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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Tracy is a great female role model, especially for larger teens (though she does lie to her mother on occasion); despite a constant barrage of racism and homophobia from other characters, the teens fight for what's right -- desegregation.
Violence & Scariness
A fistfight leaves Tracy's boyfriend in a wheelchair, but there's nothing graphic and no blood.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some heavy petting, and Penny tells Seaweed to "go to second." A beatnick encourages the gang to "take off our clothes and smoke reefer."
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Lots of racial and homophobic epithets and general cursing.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The kids are offered drinks, but they don't take them. Corny Collins drinks from a bottle of liquor.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Tracy, the main character in Hairspray, lies to her parents and sneaks off to make out with her boyfriend. She breaks the law by participating in a sit-in for civil rights, and ends up in reform school. A peer spreads lies and rumors about Tracy, including that she's a "whore," was naked in a car, and that she has cockroaches in her hair. Set in the early 1960s, the movie also depicts acts of racism and homophobia. People are called "queer" and "f--gots," and a white woman calls Motormouth Maybelle a "native woman," even though she's from Baltimore, too. There is some fighting; Tracy's boyfriend has his legs broken, and another character gets a concussion. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This movie encourages viewers to dream of dating the cutest boy, being the most popular girl, and having the biggest hair, but it also creates a world more realistic than its counterparts. The hero is a fat girl, and the dancing is segregated. That Tracy deals with all of this with childlike enthusiasm and class speaks well of a movie about a white trash girl who dreams big.
Ricki Lake is easily the best thing about Hairspray. Drag queen Divine is extra fun as Tracy's mother, but it's Lake who grabs and keeps your attention. She imbues Tracy dignity and confidence that you rarely see in celluloid fat girls. Because this is a John Waters movie, there's some gross-out humor, and much name-calling and cursing. The director isn't one for subtlety -- he makes his points with a sledge hammer. Lucky for viewers, Waters also has a campy and silly side, and at least this once, he's overcome with infectious optimism.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.