Sometimes when we read a title for a
play, we automatically judge it and conclude what we think it is about without
even doing the research for it. When this happens, we do not give it the time
and attention that the play may deserve. Sometimes these types of plays provide
more than just entertainment, and present social events/problems in that specific
time, or a bit of history that may serve as learning experiences. Hairspray
(2007), the musical film that I chose to watch for this paper represents just
that for me. I thought that it was based just on people using hairspray on
hair, nothing meaningful, which did not interest me at all. After watching this
film, it is nothing that I thought it would be.
(2007) is directed by Adam Shankman. The musical film is based on the 2002 Broadway
musical, which is based on the 1988 comedy film by John Waters. The 2007 film
set was in Baltimore, Maryland, 1962. Marc Shaiman is the composer/lyricist and
co-lyricist is Scott Wittman. The soundtrack from the film is derived and altered
from the Broadway musical, with the addition of four new songs specially
written for this film. Filming took place in Toronto & Hamilton, Ontario,
Canada, and on soundstages at Toronto’s Showline Studios. Soundtrack recording
was taken place in Los Angeles, California.
Hairspray is a musical comedy that deals
with serious issues in American history. In the book, a musical comedy is a
form of musical entertainment that emerged in the United States in the early 20th
century, which features a light, comic story interspersed with popular music.
Hairspray represents this concept. Also, two main themes of this musical are equality
& perseverance in standing up for what you believe. Tracy, the protagonist
is an overweight teenager who loves to dance and perseveres in joining “The
Corny Collins Show” after being rejected by the manager (Vulma) at WYZT, a
white supremacist, because of her weight and support for integration. This film
portrays racism in America during the 1960s. Hairspray is inspired by a
historical event that if it was not for the research done on this film, I would
not have found out. The Buddy Deane Show, which served as the inspiration for
this musical, was a show where white teens danced and sung, which ran from 1957
until 1964 when it was cancelled, according to its IMDB page. On its page, it
says that the show aired six days a week, but in 1964 the show was canceled
when there were protests and bomb threats as WJZ decided to not integrate black
and white teenagers on the show.
“From 1957 to 1963, only white teens were
allowed to attend the weekday broadcasts of the Buddy Deane Show, with
the exception of one Monday each month when black teenagers filled the studio
(the so-called “Black Monday”). In 1963, the Civic Interest Group, a student
integrationist group founded at Morgan State University, challenged this policy
by obtaining tickets for black and white teens to attend the show on a day
reserved for black teenagers. After a surprise interracial broadcast, WJZ-TV
received bomb and arson threats, hate mail, and complaints from white parents.
Facing controversy over the possibility of more integrated broadcasts, the
station canceled the program.” (Delmont)
Waters decided to alternate this historic event and mark it as a successful attempt
for integration instead of following the actual result, which was the cancellation
of The Buddy Deane Show.
Its main value would be good
intentions, with the main idea being acts of bravery from many people to successfully
integrate the show. The story is clear enough for the audience to understand the
series of events taken place thought out the whole process. When the show
canceled “Negro Day,” which was aired once a month, Tracy helped plan a march
for integration, which she was also a part of despite her race and mother’s disapproval.
The protest came with the police blocking the road. These types of protests are
still taking place in today’s society to fight against discrimination and
brutality, which makes the musical relevant today.
The film set, lighting, costumes,
and sound did successfully contribute to the production’s mood. The musical was
light-hearted and informative, which is backed up by the engaging songs that
were relevant in the telling of the story. The costumes provide the information
necessary for the audience to understand the time in history that was meant to
be portrayed. It was clear where in time the musical was taking place. I cannot
think of any other elements of production that could work into further succeed
in contributing to the mood. On the other hand, the performers in the film
succeed the three challenges of acting. They make the characters believable.
One example is John Travolta’s portrayal of Edna Turnblad. John portrayed an
agoraphobic and obese mother, with him being a guy, he made his character believable
enough for us to understand it using his voice and body and synthesis and integration.
To conclude, this musical served me
as a learning experience of history that I had no idea took place in our
country. I knew about the fight for integration and unification, but did not
count with many different and specific examples of attempts for it to happen.
This musical is still relevant now, and may be used to inform many others on
what is still happening because it may look like we have passed this barrier of
segregation, but in many cases, not just in the African American community, but
also other ethnic groups, it is still much alive. We need to set the spotlight
on issues like this one, to count with a better America. I did not mention it
before, but in the film, Penny and Seaweed became an interracial couple, which
we see more today, but for many, it is still an issue. An issue, which again
puts barriers in place in an attempt to prevent it from happening. Hairspray
provided a platform to speak out against the racism that still continues today