How do the themes/plots of the movie Hairspray (2007) compare to the play A Raisin in the Sun?

Hairspray and A Raisin in the Sun explore similar themes, like race and identity. Hairspray examines race through several issues of racial discrimination in segregated Baltimore. Similarly, A Raisin in the Sun comments on racial injustice through the Younger family’s struggles, like the confrontation with the housing association. Hairspray also explores the complexities of identity through issues of race and body image. A Raisin in the Sun explores identity too, but focuses more on the African American struggle for self-identity.

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The movie Hairspray explores many of the same themes as Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun, like racial discrimination and identity. Hairspray takes place in segregated Baltimore in the 1960s and depicts the racial injustices of the time in many forms. For example, consider how African Americans are not allowed on the Corny Collins Shows except for one day a month. Tracy is outraged when this day is canceled and suggests a march against injustice in her community. As she learns more about racial discrimination so does the audience, and the film brings attention to the way that white people have marginalized African Americans for years. Similarly, A Raisin in the Sun puts a spotlight on racism. Consider the pivotal moment in which the neighborhood association tries to stop the Youngers from moving because the white people in their new community do not want Black neighbors. This underscores deep-rooted issues of systemic racism.

Both Hairspray and A Raisin in the Sun also explore themes of identity. In Hairspray, sixteen-year-old Tracy and her friends are in high school, which is a time in which many young people struggle with learning about who they are and what they look like. The film highlights issues of body image, race, and gender expression to send a message of self-love and respect for all people. The last scene in which all of the characters are dancing is kind of a celebration of this. A Raisin in the Sun deals with identity too, but focuses more on the African American struggle of self-identity as well as the complexities of gender identity. For instance, Asagai wants Beneatha to embrace ancestral tradition and abandon material comforts, while George offers her a secure financial future. Walter Lee also struggles with his self-esteem and feels beaten down by the constraints on him because of his race. All these men depict the multilayered conflicts faced in the development of African American self-identity. Meanwhile, Beneath struggles with similar issues, as well as ones specific to her identity as a female, like how to marry her independence and passion for a career with the social limitations she faces as a woman. Hansberry does not shy away from presenting the negative aspects of certain identities and thus is a bit less positive in exploring this theme than Hairspray is.

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