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Hairspray

November 15, 2008

I just finished watching John Water’s original Hairspray for the first time in a decade.
I think it’s his best and most fully realized movie from his mainstream period of movies and sadly, his muse Divine’s last movie with him.

It has the classic class struggle that’s apparent in virtually every Waters movie as well and here it’s something more tangible that nearly anyone can understand; this time around it’s racial integration.

All the performances are classic Waters high-camp and his obsessional subject he’s chosen this time around – that being local TV dance shows and soul and R & B is something that a mainstream audience can grasp easily.

I was surprised to hear Waters say in the commentary that this was he and Divine’s first movie together after eight years, but I guess that’s correct considering that Polyester was in 1981. I always thought there were more, but there weren’t.

I also love the hysterical attitudes towards black people in Hairspray as represented by character Penny’s nutjob mother, especially when she’s on foot through the dark side of the tracks. I grew up around people like that, sad to say. People that would refer to Portland as niggertown, and would always go there with great trepidation.

Love his movies or not (his last four movies are hit-and-miss with me), John Water is America’s cool gay uncle. I remember reading an old interview with him in the early 80’s when I was a teenager and he was the first person I was aware of who nonchalantly referred to himself as gay and it wasn’t a big source of titillation or a novelty within the context of the article. Just, boom, gay, next topic. Sounds stupid today, but to a culturally sheltered teen in rural Washington state, it was a revelation, of sorts.

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2 comments

  1. John Waters’ greatest work was, in fact, his appearance on the David Letterman program where he brought the child’s candy “DingleBerries”.
    Then he proceeded to explain what a DingleBerry was, and why it was wrong that a children’s candy should be named such.

    Move over Ralph Nader, John Waters will protect our candy needs. And our morality. Who better? Who better?


  2. “John Water is America’s cool gay uncle.”
    And thank the gods for that!



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