December 8, 2016

The NYT wanted "Hairspray Live!" to "amaze and distress us with its continued relevance in 2016."

The Broadway musical was the latest show to get the live-TV treatment (previously seen in "The Sound of Music" and "Peter Pan" and — I'm losing track — "Grease"?).

The musical, which came out in 2002, was based on a film that came out in 1988, and it told a story of a fictional dance show that was on TV in 1962. So TV in 1962 became film in 1988 and musical theater in 2002 and got back to TV in 2016.

But the hope of the NYT was that it would be relevant in 2016.
Based on the 1988 John Waters film, the musical’s story of social outcasts and racial barriers is set in 1962, and it should amaze and distress us with its continued relevance in 2016. The broadcast, though, didn’t generate as much power it could have because of all the shots of the cast members golf-carting from one set to another, of viewing parties in various cities and so on.
What are we talking about? Who watches of a bunch of singing actors on TV knocking themselves out to produce a big live show? Might these viewers get a kick out of the backstage stuff, golf carts and all? The NYT wants "us" to be amazed and distressed. Distressed?! By the continued relevance?

Yes, the show is about racial prejudice — overcoming it with song and dance and teenage enthusiasm. The elite-media hope is that we'll watch this theater-on-TV antic and think — not Wow, Maddie Baillio is a star and I love Jennifer Hudson — but: America still struggles to overcome its shameful history of racial oppression. Or even: How tragic, the innocent dreams of these teenagers, who could not have imagined that half a century later racist America would elect Donald J. Trump!

I must give the NYT credit for not mentioning Trump. I felt I was being nudged to think about Trump, and that caused me to Google and see all the news outlets that covered "Hairspray Live!" in terms of Donald Trump. (And "Hairspray" is not actually about hairspray, which does call Donald Trump to mind.)

I'll just cherry pick one Trump-focused review of last night's big show. This is from A.V. Club:
Hairspray ... arrives as America is still grappling with the notion of having Donald Trump as a president...

[A]s Trump was busy attacking private citizens on Twitter, Hairspray Live! was celebrating the idea that we’re stronger together than we are apart. That’s just the kind of jubilant, cathartic message a lot of people need to hear right now....

Favorite celebrity cameo: It’s a tossup between Sean Hayes as plus-sized clothing storeowner Mr. Pinky, and Rose O’Donnell as the high school gym teacher (a piece of casting that feels like an explicit ‘fuck you’ to Trump).
Somehow the show's message of love and happiness is supposed to feel like an expression of hatred toward the man who just got himself elected. There are a whole lot of Americans who voted for Donald Trump. A new poll has his favorability rating at 50%. Something tells me the TV audience for a live Broadway musical is even more Trump-friendly then the American electorate in general.

The idea of "Hairspray Live!" working as anti-Trumpiana feels as out of touch as the assurance that Hillary Clinton's campaign was a celebration of the idea that we’re stronger together than we are apart.

46 comments:

tim maguire said...

The Times hopes we find Hairspray relevant. They should be hoping we find The Times relevant.

Wilbur said...

The presence of Rosie O'Donnell is an explicit FU to the half of America that has no use for her personally or professionally.

Grant said...

Is anybody else wondering why they don't make a musical of Pink Flamingos? Because seeing a transvestite eating shit live on stage every night has "Trump administration" written all over it.

David Begley said...

I think Rosie was just available and at a good price.

Bay Area Guy said...

Hairspray is about teenagers dancing in 1962? I thought that was Grease?

rehajm said...

Remember when Borat was touted by the left as an 'important' film?

The comment section over there is full of same.

Brando said...

Hairspray! is very relevant. I don't know about you, but after watching that movie I don't feel comfortable watching segregated dance shows.

Wait, that's not true, I couldn't care less.

Bill Peschel said...

Watching "Hairspray" certainly makes me wonder why Hollywood is so racist, sexist, and intolerant. We've seen plenty of movies in which female parts are few and relegated to minor supporting roles. My wife reminded me yesterday that Hailee Steinfeld, the star of "True Grit", was nominated for Best Supporting Actress despite having the most screen time and being the character who drives the story.

Oh, wait, that's not what The Times meant, did they?

