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Hairspray 340.jpg

1. The first film John Waters made that got PG, and a great work. It was released in 1988. It starred Ricki Lake as Tracy Turnblad, Divine as her mother, and John Waters's usual repertory cast.

Tracy Turnblad is a huge fan of the Corny Collins Show, which is very like early American Bandstand. She also is a fan of big hairstyles which require hairspray to stay in place - a trend the adults disapprove of. When one of the old dancers has to leave because of pregnancy, an audition is held for a new female dancer, and Tracy gets the spot because of her talent and her exuberant personality. This leads to a chain of events that will change Baltimore forever...

2. The film eventually inspired a Broadway musical. The music was changed for this production. The original film was for the most part not a musical per se, just full of music, and its songs were all Dance Sensation songs of one sort or another. The musical had songs tell the story more directly. The storyline is similar to the original, but some details and some emphases were adjusted (for example, most references to Velma Von Tussle in the tropes below are from the Broadway musical or second film, as her role was greatly expanded from the original). It won eight Tony Awards, and introduced the world to Marissa Jaret Winokur (who previously was more known as the fast-food girl with Kevin Spacey in American Beauty).

3. The musical was successful enough that it itself was made into a film around 2007. It starred Nikki Blonsky as Tracy Turnblad and John Travolta as her mom, among an ensemble cast.

Not to be confused with Hair.


