Alternative Character Interpretation: Corny Collins in the 2007 movie. Is he genuine about supporting integration like the others, or is he simply a media mogul who knows that he has to move with the times to survive, and is thus a cynical stab at how rights movements are able to make progress? Note his line 'This is the future' to Velma in the movie - he could well just be a benign version of the MC from Cabaret who plays to his audience.
Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: In the original movie, when running from the police Tracy, Penny, Link and Seaweed run into a couple of beatnicks who invite them to get naked and smoke weed, and offer to iron the girls' hair. Our clean cut heroes naturally are freaked out and run away. However, Tracy and Penny using a clothing iron to straighten their hair becomes a Running Gag later on in the movie.
Broken Base: For Hairspray Live!, how strongly the viewer enjoys NBC having some numbers performed on the Universal backlot depends on whether they appreciate how much scope this adds compared to musicals NBC recorded entirely indoors, or find that they turned the production into a less-polished Grease Live!
Designated Hero: Tracy, Edna and Maybelle in the original 1988 movie can often be as mean-spirited as the people they oppose, and in the climax both Maybelle and her daughter Li'l Inez resort to flat-out hostage-taking and terrorism of the governor to get what they want.
Draco in Leather Pants: Amber in the 2007 movie can come off as this. While the way her mother treats her and the Humiliation Conga that she went through while participating in the pageant makes her come off as a Jerkass Woobie, Amber can still be a jerkass and has done her fair share of jerkass deeds with or without her mother's influence (acting rude to the other dancers she works with for the Corny Collins show, gossiping about Tracy to her other classmates due to her jealousy over Tracy being a good dancer, intentionally getting Tracy sent to detention by her teacher, and her and her mother even fat-shaming Tracy's overweight mother).
Ear Worm: Velma might be a racist, conniving Rich Bitch, but her solo will get in your head. "Front step, cha-cha-cha..." Actually, most of the songs are so catchy and upbeat, they'll stay in your head for days.
Fan-Preferred Couple: Tracy and Seaweed, particularly due to the 2007 film, where Link's role of actually helping Tracy is cut and it's generally felt he did nothing to earn Tracy in the end other than feel sorry about his actions.
Foe Yay: A deleted number before the finale in the musical, "It Ain't Over 'Til The Fat Lady Sings", is Tracy singing a challenging song toward Amber whose lyrics not only get increasingly absurd as it goes on, but several of them begin sounding like double-entendres and terms of endearment ("Good luck, baby", "It's been great fun but it was just one of those things", "I'll put you in a trance and dance you right off-stage", etc.)
"Funny Aneurysm" Moment: Divine's line "Did poor Debbie Reynolds have a nervous breakdown?" becomes rather eerie and sad in light of Debbie Reynolds tragic death of a stroke, mostly likely caused by grief due to the fact that her daughter, Carrie Fisher, had died just a day before she did.
Harsher in Hindsight: In the original film, Amber's parents try to bomb the climactic concert. Just five months after Ariana Grande played Penny in the 2016 live show, a terrorist attack killed 22 people and injured dozens more at one of her concerts.
This may be more of a "Funny Aneurysm" Moment considering that her preference for black men went to extremes during her meltdown, including asking Drake, of all people, to "murder [her] vagina".
Try watching James Marsden's epic wide smiles in the 2007 version nowadays without thinking that he must be an ancestor of Caesar Flickerman.
Hollywood Homely: The driving point of the movie, considering that Tracy is still a very attractive young woman who just so happens to be fat (her weight seems to be treated "as is" by everyone but the villains; this has been lauded by a number of people, stating that Hairspray has one of the most positive depictions of fat girls in any form of media).
Hollywood Pudgy: Averted, especially in the 2007 version. Nikki Blonsky, while extremely pretty and adorable, is also obviously overweight. According to the casting director, they strongly emphasized that they were looking for a girl that was fat and beautiful, and made sure to let it be known that they were not hiring any girl that was "just chubby" or slim.
Informed Ability: As a character, Tracy's dancing wows everyone who sees her. In practice, her talent varies depending on the skills of the actress portraying her: in some adaptations she's at least as good as the rest of the cast, in others she's noticeably less so. It's an understandable informed ability, all things considered. (For similar reasons, Amber's said to be a less-than-competent dancer but her actress is usually equal to anyone else in most scenes; she only makes obvious mistakes when we're supposed to remember she's a bad dancer.)
Jerkass Woobie: Amber in some points, particularly in the 1988 film where the girl is practically tortured by her parents, and at the end of the 2007 movie.
Love to Hate: The Von Tussles in the musical and Hairspray Live!, particularly Velma since Amber's so awkward that it's difficult to hate her. The songwriters said they actually removed more mean-spirited lyrics at Tracy's expense in early drafts of "Miss Baltimore Crabs" since they wanted the audience to enjoy Velma as opposed to just despising her.
