Hairspray is a lively musical set in 1962 Baltimore, USA, at a time of racial segregation. Tracy Turnblad (Nikki Blonsky) is a refreshing teenager whose favourite pastime is watching the Corny Collins show, a singing and dancing television program which showcases high school students. When a position on the show becomes available Tracy goes to audition but because she is rather overweight she is laughed off the set.
Tracy shows great courage and determination in overcoming both social and racial prejudices to gain her spot on the Corny Collins show and achieve racial integration on the program as well. She also endears herself to the audience. This is much to the horror of former favourite Amber Von Tussle (Brittany Snow) and her mother Velma (Michelle Pfeiffer), the producer of the show. Velma does her best to get rid of Tracy but this backfires spectacularly.
Racial and social prejudice; body image
There is some violence and accidental injury in this movie. For example:
- Girls push and shove each other in the rush to get out of school.
- Amber frequently gets knocked over and pushed on the dance floor.
- Tracy pushes some girls out of the way.
- Tracy gets knocked down by a basketball.
- A protest against racial segregation gets rather aggressive, and Tracy hits a policeman with her board.
- Tracy’s mother Edna (John Travolta) throws something at her husband Wilbur (Christopher Walken).
- Tracy’s friend Amanda’s mother is very intolerant and ties her daughter to her bed when she finds out she’s been dancing with ‘coloured’ people. She calls her a ‘devil’s child’.
- Amber falls from a chair, which is high up on the stage.
Content that may disturb children
One scene where Amanda’s mother ties her to a bed and waves a cross over her could be disturbing for young children.
Some children in this age group might also be disturbed by the scene where Amanda’s mother ties her to a bed and waves a cross over her, calling her the devil’s child.
Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this film.
- A flasher opens his coat but nothing is shown.
- Girls stuff falsies in their bras and a boy puts one down his pants.
- Tracy sings, ‘I won’t go all the way but I’ll go pretty far’.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
In one scene, there is some drinking in a pub. In another scene a pregnant woman is shown drinking and smoking.
Nudity and sexual activity
Edna is shown in her underwear. In another scene, Velma tries to seduce Wilbur and acts seductively.
This movie contains some mild coarse language.
Ideas to discuss with your children
Hairspray is an uplifting musical comedy/drama, which is a remake of the original made in 1988. It is very entertaining, although John Travolta cross-dressing as Edna Turnblad is somewhat disconcerting.
The movie highlights the main messages of racial tolerance, following your dreams and standing up for what you believe in. It presents the following values:
- tolerance, courage and determination
- speaking out against injustice
- overcoming prejudices – both racial and social
- realising that good character is more important than body image.
You could discuss these messages with your child and also talk about the different ways to solve problems without resorting to violence.