie, but there is nothing about it, besides the cast, that is really worth noting. After watching The Outsiders, I simply felt indifferent. I made note of a few changes they made from the book, but mostly the changes were simply cosmetic.

One thing I did notice while watching the movie is that I had seen it before. I just didn’t ever remember watching it, and, to me, that sums up the movie entirely. You may have seen it before, but you wouldn’t remember it.

To sum degree, the book suffers from the same problem. It’s very ordinary. There isn’t any great dialogue, no unique descriptive language, and the characters seem rather stock. That being said, I do remember reading this book back when I was in grade school, and I remember enjoying it. Which makes a bit of sense, since that is the novel’s demographic — grade-schoolers. What the book does do well, or at least better than the movie, is highlight the socioeconomic divide between the Greaser and the Socs. It’s that divide that is essentially the catalyst for everything that happens in the book. When it comes down to it, the conflict between the Socs and the Greasers is really a conflict between the haves and the have-nots. I think that may be part of the movie’s failing; it keeps the conflict superficial. With the book, the surface fight is between two rival gangs, but those gangs represent a conflict between classes in 60’s American culture. The movie misses the deeper layer.

Winner of Storydome: The book, via knockout.

In some ways this fight was determined by nostalgia. I remembered reading the book when I was younger and enjoying it. While I had seen the movie when I was younger too, I just didn’t remember it. So, the thirteen-year-old me helped to decide this fight, at least partially. The other thing that worked against the movie in this fight is what it missed. Normally I wouldn’t knock the movie for leaving out parts of the book, but that’s because most books are too long. The Outsiders, the book, is only 192 pages long, and that’s in a rather large font too. The book is clearly written for a younger audience and it doesn’t take too long to read. In fact, it actually took me less time to read the book, than it did to watch the movie. My point is that the book is short enough that the movie could have included everything from the story, or at the very least, it could have included more than it did.

Disagree with my assessment? Let me know about it in the comments section.

I’ll be back next week, as a new story steps into the ring.

— Tim Fitzpatrick, Editor

Editor’s Note: Tim Fitzpatrick is an English major at Lewis University with a focus on creative writing. Tim is 26 and is only just now starting college. He has always enjoyed telling a good story, and he is at Lewis to learn to do that better.

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