The filth and feminism of “Pink Flamingos”

This is likely going to be my last blog post before I enter the pulsating caffeine and home-made taco infused vortex that is Graduate School life. I figured I’d talk about a movie that is literally tattooed onto my heart and brain stems. It’s been called the vilest and most repulsive film ever. And for me its magic.

John Waters’ “Pink Flamingos” doesn’t just use filth as an aesthetic; it is filth incarnate. The plot involves a “filthiness” competition between Divine (played by the drag queen of the same name) a woman who lives in the forest and puts frozen steaks up her dress to keep them warm, and the Marbles (Mink Stole and David Lochary) a multi-colored hair couple with a penchant for foot fetishes and human trafficking. There is a sex-scene that involves the killing of a live chicken, a blow job between mother and a son, and the actual eating of dog feces on camera.

Yet it is precisely because of “Pink Flamingo’s” unapologetic embrace of everything transgressive that makes it so special for me. In the film, the bizarre outsiders are the ones who are normal, and it is in fact “polite society” that is held up as freakish. The film’s director John Waters stated “They may hate it. But they can’t not talk about it. That was the point. It was a terrorist act against the tyranny of good taste.”

For me, “Pink Flamingos” is an example of a feminist movie, albeit one on a much more cerebral level. Its feminism is all about transgression, about looking at every Leave it to Beaver, Norman Rockwell-esque narrative and then taking an exploding jack-hammer to it. Feminism elicits discomfort and outright hate, but if it’s not drawing those feelings out from people, it may not be doing what it has to.

“Pink Flamingos” utilizes characters who subvert the notions of gender, sexuality and human communication itself and showcases them as the kind of All American Families you find in Washington D.C calendars. At the center is Divine, the foul-mouthed, unhygienic and sexually audacious matriarch who only wants to live at peace with the knowledge that she is, indeed the “filthiest person alive.” It goes without saying that this film is NOT one to be taken literally, as incest and feces eating is appealing to only select threads on reddit and the entirety of 4chan.

Nonetheless,  I view the film as a call for the destruction of stratified narratives and the embracing of our sense of selves entirely; mundane conformity be damned! Feminism has always been the promotion of opportunity and authenticity, where the only thing that should hold back our personal brand of excellence is our own laziness. Our excellence can be Law School or a pig’s head for a birthday present but it’s the right of everyone, especially those on the margins of society, to pursue that excellence. “Pink Flamingos'” filthiness is a gun shot across our skins, a sting that tells us to unabashedly be who we want to.

(featured image Wikimedia Commons- Sono l’autore Graziano Origa)


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