It's 1962 Baltimore and Tracy Turnblad is a huge fan of The Corny Collins Show, which is similar to American Bandstand. She also is a fan of big hairstyles which require hairspray to stay in place - a trend the adults disapprove of. When one of the old dancers has to leave because of pregnancy, an audition is held for a new female dancer, and Tracy gets the spot because of her talent and her exuberant personality. This leads to a chain of events that will change Baltimore forever...1. The first film John Waters made that got PG. It was released in 1988 and starred Ricki Lake as Tracy Turnblad, Divine as her mother, and John Waters's usual repertory cast.2. The film eventually inspired a 2002 Broadway musical. The music was changed for this production. The original film was for the most part not a musical per se, just full of music, and its songs were all Dance Sensation songs of one sort or another. The musical had songs tell the story more directly. The storyline is similar to the original, but some details and some emphases were adjusted (for example, most references to Velma Von Tussle in the tropes below are from the Broadway musical or second film, as her role was greatly expanded from the original). It won eight Tony Awards, and introduced the world to Marissa Jaret Winokur (who previously was more known as the fast-food girl with Kevin Spacey in American Beauty).3. The musical was successful enough that it itself was made into a film in 2007. It starred Nikki Blonsky as Tracy Turnblad and John Travolta as her mom, among an all-star ensemble cast.Not to be confused with Hair.
"You can try to stop the paradise we're dreaming of"
Acrofatic: Tracy. Edna, too—she does a fair amount of fleet-footed dancing in the 2007 version. While John Travolta isn't overweight, he's wearing a lot of foam rubber padding, so his dancing is doubly impressive.
Broken Smile: Velma Von Tussle displays a perfect example when the show is finally integrated.
In the play anyway. In the second movie, she stays pissy throughout, probably due to losing her job.
But Not Too Black: Nicely averted, since following the trope would have destroyed the point.
A lot of people objected to Queen Latifah's casting in the film musical because of this, claiming that she's too light for the role, but she's the most famous plus-sized black actress in Hollywood. And since her skintone is middle-ground, anyone claiming she's too fair is just looking for reasons to complain.
The Cameo: The 2007 film features several. John Waters, director of the 1988 film, appears as a flasher, and director Adam Shankman, composer/lyricist Mark Shaiman, co-composer/lyricist Scott Wittman and Ricki Lake (Tracy from the 1988 film) all play talent agents. The associate choreographers also make appearances.
Not to mention, in the 1988 film, John Waters plays the psychiatrist that hypnotizes/tortures Penny.
Also in the movie musical, Jerry Stiller, who played Wilbur Turnblad in the original movie, played Mr. Pinky, who ran a plus-sized boutique and wanted Tracy to do commercials for him when she became a hit on the Corny Collins show.
Casting Gag: In the 2007 film, Jerry Stiller plays fashion store owner Mr Pinky. Stiller played Wilbur Turnblad in the original 1988 film. Several other actors from the original and the director appear as well, see "The Cameo".
Cue some of her other work, where she is the dead opposite of an Alpha Bitch.
Marissa Jaret Winokur, Tracy of the musical, and Allison Janney, Mrs Pingleton of the 2007 film, were both in American Beauty - but Janney with the larger part.
The Cast Showoff: Several members of the cast were picked either because their musical talents were largely unknown to the general public (Marsden, Walken, Bynes) or had simply been forgotten about in recent years (Travolta, Pfeiffer)
Chekhov's Gun : The large, hollow hairspray canister in the foreground while Corny and Velma are arguing about putting Tracy on the show.
Chekhov's Gunman: Two examples from the 2007 film that are related to each other:
When Velma switches the Miss Teenage Hairspray votes at the end of the movie, Edna, in disguise, is the only one to see her do it; later, it's Edna who orchestrates the Engineered Public Confession described below.
Early in the movie, Velma harasses a cameraman for not giving Amber enough screen time during the Corny Collins Show. Guess who helps Edna and Wilbur expose Velma's cheating by letting them use his camera?
Conspicuous CG: Many of the buildings in the opening shot are CGI recreations, and it's not hard to tell that.
Continuity Nod: The 2007 film makes several references to scenes from the 1988 movie that don't happen in the new version. During one song montage, Tracy is knocked in the head during dodge ball. One of the nasty rumors Amber tries to start is about Tracy getting put into Special Ed.
