Hairspray Parent Guide
Parent Movie Review
John Travolta in drag, teen smoking, and many moments of sexual innuendo in a PG movie? Obviously the MPAA’s Classification and Ratings Administration bought into Hairspray’s light and fluffy sarcastic tone. Any parents wondering if this musical romp, set in 1962, will be a good choice for their kids, will also need to be convinced this frolic is just harmless fun.
From the perky opening number Good Morning Baltimore, Tracy Tumblad (Nikki Blonsky) has an unstoppably optimistic view of the world around her. Like nearly every other song in this cynical film, the happy lyrics describing a utopian world are in direct opposition to the rundown neighborhood she’s dancing through while greeting the “regulars” (including a flasher who we see from the trench coat side). Here she lives the simple life of an iconic cold war teen, along with her father Wilbur (Christopher Walken) who owns the joke shop below their flat, and her reclusive hard-working mother Edna (played by an amazingly disguised Travolta).
Tracy’s greatest joys come from the little things like spending time with her best friend Penny (Amanda Bynes). She also loves dancing, which she has been practicing in the exclusively Black detention class at her school. But her favorite pastime is watching the Corny Collins Dance Show. Naively she dreams of being able to strut her stuff on it someday—even though the short and stout teen is far from the program’s typical demographic.
Corny (James Marsden) is Baltimore’s Dick Clark, and during this heyday of live studio television, his immensely popular show features handsome and shapely “nice white kids” digging the latest tunes. When the cameras are off however, the smiles fade and politics erupt. Corny wants to quit segregating the Black kids. Currently they appear only on the show’s designated “Negro Day” with hostess Motormouth Maybelle (Queen Latifah). Unfortunately, station owner Velma Von Tussle (Michelle Pfeiffer) is dead set against the idea and would really rather focus the cameras on her daughter Amber (Brittany Snow).
Fate begins to interfere with everyone’s status quo when one of the female dancer’s announces she needs to take a nine-month vacation. With an opening now available, the effervescent Tracy auditions with her best grooves and manages to catch the eye of the show’s young male heartthrob Link Larkin (Zac Efron). That lands her a spot on the show and brings not only her moves onto the screen but also her seemingly liberated ideas of how White and Black kids should be able to dance together.
Chock full of catchy musical numbers and stellar performances, this movie has surprising appeal as it literally dances its way through sensitive topics about racial prejudice and how we view obesity. Yet its tone, which vacillates between rebellious and flippant, might be offensive to some. Even more problematic may be the not-so-thinly-veiled sexual remarks throughout. Ranging from gossip that implies Tracy has had sex with members of the school football team to Velma’s attempt to seduce Wilbur, the bawdy discussions create a stark contrast to the squeaky clean tone and the movie’s generous PG rating. Other eyebrow raising content consists of using a crude sexual term and other mild profanities, as well as depictions of teens and adults (including pregnant women and teachers) smoking cigarettes.
For all its poof and coif, Hairspray is much like an artificial sweetener whose sugary fun becomes less appetizing because of a bitter aftertaste.Starring John Travolta, Queen Latifah, Nikki Blonsky, Brittany Snow. Running time: 117 minutes. Theatrical release July 19, 2007. Updated May 1, 2009
Rating & Content Info
Why is Hairspray rated PG? Hairspray is rated PG by the MPAA for language, some suggestive content and momentary teen smoking.
Despite the lenient US PG rating, this film contains sexual comments and innuendo throughout. Some examples are: a flasher on the street (whom we see from behind) opens his trench coat as a woman walks by, teens use padding to enhance body parts (in a later scene, a woman abruptly pulls these wads out of a girls bra and a boy’s pants), an implied teen pregnancy, an offer of seduction, and a preference for black men (“I’ve tasted chocolate and I’m never going back”), as well as references to sleeping with football players and bribing judges with sexual favors. Other content consists of depiction of smoking (including teens, adults, pregnant women and teachers), and discussion about drinking alcohol, a protester hits a police officer, rebellious students seek detentions (where they pass their time dancing), and rude scatological items are sold in a Joke Shop. Language includes several mild profanities, terms of deity and a rude term for sex.
Page last updated May 1, 2009
Hairspray Parents' Guide
What mixed messages does this film teach? What is the dramatic effect of contrasting the perceived innocence of life in the early 1960s with not-so-innocent sexual remarks and societal problems?
Do you feel it is appropriate to deal with serious issues, like racial segregation, in a comedic fashion? When can humor help to promote understanding and cooperation? When does it belittle or become a distraction?
What is the other prejudice portrayed in this film? Does the media still have a biased view of body image?
The most recent home video release of Hairspray movie is November 20, 2007. Here are some details…
Hairspray tries to take a firm hold of the home entertainment market by releasing in regular DVD, Blu-ray and HD-DVD formats. The movie can be purchased as a single disc or in a Two-Disc Shake & Shimmy Edition. The latter offers deleted scenes, a bonus musical number (I Can Wait), behind-the-scenes documentaries (You Can’t Stop the Beat and The Roots of Hairspray), a dancing featurette (Hairspray Extensions), audio commentaries and a sing-along lyrics track. Audio tracks are available in Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (English), with subtitles in English and Spanish.
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Teens locked into the stereotypes of jocks and brains, break free of these fetters when they boldly audition for their High School Musical. While it still contained concerning content in the language and sexuality categories, Shallow Hal is another film that deals with prejudice toward obese people.