  • Aerosol Flamethrower: Link breaks Tracy out of prison with this method in the stage show
  • Alliterative Name: loads: Tracy Turnblad, Penny and Prudy Pingleton, Velma Von Tussle, Corny Collins, Link Larkin, Motormouth Maybelle, Seaweed J. Stubbs.
  • Alpha Bitch: Amber Von Tussle.
  • American Accents: If you've ever wondered what a Baltimore accent sounds like, just watch either film. Edna has an extremely strong one.
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: Inez winning Miss Teenage Hairspray This only happens in the movie, however.
  • Beehive Hairdo: And how!
  • Beta Couple: Penny and Seaweed.
  • Big Beautiful Woman: Tracy and Motormouth Maybelle from the start, Edna at the end due to their inspiration.
  • Big Fun: Tracy's a rare female example.
  • Billing Displacement: It was advertised starring John Travolta (in drag!). Nikkie Blonsky gets an "And introducing" after the long list of all the other celebrities "starring" in the movie.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Amber, Tracy, and Penny.
  • The Brainless Beauty: Link Larkin is a light, male version
  • Broken Smile: Velma Von Tussle displays a perfect example when the show is finally integrated.
    • In the play anyway. In the second movie, she stays pissy throughout, probably due to losing her job.
  • But Not Too Black: Nicely averted, since following the trope would have destroyed the point.
    • A lot of people objected to Queen Latifah's casting in the film musical because of this. But considering she's the most famous plus-sized black actress in Hollywood and her skintone is middle-ground.
  • California Doubling: Many of the Baltimore scenes were shot in Toronto.
  • The Cameo: The 2007 film features several. John Waters, director of the 1988 film, appears as a flasher, and director Adam Shankman, composer/lyricist Mark Shaiman, co-composer/lyricist Scott Wittman and Ricki Lake (Tracy from the 1988 film) all play talent agents. The associate choreographers also make apperances.
    • Not to mention, in the 1988 film, John Waters plays the psychiatrist that hypnotizes/tortures Penny.
    • Also in the movie musical, Jerry Stiller, who played Wilbur Turnblad in the original movie, played Mr. Pinky, who ran a plus-sized boutique and wanted Tracy to do commercials for him when she became a hit on the Corny Collins show.
  • Casting Gag: In the 2007 film, Jerry Stiller plays fashion store owner Mr Pinky. Stiller played Wilbur Turnblad in the original 1988 film. Several other actors from the original and the director appear as well, see "The Cameo".
  • The Cast Showoff: Several members of the cast were picked either because their musical talents were largely unknown to the general public (Marsden, Walken, Bynes) or had simply been forgotten about in recent years (Travolta, Pfeiffer)
  • Cavalier Competitor: Amber after losing; quickly in the 2007 film, gradually as "You Can't Stop The Beat" goes on in the musical. Also counts as Graceful Loser.
  • Civil Rights Movement: Maybelle and the black dancers' plight.
  • Climactic Music: "You Can't Stop the Beat", the climactic number that coincides with the climactic dance showdown.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Penny, somewhat. Tracy can come off as this too.
  • Conspicuous CGI: Many of the buildings in the opening shot are CGI recreations, and it's not hard to tell that.
  • Continuity Nod: The 2007 film makes several references to scenes from the 1988 movie that don't happen in the new version. During one song montage, Tracy is knocked in the head during dodge ball. One of the nasty rumors Amber tries to start is about Tracy getting put into Special Ed.
  • Creator Cameo: Jon Waters as "...the flasher who lives next door."
  • Crosscast Role: Edna is always played by a man.
  • Curtain Clothing: An extremely subtle one: In the film, the dress Penney wears during "You Can't Stop The Beat" is made from the curtains in her room (see "Shout Out" below).
  • Cut Song: "The New Girl in Town" was cut from the stage musical, but put into the 2007 film. Some songs from the stage version were cut from the film, too.
  • Dark Horse Victory: In the 2007 film, Little Inez's victory in the Miss Teenage Hairspray contest.
  • Dark Reprise: In the Broadway musical, Tracy sings a reprise of "Good Morning Baltimore" after she finds out she won't be granted any bail.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Corny, big time.
  • Demoted to Extra: Poor Link doesn't get to shine in the 2007 film as much as he did in the stage show.
  • Did Not Do the Research: In addition to the Writers Cannot Do Math below, there's one line in "Mama I'm A Big Girl Now" where Amber says "Once upon a time I used to dress up Ken". Barbie came out in 1959, Ken in 1961. Unless the line's supposed to be figurative, Amber's been playing with dolls for a while.
  • Dirty Cop: The lead police officer who's working for Velma in the 2007 film.
  • The Dog Bites Back: The cameraman who lets the Turnblads use his camera for Velma's Engineered Public Confession in the 2007 film is the same one that she had belittled and threatened in the beginning of the movie.
  • Engineered Public Confession: In the 2007 film, Velma admits to cheating to ensure her daughter the crown, to find out a camera has been on her the whole time.
  • Estrogen Brigade Bait: Link, Corny Collins, and Seaweed.
  • Food Porn: "Big, Blonde, and Beautiful" is this trope in song form. Then we see Maybelle's soul food spread in the movie...
  • Freudian Slip: Velma von Tussle: "We've got to lead kids in the white direction...I know what I mean."
  • Genki Girl: Tracy.
  • Genre Savvy: In the stage musical, Velma realizes that someone is hiding in the giant hairspray can and she orders her guards to prevent anyone from touching it. It turns out that she is Wrong Genre Savvy because Edna is in the can and Tracy just comes in through the front door while the guards are distracted by guarding the can. It helps that the guards are really Motormouth Maybelle and many of the other black cast members in disguise.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar (e.g., "Hey, baby! You look like you could use a stiff one!" During a hairspray plug.)
    • Every word that comes out of Velma Von Tussle's mouth.
    • "I'm sorry, Prudy, but some of your personal stains need poundin' out with a rock!"
      • In one scene, Velma takes padding out of one girls top. Then she proceeds to reach down to a guys crotch, he then says that he can "take that out himself."
      • In the stage show, just before that, "We do NOT touch ourselves ANYWHERE while on camera!"
    • The reasoning for the need for a new member for The Corny Collin's Show.

 Corny: So how long are you going to be out?

Brenda: Just nine months.

Corny: We need a girl who's just as fun lovin', but maybe not as free wheelin'! (wink)

      • In other versions, it's:

 Corny: So tell us, Brenda, where are you going?

Brenda: College!

Corny: We need a girl who's just as fun lovin', but maybe not as... educated.

    • From Velma's villain song-

 "Those poor runners up might still hold some grudges, they padded their cups but I screwed the judges!"

