Hairspray, is it so fat friendly?

My little sister's 12th birthday was this week so we took her out to dinner and a movie. The movie she picked was Hairspray much to my husband's dismay. First off, let me say it was a very entertaining movie that I actually enjoyed watching however there were a few things that made me cringe. It was a fun movie with some positive messages on racism, self acceptance, and that being different is okay, great even. The movie had many catchy songs that left me humming on into the night. I just hated to see another movie that depicted the Fat Lady as a cute, sweet, not to bright, food obsessed, person who doesn't leave the house much less exercise. This movie drives home many subliminal messages about fat people that are inaccurate in most instances. I realize this is done to be funny and honestly it is funny but I feel when people see these things in a movie they absorb them as reality. Look at all the girls that know that magazine models are airbrushed and "fixed" before the printing yet they still try to compare themselves to them and strive to be something attainable. Many scenes in the movie show that all Tracey and Edna Turnblat care about is food. Why do heavy set characters always have to be depicted in this light? Can't there be more to them that the weight? At first glance I felt the movie was this spreading a positive message to fat women since the main character defies the odds and gets what she wants even though she is discouraged due to her weight. While I do think that is a good message I think that other messages they sent were even more of a strong undertone. I would love to see a movie where the main character was heavy and the movie was not about weight loss, food, or low self esteem. There is so much more to be explored. But hey, as a huge musical fan, I still recommend the movie. If you have seen it, let me know what you think.


  1. My 8 year old daughter and I saw it recently. I wanted to see Harry Potter but she was persistent, despite having already seen Hairspray the day before. I really liked it - very lively and colorful, as opposed to what I imagine my first choice was.

    Good conflict is what makes good theatre. Unfortunetly when the protaganist is overweight part of the conflict is going to be somehow related to weight or food.

  2. Thanks for your thoughts John...but that is my point it doesn't HAVE to relate to weight and food...that is not all an over weight woman does or think about.

    But you are right...Good Movie.

    I also relaize this part was written a long time ago...I had never seen the play or the old movie before though.

  3. Right, I should have been clearer - I think that's the only conflict the screen writers think there is.

    I've never thought about this before, but are obese men in movies viewed differently from obese women, sort of how old men seem to be glorified in movies but old women looked at differently?

    Off the top of my head I can't think of any example of obese men that weren't in a comedy though. I don't think Jackie Gleason as Minnesota Fats in The Hustler counts, but back then it was more acceptable to be an overweight actor.

    Like the Fat Bastard of Austin Powers fame we are there to be laughed at.

  4. I have seen Hairspray twice, so far, and absolutely love it!!! My only problem with the movie is the food jokes.

    That said, I think when you are a very large woman, the weight issue is always present.

    I am 5 foot 8 inches tall and weigh 335 pounds, and every time I go out in public I get "the stares", the giggles, and the comments. I totally got it when Edna said she doesn't want to go outside, because it's scary.

    I dread walking past a bunch of teenage or 20-something guys because I know what's coming: ridicule.

    Anyhoo, my point is that society is obessed with weight, and, so, to pretend that a fat person wouldn't have to deal with all that crap wouldn't be realistic.

    I know what your saying, though, and I would love to see a movie movie where the weight wasn't an issue. However, I wonder if that was to be so, would it be like not talking about the elephant in the room (no pun intended)? Meaning, the weight is not talked about in the movie, but it's all most of the audience can think about?

    Nicole G.

  5. I haven't seen the new Hairspray but I loved the first version with Rikki Lake. I used to rent it from the video store all the time when I was a kid and I remeber loveing it because she did over come all those obstacles regardless of her weight.

    I completely agree with what A Girl is saying about over weight characters though. I can think of tons of over weight men who aren't the brunt of jokes in Television and whose focus isn't just about their weight (I'm bad with names though). In almost every sit com these days there is an overweight man married to a strinkingly beautiful thin woman. Ssome shows just off the top of my head are The Kind Of Queens, According to Jim and a blast from the past The Fresh Prince of Bell Aire. In the long running comedy The Nanny the character CC was hardly fat but was constantly the butt of jokes and made out to be a total headcase.

    Another example is to take a look at rap music, how many Big E's, Big Daddy's, Big Pappa's are out there? All of them bragging about how many women they get. And where are their female counter parts? Nowhere to be found. (Although Missy Elliot is not thin I do notice that in almost one of her songs she refers to her weight, calling it baby fat (baby phat?) which to me seems like she's pointing it out herself so others don't point it out for her)

    Have you noticed the influx of Hollywood movies where actors don fat suits to portray rolls of overweight characters? What's wrong, are there no un-thin actors out there? Starting with the Klumps (the Nutty Professor), look at how the Professors family is portrayed. This gross disgusting, farting, belching, rude, ignorant family of fatties was everything fat people are made out to be in every movie.

    And Norbert's Wife in the Eddie Murphy movie (again, I'm out of the loop so names escape me). I haven't even seen the movie but just by the trailor I can see what kind of person she's made out to be because of her weight.

    Even Kirsie Alley couldn't come up with a show that didn't revolve around her weight. She has proven herself to be a great actress and didn't need to make herself the ass of jokes to make a show.

    It really just saddens me when over weight people are continuously shown in this light.

    Of course I'm not a fan of any stereotype but this one hits home with me.

    Sorry to hijack your post. I just started typing and couldn't stop.

  6. Oh, this is disheartening. I haven't seen Hairspray yet, but it stinks to read they're playing up the stereotypes.

    I thought maybe we'd get past that after Shallow Hal, but I guess not.

    I stand my belief that society thinks it's perfectly okay to make fun of the overweight. It's not okay to make fun of anyone's race, creed, religion or sexuality...but their body size? Go for it.

    It's sad on so many levels.

  7. I just watched Hairspray last night and I agree with a lot of what you're saying.

    I often ponder the media's role in delivering social messages through fiction. Do they have a responsibility to help people feel positive about themselves? Is it our responsibility to live life in contradiction to the stereotypes placed upon us so that the stereotypes will eventually disappear from the art (cinema, books, tv, what have you) that is supposedly a reflection of our world?

    I guess it's a little of both.

    John Travolta's character was shut in because of her weight at the beginning of the movie, and that is perpetuating a stereotype. However, I don't recall Tracy Turnblat ever being upset about her size. Other people mentioned it to her but it never seemed to be an issue in her own head (I stand to be corrected on this). She said what she wanted, danced how she wanted, ate what she wanted... nothing wrong with any of that IMHO :)

    In the final analysis though, Travolta was brilliant and hilarious, especially those open mouthed gasps! LOL

    I agree John, obese men in fiction are often there to be laughed at, or in rarer instances, to be the head of an organized crime syndicate.

  8. Although I have yet to see this remake of Hairspray, I am a huge fan of the original movie with Rikki Lake as Tracy and Divine as Edna.

    On a personal note, I think the film addresses a lot of real issues that continue to face many of us on a day to day basis... discrimination based on skin colour, size, age etc... however as usual uses humour as the foundation of getting the message across.

    One of the things I really liked from the original movie (don't know if it is the same in the remake) is when Tracy size is referred to in her audtion... and she uses more positive language to describe herself... e.g. pleasantly plump or chunky...

    Anyway, I too struggle with my weight and am definately going to see the remake of Hairspray... not just because I love the movie but I love John Travolta too... lol