image for Hairspray

Short takes

Not recommended under 5 (Lacks interest, Themes) PG to 13 (Themes).

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Hairspray
  • a review of Hairspray completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 13 September 2007.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 5 Not recommended due to lack of interest and themes
Children aged 5-13 Parental guidance recommended due to themes.
Children over the age of 13 OK without parental guidance

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Hairspray
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild sexual references; Infrequent mild coarse language
Length: 116 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Hairspray is a lively musical set in 1962 Baltimore, USA, at a time of racial segregation. Tracy Turnblad (Nikki Blonsky) is a refreshing teenager whose favourite pastime is watching the Corny Collins show, a singing and dancing television programme which showcases high school students. When a position on the show becomes available Tracy goes to audition but because she is rather overweight she is laughed off the set.
Tracy shows great courage and determination in overcoming both social and racial prejudices to gain her spot on the Corny Collins show and achieve racial integration on the programme as well. She also endears herself to the audience, much to the horror of former favourite Amber Von Tussle (Brittany Snow) and her mother Velma, (Michelle Pfeiffer) the producer of the show. Velma does her best to get rid of Tracy but this backfires spectacularly.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Racial and social prejudice; Body image

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence and accidental injury in this movie including:

  • Girls push and shove each other in the rush to get out of school.
  • Amber frequently gets knocked over and pushed on the dance floor.
  • Tracy pushes some girls out of the way.
  • Tracy gets knocked down by a basketball.
  • A protest against racial segregation gets rather aggressive and Tracy hits a policeman with her board.
  • Tracy’s mother Edna (John Travolta) throws something at her husband Wilbur (Christopher Walken)
  • Tracy’s friend Amanda’s mother is very intolerant and ties her daughter to her bed when she finds out she’s been dancing with ‘coloured’ people. She calls her a ‘devil’s child’.
  • Amber falls from a chair, which is high up on the stage.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • The scene where Amanda’s mother ties her to a bed and waves a cross over her could be disturbing for young children.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

In addition to the above mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • Some children in this age group may also be disturbed by the scene where Amanda’s mother ties her to a bed and waves a cross over her, calling her “devil’s child”.

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this film.

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • A flasher opens his coat but nothing is shown.
  • Girls stuff falsies in their bras and a boy puts one down his pants.
  • Tracy sings :”I won’t go all the way but I’ll go pretty far”

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • Edna is shown in her underwear.
  • Velma tries to seduce Wilbur and acts seductively

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • There is some drinking in a pub
  • A pregnant woman is shown drinking and smoking

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • Oh my God
  • Kiss my arse

In a nutshell

Hairspray is an uplifting musical comedy/drama which is a remake of the original made in 1988. It is very entertaining, although John Travolta cross-dressing as Edna Turnblad is somewhat disconcerting.

The main messages from this movie are that the colour of one’s skin should be of no importance; also to follow your dreams and to stand up for what you believe in.
Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Tolerance
  • Courage
  • Determination
  • Speaking out against injustice
  • Overcoming prejudices – both racial and social
  • Realising that good character is more important than body image

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss ways to solve problems without resorting to the use of violence.