    • How about Velma's title as Miss Baltimore Crabs? Considering that she screwed the judges, she might have... picked up something from one of them.
      • From the 2007 film: "I risked communicable diseases, she'll definitely risk prison."
    • One of the lines of music from the HIGH SCHOOL script of the stage show, though oddly, not on the album.

 Velma: (to Tracy) With your form and your face, well, it isn't your fault. You're just caught with a case of Miss... Baltimore Crabs!

    • There's one in the "New Girl in Town" song.

 "We're kinda sad and blue,

yes it's true girl

We'd like to say... [two Beats]

to the new girl in town"

    • The chorus of Seaweed's song is entirely about this, with tons of Where Da White Women At? implications.
    • In "Timeless To Me", the final line on the album's version is Edna saying "Wilbur, honey, let's take this upstairs". In the script, the reprise includes the lines "You're rounding third base now" / "Holy cow!".
    • Just before "Run And Tell That", Seaweed has this little gem, which somehow made it into the high school version of the script:

 Penny: The nurse was out sick, but look what Seaweed found!

Seaweed: Band-aids and Q-tips! And a rubber. Wait, guess that's mine. (paraphrased)

    • From "Ladies' Choice":

 Link: Hey little girl take me off the shelf/'Cause it's no fun playing with yourself.


 Link: I'm the prettiest package you ever did see/Take me home and then unwrap me...

    • In the 2007 musical, there is a shot of Penny's mother reading aloud from the Bible during the opening of the pageant. The passage she's reading happens to be about Lot's daughters conspiring to get him drunk and have sex with him.
  • Girlish Pigtails: Penny.
  • Graceful Loser: In the second movie, Amber was surprisingly mature about her defeat, indicating Character Development.
    • She and her mother both become graceful losers in the stage show as well, after much sulking, they give in and realize that they "can't stop the beat". See Heel Face Turn below.
  • Happily Married: Edna and Wilbur
  • Heel Face Turn: Amber and Velma in the musical; just Amber seems to get one in the film (walking out on her mother and getting along with a black dancer), even after the unnecessary Humiliation Conga.
  • Henpecked Boyfriend: Link is henpecked by his girlfriend Amber.
  • The Hero Dies: Definitely doesn't happen in the musical or the movie, but the final lines of the song "New Girl in Town" imply that the new girl mentioned in the lyrics (Tracy?) was ran over by a moving van and died:

 Hey, look out for that moving van

Look out, look out, look out, look out!


She was the new girl in... town!

  • Hey, It's That Guy!: In the Broadway version Will Schuester plays Link
  • Historical In-Joke: When Penny rushes to show the Turnblads Tracy's TV debut, Edna misunderstands and thinks she's trying to show them the footage of John Glenn's space trip. She chastises her, saying "Oh, I've seen it! It's all some studio out in Hollywood. Do they really expect me to believe he's up there?"
    • In the script of the stage version, (or at least the high school version, which kept most of the crap that got past the radar), it's "Oh no, don't tell me Khrushchev has his shoes off again!"
  • Humiliation Conga: In the 2007 movie, Amber has Tracy steal her thunder and her boyfriend, gets hoisted above the set, tears her dress getting down, and loses her crown to a child on live TV. And then she's surprisingly good natured about it in the end, possibly making this a subversion. Played straight with Velma, though, whose humiliation is more thorough and not taken well.
  • I Take Offense to That Last One:

 Link Larkin: I shoulda been there, beside her. I can't sleep. I can't eat...

Edna Turnblad: You can't eat? Well, come on in and worry with us. I'll make you some pork.

    • Or, in the stage version,

 Link: I couldn't sleep, I couldn't eat, I couldn't even concentrate!

Tracy: You couldn't eat?

  • "I Want" Song: "Good Morning Baltimore" and "I Can Hear The Bells".
  • Implausible Deniability: Edna refuses to believe that First Lady Jackie Kennedy's hairstyle has anything to do with hairspray.

 "I believe it is just naturally stiff."

