Taming transgression: Gender-bending in Hairspray (John Waters, 1988) and its remake | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 10, Issue 2-3
  • ISSN: 1474-2756
  • E-ISSN: 2040-0578



There are significant differences between the original John Waters version of Hairspray (1988) and Adam Shankman’s 2007 remake in terms of the films’ camp sensibility and representations of queerness. While the original reflects a subversive attitude towards heteronormativity that draws on the social upheavals of the 1960s (as reflected by its music and self-awareness), the remake offers a sanitized and reassuring representation of gender-bending through its composed (rather than compiled) score and casting choices. This article explores the significance of the camp musical as a political vehicle for queer politics. It provides a detailed comparison of the performances of Divine and John Travolta in the key role of Edna Turnblad in order to consider the ways by which queer representations are being recuperated for the entertainment and economic benefit of mainstream audiences.


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  • Article Type: Article
Keyword(s): camp; gender-bending; John Waters; musical; queerness; Sixties
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