You Can't Stop the Beat!
efrain - wrote on 11/15/07
Ever since “Malcolm X” came out in 1992, I wanted to be Black. Black people seem to make things cooler, and that’s what happens in “Hairspray”. When the Black actors show up on screen, that’s when an already hip ride gets even better.
Now before you banish me into politically incorrect exile, let me explain.
At first glance, it might look like this movie’s nothing but another silly white-bread sing-along filled with yesteryear cheese, but “Hairspray” is actually an inspiring and hilarious story of inevitable change set against the backdrop of 1960’s racial inequality.
Newcomer Nikki Blonsky plays Tracy Turnblad, a big girl with big hair and big dreams. Tracy’s perky and positive demeanor along with the encouragement of her loving parents allow her to brush off the haters and keep striving to achieve her dream of dancing on “The Corny Collins Show”, a local teen dance showcase.
In the face of persecution, Tracy gets her chance on the show and to compete for the “Miss Teenage Hairspray” crown. However, there is a bigger, unspoken problem: Why can’t the Black kids dance on the show with the White kids?
The conflicting sides of “Hairspray” are black and white, and as with many other racially-charged films, there isn’t much mention of other race groups beside Blacks and Whites. Tracy sort of makes up for the other “minority groups” in America. Although she is as milky-white as the villains in the film, her plus-size looks, her spirit and her resilience far outweigh her skin color and she becomes a champion for all those who are considered outcasts, or otherwise different.
A major theme (and one of the songs) of “Hairspray” is “You Can’t Stop the Beat”. The “Beat” of course being the change that was to come with the advent of racial acceptance and integration. When Tracy is sent to detention, we meet the embodiment of that inevitable change – Seaweed (Elijah Kelly, “Take the Lead”), an unstoppable firespark of soul and energy. And going back to my first point – my favorite character.
Seaweed sings my favorite song in the film, “Run and Tell That” - a song that rises above all the bigoted hatred into positive cultural pride, reveling in the oh-so-sweetness of being different.