When the remake of Hairspray came out in 2007, all eleven-year-old me could think was, “Finally, a movie I can relate to.”
Wait. Let me rephrase that.
No, I wasn’t born and raised in Baltimore in the 50s and 60s where, at the time, it was a city segregated by race and class. I’m not a chubby, flirty girl who bursts out in song whenever the opportunity arises; I’ve never been on TV. Frankly, the only thing I have in common with Tracy Turnblad is the excessive use of hair spray.
Our hair could support a small family of gophers, if needed, and we both pride ourselves on that (well, just the fact that it's big. I don't go around saying, "Yup. My hair is so awesomely big, rodents could live in it."). Our mane is what defines a big part of us. In the movie, Tracy’s dad sells tons of merchandise in his joke shop off of her famous ‘do. Me? Not so much. But maybe one day…
Other than that, though, it's like we're from different planets. Tracy is a song-and-dance girl (I guess you have to be when you're the star of a musical). I, on the other hand, only spontaneously burst out into song in the confines of my own house; usually in a duet with my sister. We'll sing Disney classics or Michael Buble, and when I don't know the words she hits me. I'm sure Tracy Turnblad never forgot the words to a song and got slapped for it.
She's much more interested in music and being famous than anything else, especially school. Tracy's attention can't be kept in class; she ditches school and gets sent to detention multiple times. Just another thing we differ in. While I don't exactly always listen during classes, and definitely count down the seconds until the bell rings at the end of the day, I'm actually pretty interested in some subjects. I've never ditched class to audition for a TV show and, surprise surprise, I've never been in detention (except for that one time in seventh grade, but that was totally the art teacher's fault).
So our only common ground comes in a pressurized can.
Nonetheless, Tracy is a relatable character. Everyone comes to a point in their life where they have to make an unpopular decision. For her it was defying the lines that separated races; for most of us, it’s stuff like not letting your daughter spend the night at a friend’s house or changing your wifi password so your neighbor can’t use it. Stuff like that (we can’t all be world changers).
Tracy has her best friend, Penny, by her side the entire way, even against Penny’s mom’s wishes. She has her slightly over-protective, loving parents that I could easily mistake for my own (except for, you know, my mom’s not John Travolta in women’s clothes).
So no, eleven-year-old me wasn’t wrong. She ignored the time and place and, frankly, the whole plot of the movie-musical but focused on the less noticeable things about Tracy and her life. If you take away the songs, the dancing, the cameras, and completely change the setting, it’s like we’re the same person.The same, hair spray-addicted, person.