An Ode to Hairspray

If you’ve read any of my previous blog posts, you already know that I love the year 2007. Juicy Couture was at its peak, Britney Spears was definitely not at her peak, and the second movie adaptation of Hairspray was released.

Personally, I don’t enjoy re-watching movies. Some people love to see their favorite films over and over again and find new appreciations for them in each viewing. I find the notion of watching something I’ve already seen boring. The one movie, however, that has kept me hooked for 11 years through hundreds of reruns, is Hairspray.

This 21st century masterpiece is based off of a 2002 Broadway musical which was based off a 1988 film. Though it went through several incarnations, the newest one is clearly the best. Let me run down the reasons why:

The Music

Seeing as the film is based off a musical, one has to assume it has some great musical numbers. And man, does this film deliver by honoring the greatness of its Broadway roots. Hairspray has everything from catchy pop tunes to loving ballads. No matter how old I get, if I hear “Without Love” come on, you know I’ll be belting it out with all my heart. Fact: “Miss Baltimore Crabs” is the best villain song ever, period.

John Travolta

Traditionally, the role of heavy-set Edna Turnblad has been played by men. As the thinnest man to play her, John Travolta had to go through a rigorous four-hour makeup transformation to turn him into Tracy’s mom. Most notably, Travolta donned a 30-pound latex and foam bodysuit that added notable girth to his whole body, and silicone prosthetics on his face and neck. The dedication to his role is clearly seen when you see the former Grease pretty-boy take on the persona of a large, curvaceous Baltimore woman. Part of his stellar take on this character led to the success of the movie. In his own words, “I think Edna is going to be more popular than I am. People like her.”

The Message

At the end of the day, behind the curtains of the flashy clothing, bubbly music, and racy 60’s humor, Hairspray has a great message about overcoming discrimination. Set during the civil rights movement, a large part of the movie is focused on the struggle of black students and mentors, along with several white allies, to advocate for desegregation on television. Ultimately, they achieve the goal of integrating the Corny Collins Show, but the film doesn’t skip over the fact that this by no means shows that racism as a whole is “defeated” by the end of the movie. There are many realistic, powerful scenes that show the severity of racial discrimination, such as the group’s march on WYZT, ending in Tracy’s arrest. Tracy herself also faces a great deal of weight discrimination. She is almost barred entry to the Corny Collins Show as a dancer because of her figure, and she’s the butt of many jokes about her size. In the end, with the help of her mom, she dances away the haters and gets not only the man of her dreams, but the chance to live out her dream on TV.

So, to my favorite movie for the past 11 years, thank you for the endless songs, one-liners, and important lessons.

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