Hairspray is a very interesting film and musical as the protagonist is plus size but the story presents a character of this body type be more than just a source of humor due to “gluttonous practices.” The heart of the story is the theme of acceptance of difference, whether it be size, race or even economic background. The protagonist, Traci Turnblad, uses her privilege and local celebrity platform to bring on a cultural change which in this case involved integrating a very popular dance show. The very title implies the significance of appearance which is conveyed better in the 1988 original with the opening sequence being that of the council members getting ready to go live on television.
I truly believe that what makes this Hairspray so appealing is the layers that come with it. The story follows Tracy’s rise in dance show scene, the racial conflicts of the 1960s, the socioeconomic differences of their community, as well as the relationship between the two mothers, Edna and Velma, and their daughters, Tracy and Amber. With the live broadcast of the musical adaption set to air tonight, I thought it would be great to take a look at these two very distinct films and how they help set the standard for what makes a great body positive, plus size protagonist lead story.