Of course this doesn't apply to Amber in the 2007 film because it's easy to see that she would be much better off without Velma and the fact that it's impossible to hate Brittany Snow.
In the original film adaptation, Tracy shows up to the dance competition in a dress with pictures of roaches on it.
The 2016 live show attempting to pass off the noticeably dark-skinned Ariana Grande as completely white-bread next to the likes of the other white characters.
"Good Morning, Baltimore" in the 2016 show. It's pretty darn awkward to have a song celebrating the morning when it's clearly night (though one could pretend that it's just the really earlynote like 1-2 AM hours of morning...and even then, why is everyone choosing to get up that early?)
Newer Than They Think: In the earliest classroom scene of the musical film, the chalkboard shows the height of Mount Everest as 29035 feet. This figure has only been attested since a 1999 GPS measurement of the summit. Before this, the common measurement (and still the official measurement accepted by Nepal and the People's Republic of China) is 8848 meters (approximately 29029 feet).
In the original 1988 film, the race riot at Tilted Acres.
Penny's mother in the 2007 version when you think about it. Her parenting comes off as so extreme to the point that her own daughter fears her sometimes.
Special Effect Failure: Many commenters on the NBC live show complained that the singing was pitched too low in the sound mix and hard to make out, even seeming to occasionally cut out completely. Fortunately, NBC managed to fix some of these issues in the West Coast feed and DVD.
Critical reception and ratings for NBC's version took a dive from their production of The Wiz the previous December, and FOX's Grease in between. Fans of the 2007 Hairspray movie also couldn't resist unfavorably comparing NBC's actors to its cast. However, this telecast did manage to win three Creative Arts Emmy Awards, the most of any live NBC musical of The New '10s thus far.
Viewers accustomed to the 2007 movie had to be mindful that the 2016 teleplay was filmed live, and thus the actors didn't have the luxury of multiple takes and lipsynching to prerecorded songs. All the singing and dancing was done in real time, and sometimes you could see the actors losing their breath near the end of an energetic performance.
Unintentionally Sympathetic: It's easy to feel sorry for Amber in the 2007 movie's finale. She falls off the set hard enough to hurt her ankle (you can see her limping a little afterwards), loses her boyfriend and award, and her mother's televised fall from grace happens right after Amber accepts defeat with unexpected maturity. Then again, it's debatable whether this sympathy was unintentional here.
Of course, Amber doesn't seem to really care much about her mother's fall from grace (she seems to laugh at it!), since really, nobody's going to think any less of her for something only her mother did. She just goes off and dances with a black guy, alluding to a HeelFace Turn (something which she, along with Velma, unambiguously underwent in the stage show, and also, without Velma, in a deleted scene.)
A better example is Amber from the original movie. While she lacks the Jerkass Woobie / Jerkass Façade elements from the musical and doesn't get a HeelFace Turn, she still doesn't do all that much to deserve the constant crap she receives. It doesn't help that Tracy really isn't any better in this movie and is much a jerk to Amber as Amber is to her; a far cry from the sweet Pollyanna of the musical.
It's arguable that the original Amber does have some Jerkass Woobie points, considering that an early scene with her and her parents have them forcing her to practice dancing while threatening to send her to a convent if she doesn't comply, while other scenes have them seemingly spoil her and call her cutesy child names, which gives off some emotionally abusive vibes. And in a deleted scene, they practically torture her in order to remove a pimple.
Values Dissonance: Parodied. When Tracy and Edna are on their way to the clothing store in the 2007 movie, they pass a bar where a group of visibly pregnant women are smoking and making a toast "to the future."
Values Resonance: Publicity for NBC's version emphasizes how the themes of overcoming racial prejudice feel as relevant to 2016 as to 1962. note This might become Harsher in Hindsight after Hairspray scored the lowest Nielsen ratings of any of the network's New Tens musicals.
The Woobie: Edna in the musical and 2007 film, if you feel sorry for her being insecure with her size and being agoraphobic at first.
John Travolta's performance as Edna in the 2007 movie felt questionable to viewers who noticed that he didn't have as much experience performing in drag as Divine and Harvey Fierstein did (plus he required a lot more padding).
Darren Criss' fans wondered why NBC would only make him the host of their Hairspray telecast, instead of actually put him in the show, especially to replace an actor they found lacking in charisma. (Then you have viewers who wish NBC didn't have anyone host the broadcast, since Criss' segments broke up the flow, and disappeared from the master used for barebones DVD release and the "encore" presentation.) The official explanation says that Criss' starring role in a touring production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch would've created scheduling conflicts with Hairspray rehearsals.