The recent premier of the televised “Hairspray Live” with its star-studded cast has me pondering. Across the country, people were thrilled about this particular show- so much that viewing parties were established and ornate, authentic vintage costumes were prepared. Questions are beckoned to be answered.
What is it about ‘Hairspray’ specifically that the entire country of fans went absolutely nuts? We have some theories. As a little background, both of us watched the show from start to end and loved it. First of all, there is a not-so-subtle desire that a great fraction of America shares to bring back the iconic aesthetic and ‘vibe’ of midcentury and postwar American pop culture. Second, our political climate has reflected this, but in a unique way. Third, people long for unity, compassion, understanding, and love. Interracial (or intersecting denominations of any sort, really) relationships, friendships, and interactions shouldn’t be taboo after all we have been through in this land of ours or anywhere across the world. Finally, everyone has a perspective of ‘the good old days’ that they long for… But here’s the catch: The good old days were different experiences for people. So here we are, going into 2017, and collectively, there needs to be some serious dialogue going on what good old days look like without compromising the integrity of any one group. Cue in ‘revivalism’: we bring back the good traits without the lingering negativity. So let’s dive into ‘Hairspray Live’.
Let’s finally say it together: Vintage is IN! Retro is hip! Classic is the way to go! While there is so much resistance out there, I thoroughly affirm that there is something about the yesteryears that is appealing to the general public. Keep your eyes open for the blatant and obvious signs: like Forever21 and Macy’s selling circle skirts, vinyl records of your modern favorites popping up, or the evidence of happiness in the small moments of life with younger people. But let’s dig more. The biggest theme of ‘Hairspray’ is integration and unity. Aren’t we dealing with the same fight for equality today as we were before? Usually we could say that the difference now is that we are civil and don’t sic dogs or use fire hoses against peaceful protesters, but Standing Rock voided that statement. It is all the same fight for love and peace on Earth. This is nothing new, and unity is timeless, people! So yes, be a checkerboard chick- and dance with everyone of every color and denomination. This is also part of the third reason. There is a longing for unity and for retro. What a swell, nifty, neato concept!
Moving right along… The political climate (which we both look at each other and cringe about) reflects the desire people have to go back to another time, which ties into the final point as well. People voted for a president this year in America, and as the world knows, Donald Trump is slated to begin his term. Why did people vote for him? He promised change and to reinstate ‘greatness’ again. When people hear the word ‘great’ they think of the good times rolling, just like Sam Cooke always sang about. The word ‘again’ denotes that there was a greatness before. The conflict occurs when everyone has a different sense of what ‘great’ was and if it applies to them. So let’s go to the textbook example of the early 1960s. Its getting hippie-ish but still retains the poise and clean-cut domestic expectation of the 50s. Racial tensions are rampant and the number of peaceful protests grows routinely. These are the good old days for a middle class homeowner in a Caucasian neighborhood. I can’t ever morally attest to these being such good old days for the gentleman who is middle class, African American, and is getting ripped to pieces by a German Shephard police dog for sitting on a curb outside an all-white bowling alley. When we say ‘great again’ what I think people really mean is bring back (or Retro Revive) the aesthetic; the drive for positive change; peace, unity, and dance; and the neighborliness that I guarantee we all secretly (or openly) want from one another. That’s all anyone could ever want, no?
So with this in mind, a live musical set in the early 1960s was an inevitable success on national television. It was everything we all wanted packaged, tied with a ribbon, and delivered by your preference of cable provider. Thank you ‘Hairspray’ for being the latest staple of Retro Living. Cheers, darlings!