The story of the underdog can be appealing to audiences. Those of us who feel downtrodden, ignored and used will often turn to fictional characters for support and inspiration.
In 1988, filmmaker John Waters introduced audiences to 1960’s teenager Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray. Tracy is a pleasantly plump young lady whose sole wish is to dance in the local teenage dance show. In her drive to become a regular on show, Tracy not only changes the look of the dancers, but the color of the dancers. Subversive, campy, but with a strong message of diversity, inclusion and respect for all, this film spoke to audiences. In 2002, Hairspray hit the Broadway stage and became a mainstay in New York until it closed in 2009.
In 2007, a film musical, based on off the Broadway show hit theaters. Let’s just say that it was mostly flash and pop and lost the message of the original film.
In just under two weeks, NBC will be airing Hairspray Live.
We will know soon enough how it holds up to its predecessors. The thing that strikes me is that it still feels very timely, nearly 30 years later. We are still a nation and a culture who judges women based on their looks and discriminates based on color. Hairspray is a reminder that change is possible, if we are bold enough to step up and speak out for what is right.
Hairspray Live will be airing on Dec 7, 2016 on NBC at 8/7c.