Bye, Bye, Birdie

JESS: It’s really that big a deal?
RORY: What do you mean?
JESS: I mean, I know it’s got an ‘I’ve been pinned’ Bye Bye Birdie kind of implication to it, but it was just a bracelet.

Bye Bye Birdie, 1963 musical comedy film directed by George Sidney, based on the award winning 1960 Broadway musical of the same name, with music by Charles Crouse, lyrics by Lee Adams, and book by Michael Stewart.

Set in 1958, the story was inspired by Elvis Presley’s draft into the US army in 1957. Jesse Pearson plays Conrad Birdie, a teen idol based on Elvis, his name a play on Conway Twitty, Presley’s rival at the time.

Conrad Birdie is giving a farewell performance in Columbus, Ohio, to end with his song, “One Last Kiss”. It is arranged for him to kiss a randomly chosen high school girl at the end of the song before going into the army. The teenager chosen is Kim MacAfee (played by Ann-Margret) from the town of Sweet Apple, but Kim’s boyfriend Hugo Peabody (played by Bobby Rydell) isn’t thrilled, as he and Kim have got “pinned” – he’s given her his fraternity pin to wear, indicating a serious commitment between them. When Birdie kisses Kim in a rehearsal, she swoons.

Elvis Presley himself was the first choice for the role of Birdie, but his manager Colonel Tom Parker wouldn’t allow it. The film helped make Ann-Margret such a star that in 1964 she appeared with Elvis himself in Viva Las Vegas.

Jess is saying that Rory and Dean are the small-town teenage sweethearts, and he is the sexy outsider. It seems slightly egotistical, and a bit demeaning to Rory, as if he has randomly chosen her for a meaningless encounter; it strongly suggests Jess doesn’t intend to stick around.

The film ends with Hugo knocking Birdie out before he can kiss Kim on stage, which might be what Jess is expecting from Dean – that he’ll punch Jess before he gets a chance with Rory. In the stage musical, the story continues with Kim going off to hang out with Birdie, and he is arrested for attempted statutory rape. Kim claims to have been intimidated by Birdie, and gladly returns to Hugo.

Quite a few warnings for Rory in this apparently casual reference! Foreshadowing, on multiple levels.

The reference to Birdie being about to go into the army makes me wonder if this reference was originally meant for Tristan, who went off to military school. Jess is much more of a Birdie than Tristan, however.

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