Coincidentally, I paged through their Sunday magazine with Scorcese on the cover. Trump's win has cast a heavy pall over the lives of the writers (who of course assume that what they're feeling is what all of the important people are feeling). When it's not a thirtysomething boy who flees Little Rock and his father's passion for high school football and returning to see it in a different liberal-approved way, to Glenn Beck kowtowing to Ana Marie Cox for bringing on Trump by criticizing Obama (I can hear the late, great Ron Glass saying on "Barney Miller": "No ego problems here!"), I remember why I was so happy to leave journalism. When they're not following the corporate or liberal line, they're so fucking boring.

MayBee said...

I'm trying to imagine celebrity who is a birther and calls one of the Obama girls autistic being cast in a show at all, let alone it being kind of celebrated as a "fuck you" to Obama.

MayBee said...

I'm not all that excited about every cultural thing having to be a complaint against Trump. We went through this with Bush. Then with Obama, every cultural event had to include him positively (interviews before all the sporting events, for example)

MayBee said...

[A]s Trump was busy attacking private citizens on Twitter, Hairspray Live! was celebrating the idea that we’re stronger together than we are apart. That’s just the kind of jubilant, cathartic message a lot of people need to hear right now....

If that's what we need right now, live it.
The people preaching that "stronger together" really only seem to mean..."let's make sure all right-thinking people band together to strong-arm the others"

Debbie Haag said...

"[A]s Trump was busy attacking private citizens on Twitter, Hairspray Live! was celebrating the idea that we’re stronger together than we are apart."

Sad that this reviewer seems compelled to use Hillary Clinton's slogan while slamming Trump. In the words of another musical, "Let. It. Go."

rosebud said...

The Wiz, not Grease

MisterBuddwing said...

So TV in 1962 became film in 1988 and musical theater in 2002 and got back to TV in 2016.

You left out the 2007 movie version of the Broadway play. (I thought the 2007 remake was an overproduced nightmare, and I don't understand people who claim to adore the score, which isn't nearly as memorable as Rachel Sweet's "Hairspray" in the 1988 film.)

The fictitious "Corny Collins Show" was based on Baltimore's very real "Buddy Deane Show" which ended up being canceled because Deane wanted to racially integrate his program.

traditionalguy said...

Trump is not culture-spirit centered. But he understands the dominance of a culture first approach and shows off his skill at working with it as a necessary defense against the coming fantasy based counter-attack by the psyops industry, like this stupid pretense that we all are living in a 1960 racial climate. Then DJT turns back to his real goal, which is to be the builder of an ahead of schedule and under budget reality.

This dude has too many simultaneous talents to lose.

Phil 3:14 said...

There is still racism in this world and we must fight it in our relevant, musically way.

Phil 3:14 said...

Is Milo Yiannopoulos the alternative universe version of John Waters?

Paco Wové said...

I suspect many NYT commenters live with an internal monologue that now begins every thought with, "as America is still grappling with the notion of having Donald Trump as a president...", e.g.:

"Even as America grapples with the notion of having Donald Trump as a president, I probably ate too much last night."

"Traffic's really bad this morning, as America grapples with the notion of having Donald Trump as a president."

Etc.

mezzrow said...

Is Milo Yiannopoulos the alternative universe version of John Waters?

Waters was kind of a prequel to Milo. As hard as it may already be to be Milo, it would have been harder without guys like Waters, who pointed out things that people didn't want to see because it made them uncomfortable. No parallel there, eh?

Plus, there's the whole gay thing which really goes without saying, but I said it anyway.

Titus said...

You should read the NYTimes Critic Reviews for the top 10 movies of 2016. About half the reviews refer to Trump.

BTW I am very excited about watching Moonlight. Chocolate Hog-yum.

Hunter said...

Still love the left's version of national unity:

"We're stronger together than we are apart -- so shut the fuck up, you stupid, racist, homophobic inbred hicks, and get on board with our agenda for progress."

Ann Althouse said...

"You should read the NYTimes Critic Reviews for the top 10 movies of 2016. About half the reviews refer to Trump."

I have been avoiding clicking on that link (mostly because I have gone to the movies this year and don't intend to) but now I will. Thanks.

Ann Althouse said...

Okay. I read that. I think it's more critical of dragging Trump into everything. Key passage:

"Think pieces promising to tell us “How [insert title here] Explains Trump” popped up after Nov. 8 like mushrooms after a rainstorm, and entertainment has been mined for signs and symptoms of working-class disaffection, coastal-elitist bubble-think, fake-news gullibility and every other real and imaginary affliction of the American body politic. But cinema is better at exploring than explaining, and the screen is more like a prism or a kaleidoscope than a mirror or a window. We seldom get the news from movies."