Maybelle(after seeing that Penny and Seaweed were in love): So this is love. Well, love is a gift, but a lot of people don't remember that. So, you two better brace yourselves for a whole lotta ugly comin' at you from a neverending parade of stupid. Penny: So, you met my mom.
Deliberate Values Dissonance : Many tongue in cheek examples in the 2007 film, particularly during "Welcome to the Sixties." Two pregnant women smoking and drinking martinis, a carful of children standing up on the seats, and so on. Also, the circular pins worn by a couple of the girls, that indicated a girl was a virgin. Brenda was wearing one in the "Just nine months" scene, made even more ironic by the possibility that Corny is the father (look closely, you'll see them arguing in a Funny Background Event).
Demoted to Extra: Poor Link doesn't get to shine in the 2007 film as much as he did in the stage show.
Dirty Cop: The lead police officer who's working for Velma in the 2007 film.
Genre Savvy: In the stage musical, Velma realizes that someone is hiding in the giant hairspray can and she orders her guards to prevent anyone from touching it. It turns out that she is Wrong Genre Savvy because Edna is in the can and Tracy just comes in through the front door while the guards are distracted by guarding the can. It helps that the guards are really Motormouth Maybelle and many of the other black cast members in disguise.
The Hero Dies: Definitely doesn't happen in the musical or the movie, but the final lines of the song "New Girl in Town" imply that the new girl mentioned in the lyrics (Tracy?) was ran over by a moving van and died:
Historical In-Joke: When Penny rushes to show the Turnblads Tracy's TV debut, Edna misunderstands and thinks she's trying to show them the footage of John Glenn's space trip. She chastises her, saying "Oh, I've seen it! It's all some studio out in Hollywood. Do they really expect me to believe he's up there?"
In the stage version, it's "Oh no, don't tell me Khrushchev has his shoes off again!"
Humiliation Conga: In the 2007 movie, Amber has Tracy steal her thunder and her boyfriend, gets hoisted above the set, tears her dress and sprains her ankle getting down, and loses her crown to a child on live TV. And then she's surprisingly good natured about it in the end, possibly making this a subversion. Played straight with Velma, though, whose humiliation is more thorough and not taken well.
Indy Ploy: Corny Collins isn't responsible for any of the events of the movie, but damned if he isn't ready to use them to his advantage. In the movie, he knows Inez Stubb's name and the very specific clause to let her win, implying that he's been waiting and preparing for any kind of situation for him to push his agenda.
Informed Ability: Inez's dancing in the 2007 movie. She's not appreciably better than the rest of the talented cast, yet we're supposed to believe that she alone was impressive enough to win Miss Teen Hairspray after just one (short) dance. It's implied she won because she was the only black contestant (ever) and the whole community voted for her, even though there'd still be alot of racism in the community, making this very improbable.
Inez's age could may have been a factor. She can hold her own with kids significantly older than her. Plus, she is adorable and people like kids.
The implication was likely that the entire black or otherwise POC community, which is very large in Baltimore, voted for her.
Link also brought her on stage, bringing his popularity in to help her as well.
Jerkass: Velma Von Tussle in the musical and even more so in it's film adaptation (where she's less Laughably Evil), and Amber Von Tussle for a good while due to emulating her mother.
The whole Von Tussle family takes this to ridiculously extreme levels in the original 1988 film. Tracy and (especially) Edna have their moments there too, in stark contrast to the kind people they are in the musical and 2007 film.
The Makeover: Tracy and Edna get one in "Welcome to the Sixties"; Tracy gets another when she crashes the beauty contest.
Penny gets one in the finale as well, and Edna comes out of the Hairspray Can in the musical with clothing she made herself.
Mighty Whitey: in the 2007 film, the fact that Tracy, a white high school girl obsessed with dancing who has no real understanding of the sociopolitical scene or the importance of integration - she spends all day at school sleeping and has no knowledge of American history either - comes up with the idea to do a "march" to save the 'Negro Day' TV show while all the black people who have been fighting and striving to make a difference just stand around accepting being forced out from TV. A little white girl with limited social awareness who adopts 'Negro dancing' and leads them to save their show..
Morning Routine: The 2007 movie starts with one. The musical too, but in less detail.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: When Tracy participates at the march and hits a cop on the head with her sign and runs away, it gives Velma a good opportunity to stop Tracy from participating in the pageant by having the same police guard the entrance, making Tracy and the others devise a plan to sneak into the pageant. If Tracy had been bailed out along with Maybelle, she wouldn't have had to hide from the cops and sneak into the pageant!
Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: After Amber loses the Miss Teenage Hairspray Competition, Velma then admits to Amber that she rigged the votes. Edna then informs Velma that her confession was broadcasted on camera, which causes Velma to lose her job.
Playing right into Tracy and friends' plans, Velma forces all the security guards outside despite ample security outside in response to the bait (Wilbur dressed as Tracy), getting them locked out. The guards then beat down the door with a hairspray battering ram with Tracy inside. Once Velma realizes what they've done, they all rush to it, only for all of them to get locked out once again.
Actually, Corny Collins was explicitly based on Buddy Deane.
Not So Different: Tracy, Penny, and Amber all have radically different personalities, but are the same when it comes to their mother issues, as shown in the "Mama, I'm a big girl now" number.
One Head Taller: Inverted with Penny and Seaweed. She is noticeably taller than him.
Only in the 2007 movie. In the 1988 movie, Penny is of average height while Seaweed is very tall indeed.
Parental Hypocrisy: In the 2007 version, Penny's mother, Prudy, forbids Penny from watching the Corny Collins Show, yet Prudy watches the show herself.
The Plan: How the main characters get Tracy into the Miss Teenage Hairspray pageant in the end of the stage musical and newer movie.
Politically Incorrect Villain: Velma Von Tussle is quite blatantly racist in the second movie, where she seems to revel in her own misdeeds. In the first film, she's more of a Lawful Selfish Stage Mom who's willing to court segregationist attitudes to look respectable.
Running Gag: In the first film, the kids run into a beatnik couple, and the woman says she uses a straightening iron to get her hair so silky. This leads to a couple scenes where the girls are using a clothing iron to straighten their hair complete with laying their heads on an ironing boardnote the electric flat iron wasn't available commercially to buy until the 1990s, so women in the sixties did use their clothing iron to straighten their hair.
This is given a subtle shout-out in the second movie at the end, where Tracy and Penny have straightened their hair for the big show as if out of protest.
Satellite Love Interest: Link in the original 1988 film, and to a lesser extent in the 2007 film. Delibarately subverted in the stage musical, where his Character Development is about stopping being a shallow tool and doing things for himself.
Seduction-Proof Marriage: In the '07 film, Alpha Bitch Velma tries to seduce Wilbur simply so she can cause strife between Wilbur and his wife. Wilbur is so faithful to his wife that he seems completely oblivious to her advances, but Velma's plan works anyway because she just throws herself at Wilbur as his wife comes in the door to "catch" them in the "act".
Shout-Out: For the 2007 film, director Adam Shankman included several homages to and winks at the films that were his inspiration. The opening shot is a mix of the opening shots for West Side Story and The Sound of Music. Penny's dress at the end of the film is made from her curtains, just like the Von Trapp childrens' play clothes that Maria makes out of old curtains in The Sound of Music. Several of Tracy's scenes - such as her ride atop the garbage truck, and her post-makeover hairstyle in "Welcome to the Sixties" - are taken from the Barbra Streissand film version of Funny Girl. Link singing to Tracy's photograph, which sings back, is directly inspired from The Broadway Melody of 1938, in which Judy Garland sings to a photo of Clark Gable.
The stage musical contains a few references to Gypsy. In the beginning, these references were quite timely, as Hairspray premiered on Broadway in the same season as a revival of Gypsy starring Bernadette Peters. By the time Hairspray closed, these references would again become timely, as a new revival starring Patti LuPone had just started its run.
Sidekick Song: "Run and Tell That" and "Big, Blonde, and Beautiful"
Depending on whether or not you think of Wilbur and Edna as leads, "Timeless To Me", as well.
They've Come So Far Song: "I Know Where I've Been," which is about the continuing fight against prejudice as much as it is about the progress of the characters and plot.
And another song called "Come So Far (Got So Far to Go)" was written for the 2007 film adaptation. However, unlike "I Know Where I've Been," it lacks the narrative significance typically associated with this trope, as it is played over the credits rather than as part of the film.
Took a Level in Kindness: Tracy and Edna could be pretty surly and offputting on several occasions in the original film (Edna in particular due to being played by Divine, the inspiration for Ursula, and it shows), but are very nice people in the musical.
Writers Cannot Do Math: According to the script, the show begins in "early June" on a Monday and ends on June 6th, 1962. Schools did not run into June in 1962, especially in Baltimore, because there was no air conditioning and it was oppressively hot and humid.