  • Improbable Hairstyle
  • Informed Ability: Inez's dancing in the 2007 movie. She's not appreciably better than the rest of the talented cast, yet we're supposed to believe that she alone was impressive enough to win Miss Teen Hairspray after just one (short) dance. It's implied she won because she was the only black contestant (ever) and the whole community voted for her, even though there'd still be alot of racism in the community, making this very improbable.
  • Jerkass: Velma Von Tussle in the musical and even more so in it's film adaptation (where she's less Laughably Evil), and Amber Von Tussle for a good while due to emulating her mother.
    • The whole Von Tussle family takes this to ridiculously extreme levels in the original 1988 film. Tracy and (especially) Edna have their moments there too, in stark contrast to the kind people they are in the musical and 2007 film.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Corny Collins is very smarmy and egotistical ("The only thing better than Hairspray...that's me!), but his heart is shown to be in the right place.
  • Lean and Mean: "I never drank one chocolate malt / No desserts for Miss Baltimore Crabs..."
  • Love Triangle: Tracy/Link/Amber.
  • The Makeover: Tracy and Edna get one in "Welcome to the Sixties"; Tracy gets another when she crashes the beauty contest.
    • Penny gets one in the finale as well, and Edna comes out of the Hairspray Can in the musical with clothing she made herself.
  • Morning Routine: The 2007 movie starts with one. The musical too, but in less detail.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: The Dynamites (The Supremes), Corny Collins (Dick Clark)
  • Not So Different: Tracy, Penny, and Amber all have radically different personalities, but are the same when it comes to their mother issues, as shown in the "Mama, I'm a big girl now" number.
  • One Head Taller: Inverted with Penny and Seaweed. She is noticeably taller than him.
  • The Plan: How the main characters get Tracy into the Miss Teenage Hairspray pageant in the end of the stage musical and newer movie.
  • Politically-Incorrect Villain: Velma Von Tussle is quite the racist bitch in the second movie, where she seems to revel in her own misdeeds. In the first film and the Screen to Stage Adaptation, she's more of a Lawful Selfish Stage Mom who's willing to court segregationist attitudes to look respectable.
  • Popular Is Dumb: The openly embraced creed of the Nicest Kids in Town:

 Who cares about sleep, when you can snooze in school?

You'll never get to college but you sure look cool!

Don't need a cap or a gown

When you're the Nicest Kids in Town!

  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Corny Collins, the dance show host, who is very open to bending the rules and doing away with segregation.
  • Recursive Adaptation: From movie to Broadway musical and back again.
  • Rose Tinted Narrative
  • Sassy Black Woman: Motormouth Maybelle, the Dynamites
  • Shallow Love Interest: Link in the original 1988 film, and to a lesser extent in the 2007 film. Delibarately subverted in the stage musical, where his Character Development is about stopping being a shallow tool and doing things for himself.
  • Shout-Out: For the 2007 film, director Adam Shankman included several homages to and winks at the films that were his inspiration. The opening shot is a mix of the opening shots for West Side Story and The Sound of Music. Penny's dress at the end of the film is made from her curtains, just like the Von Trapp childrens' play clothes that Maria makes out of old curtains in The Sound of Music. Several of Tracy's scenes - such as her ride atop the garbage truck - are taken from the Barbra Streissand film version of Funny Girl. Link singing to Tracy's photograph, which sings back, is directly inspired from The Broadway Melody of 1938, in which Judy Garland sings to a photo of Clark Gable.
    • The stage musical contains a few references to Gypsy. In the beginning, these references were quite timely, as Hairspray premiered on Broadway in the same season as a revival of Gypsy starring Bernadette Peters. By the time Hairspray closed, these references would again become timely, as a new revival starring Patti LuPone had just started its run.
  • Sidekick Song: "Run and Tell That" and "Big, Blonde, and Beautiful"
    • Depending on whether or not you think of Wilbur and Edna as leads, "Timeless To Me", as well.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: A Gender Inverted version with Link and Tracy.
    • Similarly inverted with Seaweed and Penny
  • Smarmy Host: Corny is a borderline example.
  • Stigmatic Pregnancy Euphemism: Dancer Brenda must take time off from Corny's show, thus prompting the audition. How long will she be gone? "Just nine months..."
  • Take That:

 Tracy: Where do you go after special ed?

Everybody: Congress!