I took my granddaughters (10 and 7) to see Hairspray today. Great family movie, lots of fun, gags that had everyone in the theater rolling, Christopher Walken is memorable ("my heart only beats for a size 60") – just a great, fun movie. So much my kind of movie: nothing explodes, no car crashes, no violence – instead of gore and explosions and spectacle, the movie relies on a well-told story, characters who are engaging and some great choreography and music throughout.
It’s been some years since I saw the original and I’d forgotten about the racial integration issues in the movie. My, but Queen Latifah does a wonderful job with her role! I’ve loved her since the beginning of her career when I saw her on a talk show and she spoke with such intelligence and humility when interviewed. When she’s marching, the song she belts out is done with such beauty and such dignity, it becomes much more than a song, but an anthem for the time, and the people of the time.
Growing up in the 60s/early 70s, these were my times. Blacks and whites marching to change the laws that prevented blacks from voting. (They had the right, but literacy and Jim Crow laws effectively denied them access until the Voting Rights Act of 1965.) After the movie, I tried to explain to my grands a bit of what it was like then, of people segregated and discriminated against because their skin had more pigment than others. My youngest asked me "Could you vote then?" I laughed, and she said "well, I just thought since your skin is dark …" I told them about the Selma march, about church bombings, about Rosa Parks.
For most of Hairspray, the white girls wear dresses with full skirts, their hair in flips or hives, ratted and sprayed, of course. At the end, Tracy Turnblad appears in a mod look with straight hair and a geometric print dress. These were times when the world was changing in many different directions: hippies preaching peace and flower power … vietnam and peace protests … civil rights marches and the drive for integration …. Camelot and the Kennedys … the British invasion of the Beatles, the Stones, Herman’s Hermits … Twiggy, mods, Carnaby Street fashion .. mini skirts, the bikini and the shift (which I first saw on Jackie) … Laugh-in and the Smothers Brothers … a time when most every TV show was a family show. Growing up then, we didn’t know that these were such pivotal times. We were just kids playing outside until the lights came on, watching Ed Sullivan or the evening news with Walter Cronkite and film of the war or schools being integrated.
The times they were a’changin’ …