Prudy Pingleton is a supporting antagonist of John Waters' 1988 film Hairspray, its stage musical adaptation, and its (the stage musical's) 2007 film adaptation. She is the wife of Paddy Pingleton and devout Catholic (yet racial) mother of Penny Pingleton, whom she forbids to go to the house of her best friend Tracy Turnblad, though she happens to be an acquaintance of Tracy's mother Edna. She doesn't sing in either film, but she does in the musical before one and after the other. Her husband is present in the 1988 film, but is said to be in prison in the 2007 one. She is portrayed by Joann Havrilla in the 1988 adaption, Allison Janney in the 2007 adaption and Andrea Martin in the 2016 NBC live musical telecast.
Hairspray (1988 adaption)
In the 1988 film, she is all-frantic and called to tell Edna Penny was punished (and she knows it), though it's not known why. When she finds her, she forces her to wear a giant "P" on her blouse every day to school to symbolize that she's punished forever. Later in the film, when Tracy, Link and Penny head to North Avenue to join Seaweed and his friend's to dance at Motormouth Records owned by his mother Motormouth Maybelle, Prudy sees that Penny's joined them and hails a taxi, franfically asking the taxicab driver to follow the same bus. When she sees them walking down the street, she asks the driver the stop the cab and she's left at her destination. Fearful of North Avenue and the street's inhabitants, she's nearly running for her life when she's persued by a kind colored man getting drunk from his rum bottle who asks her to kindly buy him another bottle. As the other colored residents watch in laughter at Prudy's antics, Prudy begs for her life, hands the drunken man all the money from her wallet and tells him to go away (even though he poses no threat to her). Prudy then takes off running and manages to spot a police car and asks for his help only to realize to horror that the police officer is a colored man, causing her to scream loudly and take off running again.
Eventually, Prudy manages to punish Penny again by tracking her location along with the help fo her husband and their doctor who tries to brainwash Penny into dating "white boys". Shocked by this, Penny and Seaweed attempt to escape but Prudy and her husband overpower her and lead the reluctant Penny to their car to take her away back home. During this, Prudy tries to trick Penny into trusting her and the doctor out of false belief that they're doing the right thing in kidnapping and brainwashing her. She even goes as far as to order their doctor to put her daughter in a straight-jacket with the aid of her husband. Fearing she'll never see him again, Penny screams to Seaweed that she loves him and Prudy and her husband both tell Penny to shut her mouth and they drag her away into the family car, leaving Seaweed, Tracy, Link and the Turblads to watch helplessly at what's happened to Penny. The following day, when the race riot breaks out at Tilted Acres and Penny sees from her television set that Tracy was arrested, Prudy overhears Penny's chants for her friend to be released and she and her husband order their doctor to abuse Penny with an eletric shoker device as punishment for befriending a bad influence and for dating a black boy, much to Penny's dismay. Later that night, when Penny and Seaweed are reunited upon his intents to help her escape, Prudy enters her daughter's room and turns off her television set for her cheering on Tracy's release from prison. Prudy then tries to get her daughter to listen to her, reminding her how lucky it was that she wasn't at Tilted Acres when the race riot broke out. Penny rebuffs her mother's claims, wishing that she'd rather be at a hootnanny in Harlem. During this, she hears laughter and finds Seaweed, Penny's black love interest, under her bed. Terrified to find colored people in her house, she attempts to make a citizen's arrest. Seaweed and Penny then leave her room and run out the front door, causing Prudy to panic and try to stop them, yelling frantically. This alerts her racially similar husband Paddy who, sitting in his chair reading the newspaper about the race roit outbreak at Tilted Acres, sees who Penny is leaving the house hand-in-hand with and becomes enraged. Both Prudy and Paddy try to stop Penny form leaving but are unsucessful in the latter as Seaweed and Penny mange to escape her dysfuntional household together never to reutnr again. As Prudy and Paddy watch heplessly as Penny and Seaweed escape, Prudy cries while her husband curses both Penny and Seaweed, vowing that because of her betrayal to them, she is no longer their daughter and that to them, she is banned forever and punished until the day she dies. Prudy and Paddy aren't seen again after this.
Hairspray (2007 adaption)
In the 2007 film, because Penny hadn't gotten permission to be at the Turnblads' house, Prudy bans her not only from going there, but also from watching The Corny Collins Show, pointing out (when she says without it, she has nothing) that having nothing builds character.
Much later, in the same adaptation, because Tracy is at the Pingletons' and the police are on their way, and also because Penny had harbored a fugitive without her permission, Prudy ties her to her bed with a jumprope, plays a recording of "The Lord's Prayer", forces her to live on only saltine crackers and Tang, and sprinkles holy water on her yelling "Devil child! Devil child!". Unknown to her, Seaweed entered through the window and cut the jumprope after finding out the knots couldn't be untied. The next day, while Prudy is reading the Bible, she finds Penny on TV with Seaweed, to her (Prudy's) dismay.