As a director, I appreciate his aesthetic far more than any other director I could name off the top of my head. As a person, I find his sense of humor resonates with my own, and honestly I haven’t watched a single one of his films that I haven’t enjoyed or seen a cameo of his that I haven’t smiled at. However, I am not a fan of Grease. “Whoa Rin,” you may be saying right now. “Chill out with the non sequiturs, you’re not even a hundred words into this thing.” Hear me out.
Now, I’m not the only person on this blog who harbors a special kind of loathing for this musical—the kind of loathing that only comes after loving something for so long, then realizing how problematic it is and not being able to ignore said problematic things. I’m sure most of us have been there. Grease’s sexism is inexcusable and, though Rizzo is still my girl, the worst thing I could do would be to write off these problems simply because of a catchy tune. Yet in cutting this musical out of my life, where am I going to get my fill of light-hearted 50’s style Americana? Enter John Waters with his musical Cry-Baby.
Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve adored musicals. If this is the case, you may be wondering to yourself, “well Rin, how come you haven’t written any Theatre Thursday posts?” My answer to that it is that while I love them, I tend to watch the same ones over and over again, so my amassed knowledge really isn’t all that impressive. And, when it comes to the musicals I have seen, I’m an unrepentant snob. (Don’t even talk to me about the 2007 release of Sweeney Todd.) However, as attached as I am to the musicals I’ve seen, I don’t like to completely write off re-makes until I’ve actually seen them for myself, and after Lady Saika wrote a post on the bubbly musical Hairspray, I figured it was about time that I finally sat down and watched it.
Hairspray, at least the 1988 John Waters film, has been one of my favorite films for a long while, beautiful in its kitschy glory and tongue-in-cheek look back on small town America during the 1960’s. (The plot is mostly the same as the musical’s, so I’m not going to go over it. If you want to know more, take a look at Saika’s post.) Yet I wouldn’t call the source material a musical, not really: it’s more of a dance-ical. There are songs—a whole album’s worth of songs—but there’s no singing involved, only small interludes of dancing. This already gives the musical adaptation an interesting challenge. And after watching it, I have to admit they handled it pretty well, even if some of my favorite scenes didn’t make it in. Unfortunately, I don’t have many other kind words for the musical. When comparing the two, I found that they actually removed a lot of the empowering moments from the original movie in addition to removing the agency from some of the major characters.