Hairspray is a musical directed by Adam Shankmann and stars Nikki Blomsky as Tracy Turnblad. The film is set in 1962 Baltimore, Maryland and follows Tracy as she pursues her dreams and rallies against segregation. The film is based on both the musical and comedy of the same name. Paul Clinton, in his review on CNN, calls Hairspray “an outrageous stunt and a mesmerizing performance.” Although this re-make is very similar to the original comedy directed by John Waters, there are still some major differences that influence the ideology and ‘campyness’ of the film.
I tried to compare this re-make of Hairspray with the original and although the general storyline is very similar, there are some major differences between the two films. The first major difference is this version of Hairspray is a musical instead of a simple comedy. The original Hairspray, directed by John Waters, focuses simply on dance, while the Hairspray music incorporates musical numbers, which seem to drag the movie at some points. The second major difference between the two Hairsprays revolves around Tracy Turnblad. In the original Hairspray, Tracy tried out and made it onto “The Corny Collins Show” pretty easily. In the modern-day re-make, the storyline is dragged out to include a conflict between Tracy and her parents regarding trying out emphasizing a theme of ‘reaching for the stars.’ The final major difference between the original Hairspray and its re-make is the role of the Television Manager/Velma Von Tussle. The original Hairspray had a female television manager who supported Corny in integration and a separate character playing the evil Velma Von Tussle. The re-make combined the characters, making the Velma Von Tussle be both the mother and television manager. I believe this change helped simplify the conflict. In the original Hairspray, there were two conflicts. One conflict was between Tracy and the Von Tussles, and another was between Corny/Tracy and the television station. The re-make combined these conflicts, simplifying it for the viewers so they can fully understand the story.
After viewing Hairspray, it was difficult to determine whether these changes affected the ideology of the film. I believe the one difference that clearly influenced the ideology of both films is the change in the Tracy Turnblad storyline. According to Paul Clinton, the original Hairspray “effortlessly parodied the bourgeois constraints of the time.” By modifying the storyline of Tracy Turnblad and creating the conflict with her parents, I felt the re-make is not simply a parody, but also tries to convey a message that we can do anything we want. I’m not quite sure if this change really has a major effect on the films’ ideology, but felt the change was pretty significant.
In his review, Paul Clinton states Hairspray is “bright, campy and wonderfully light, Hairspray us that fun comes in all shapes and sizes.” There are many examples in the film that emphasize the ‘campyness’ of the film. The music provides even further exaggeration and the opening scene where Tracy catches a ride to school on top of a garbage truck clearly support the definition of camp. On the other hand, there are also examples in Hairspray that support the belief it is not campy. The march led by Motormouth Maybelle (Queen Latifah) and the scene involving Tracy and her father (Christopher Walken) after he is forced to sleep in the joke shop create a serious tone to the movie, making it appear as though it is not as campy as the original Hairspray.
Overall, the re-make of Hairspray was surprisingly entertaining. Although the original Hairspray and this re-make are very similar, the few changes make it enjoyable to watch even after watching the original. I felt the changes influenced the ideology and the level of camp in Hairspray. Nonetheless, the re-make of Hairspray was an enjoyable experience.