Q44: Adventures in the Mainstream

Q 44) The Palmer men go to see a production of the musical Hairspray.

“Hairspray concerns Tracy Turnblad’s efforts to integrate an American Bandstand-style television show in the 1960’s…


In the Baltimore high school Turnblad attends, the black students are so shunned and ignored that they are all dumped into Special Education classes.  They realize, and Ms. Turnblad agrees, that any future they might have is impossible because once you’re a Special Ed student your life is over. I and around a lot of re-tard jokes, much of the first act of the musical concerns our heroine’s trying to convince the rest of the student body, the school administration, and the black students themselves that they are so much better than all those hopeless Special Ed students, none of whom is seen, of course.  Hairspray the Musical, in other words, champions the cause of fat kids, African-Americans and their contributions to our culture, and aging overweight men in ugly frocks, but sees absolutely nothing wrong in the insulting denigration of people with disabilities.  I’m just grateful that Ned, like every other person in the audience as far as I could tell, didn’t pick up on any of this crap….


Yeah, I know, I am overly sensitive to this issue.  But I also know that the first people Hitler rounded up after he came to power weren’t the Jews, the Gypsies, or the Seventh Day Adventists.  The first people he killed were the mentally retarded.  And almost nobody cared.”  pp. 307-308


Palmer points out the discrimination found in this Broadway and film musical.  Do you think he’s “overly sensitive?”  What other films, television shows, or plays can you think of that use people with developmental disabilities to make a point?

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