Film Analysis – Hairspray

Published: 2021-10-01 04:40:10
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During the 1960’s in the United States of America there was very little acceptance of people with different backgrounds or races. The only way to be accepted was to be a conformist and to prove you were just like everyone else around you.
This would hold impossible for any one that was not white. Any sign of unconformity or differences would be used against you and any place you hoped to hold in society. The United States, during this time period, was not the land of equality that President Lincoln had hoped for when he proclaimed freedom of slavery for African Americans in the Emancipation Proclamation.In the 1950’s and 1960’s there was a new type of music being introduced and called Rock N Roll. In the beginning of this film the first reference to the time and place in history is hearing Tracy Turnblad’s mother refer to the music she was listening to as “race music”. This music was completely unacceptable to white Americans that were practicing conformity and Christianity in masses. This was also seen in the way the characters dressed similarly.
There was only one way to live and that was the conformist way.Any other outside influence would surely be seen as communist influence. In this time period Americans were terrified of the spread of communism and nuclear warfare, and rightfully so. Another reference to this issue was the bomb shelter where Tracy Turnblad was hid, by her friend Penny Pingleton, which stored Russian textbooks and gas masks. The fear of communism was alive and real. At the same time the people of the United States were still harboring, practicing, and some were overcoming the effects of racism against African Americans solely based on their skin color.Such references, in this film, as “the white direction”, and holding a “Negro Day” on the television show were miniscule in the terrible world of racism and segregation.
These references show the ignorance and determination of one race to retard and degradate the others. While there were white Americans that were considered progressive, like Tracy Turnblad, they were not accepted and were often turned against once they showed support for another race or anything non-conformist. Tracy Turnblad’s mother was a typical 1950’s housewife.She was the epitome of what was acceptable of a woman and her role in the conformist’s world. Edna Turnblad spent her days at home doing the laundry and the cooking as was expected of her. Any break of the normal acceptable behavior could be construed as being un-Christian or anti-American. In the beginning of the film a young girl is leaving the show “for about nine months”, this obvious reference to an unwanted pregnancy was, in that time, considered un-Christian and was hidden from society in order to keep her parent’s good name intact.
Penny’s mother was a great example of this type of extremist thought of un-Christian behavior being considered anti-American with her over-reaction to the things her daughter Penny becomes involved in. In the same regard, although Tracy Turnblad had big dreams and desired to help pursue change in the world surrounding her, her parents could not be seen or known to endorse her activities and sentiments. Amber Von Tussle’s disgusted scoff when Tracy Turnblad hugs Seaweed shows the general sentiment of the era.It does become evident that her mother feels the same towards racial segregation, however, in order to protect her family she is scared to stand out. Even amidst all the supposed wonderful white Americans there was such ugliness amongst them and yet they were blinded to it. Walking past a restaurant seeing three pregnant women smoking and drinking, Tracy Turnblad proclaims, “They’re so glamorous”; showing just how oblivious to their own wrong-doings they were.The hatred and stress that was caused by the racist white American towards the African American communities had brought such harsh conditions and such discontent that the African Americans eventually imposed upon themselves a self-segregated community.
As the white Americans were moving farther outside the cities, the African Americans would move into the cities and into neighborhoods where they could be united. This sentiment was evidenced in the film by MotorMouth Maybelle’s response to the friends of Seaweed saying “if we get any more white people in here and it’ll be a suburb”.This action is completely understandable once viewed through the eyes of someone unjustly accused of a crime and jailed for unjust reasons. The very people who were intended to protect and ensure justice were so corrupt with racism that a sentimental young white girl, Tracy Turnblad, was accused of “bludgeoning an officer” with a crowbar. The absurdity of these actions and accusations were sadly commonplace. And even more appalling is that it was all in an effort to hold back the prosperity and opportunity of a race simply because of their color, with no regard to merit.

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