Titus said...

James Baldwin-I am Not Your Negro movie review....Trump

FleetUSA said...

The NYT is aimed at a smaller and smaller audience. The Old Grey Lady has entered the coma stage of life.

mikee said...

Hairspray doesn't really work outside of its Baltimore milieu of segregation. Segregation by race, by income, by neighborhood, by ethnic background, by education, by sexual orientation, and on and on and on. When I moved to Baltimore after living in North and South Carolina, Georgia and Texas, I was amazed at the increased level of segregation and racism and sexual oppression I encountered in Maryland's Armpit on the Bay. John Waters caught that mess perfectly with Divine cast as the lead in his movie.

In Baltimore generational feuds occur over two inches of space along property lines in back of row houses, where back yards are separated by chain link fences and which side of the pole the chain link goes on is important. When the differences are really small, the importance of the conflict increases in inverse proportions. That is the sort of Bawlmer idiocy Waters captured in his film.

Know that the old segregations in Hairspray as shown in Baltimore makes sense, for Baltimore is a Democrat-run cesspool of corruption, racism, sexism, and classism, while in the modern South the story just looks like a funny story of strange Northern hangups that we got over last century.

mikee said...

If you want a Waters film to savor, try "Peckerhead," shot in my Balmer neighborhood of Hampden. The film captures the place in detail, and the times in complete irreverence.

Bay Area Guy said...

The movie Grease did not depict a single teenager of color. Therefore, John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John are racists.

I think that's how the left wing NYT-reading mind works.

Robert Cook said...

@mikee:

Actually the film's title was "Pecker."

A very entertaining film.

tcrosse said...

One wonders what the bien pensants would be writing if HRC had won the election ?

Jupiter said...

"Hillary Clinton's campaign was a celebration of the idea that we’re stronger together than we are apart."

A lot of people have concluded that we would be stronger together, if we could find some way to get shut of these whiny, parasitic losers.

protestmanager said...

The Broadway musical was the latest show to get the live-TV treatment (previously seen in "The Sound of Music" and "Peter Pan" and — I'm losing track — "Grease"?).

Rent, Les Misérables

EMD said...

was celebrating the idea that we’re stronger together

That sales pitch failed.

EMD said...

"[A]s Trump was busy attacking private citizens on Twitter,"

Was he?

Seeing Red said...

My daughter was excited.

Overall she liked to but felt it dragged.

They changed and added dialog and songs.

Preached to.



Grease was really enjoyable.

Dave in Tucson said...

the continued relevance? Yes, the show is about racial prejudice

To borrow one from Jon Gabriel (by way of Instapundit), my favorite part of the Obama administration is all the racial healing.

Jupiter said...

Dave in Tucson said...

"To borrow one from Jon Gabriel (by way of Instapundit), my favorite part of the Obama administration is all the racial healing."

I don't know about "healing". I'd say we are making racial progress. Some races more than others.

tcrosse said...

Heavy sarcasm. It's not just for breakfast anymore.

Michael Fitzgerald said...

"(a piece of casting that feels like an explicit ‘fuck you’ to Trump)."

Looking forward to all the entertainment to come aimed only at saying Fuck You to Donald Trump. Yesterday we were treated to the Psycho Bitch Christmas Carol, maybe before the Season is over we'll see a baby Jesus(pronounced Hay-Zeus) flipping the bird to Donald J Herod. I assume a president Trump assassination movie is already in production...

Scott Anderson said...

I'm thinking of becoming a leftist because it is a lot easier on the brain. Anytime you see something you don't like just shout, 'Racism' and problem solved.

Rob Schwarz said...

I was distracted by the donut licker. Found the internet more interesting.

LarsPorsena said...

Hairspray is old and tired. I think 'The Human Centipede' would be more relevant to NYTs readers.

Bob Loblaw said...

It's funny how predictable and dull people get when they're trying to be transgressive.

Steve said...

The hard working commissars of the Ministry of Not Fake Information are obviously distressed that even though they have doubled their output per worker, there is still a serious deficit of people buying this crap.

Neo said...

I guess I really missed the message.
I thought this was Stephen Hawking's alternate universe.

mikee said...

Robert Cook, I never thought I would agree with you about anything, ever. But you are correct, sir, about the movie title being Pecker. Peckerheads came out of my brain as a long-repressed memory of the referent by older men for, in my southern upbringing, appallingly stupid young men.