Poo Is Still Political, And 5 More Nuggets Of Advice From John Waters – Junkee

Posted: October 20, 2019 at 8:45 am


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"I'm PC. That might give you pause, but I am," says the 73 year old Pope of trash.

Early into John Waters 90-minute Make Trouble show at the Sydney Opera House a delightful mix of stand-up comedy, career retrospective and life coaching he sets out the nights agenda: were working towards a new kind of ghastly.

John Waters knows ghastly: he hasnt made a career off generating pearl-clutching so much as snatching the whole necklace and letting them scatter on the ground.

Fifty years since their release, his biggest films Female Trouble, Pink Flamingos continue to make conservatives trip over their filthy irreverenceShowgirls-style. While he hasnt directed a film since 2004, his many books, live shows and festivals continue to inspire queerdoes across the globe, including his latest book, Mr. Know It All.

If you missed out on Make Trouble, here are six pieces of advice Waters had, from navigating PC culture with irreverence, accepting your flaws and amending one of his most famous quotes.

We were a little worried when Waters referenced how college audiences require trigger warnings early into the night, but despite the continual references to PC culture, he never teetered into Jerry Seinfeld or Dave Chappelle territory.

Yes, Waters referenced not being able to get away with sleeping with your colleagues and questioned how difficult it is to be a delinquent in 2019, but his millennial bashing always came from a place of warmth. The harsh reality of PC culture is that parts of it are ridiculous we often lose our points in semantics, or celebrate war criminals for being feminist icons and Waters reminds us its okay to laugh at it.

The difference was that Waters, impressively, always punched up. There was always an empathy to his jokes, whether about college campus politics, people with emotional support animals, or autosexuals claiming to be the final letter of the LGBTIQA+ acronym. It was unlike anything wed seen before in stand-up at this level: a nuanced position built up over decades as one of the queer communitys leaders, and a sign that a 73-year-old can listen to todays emerging voices and opinions.

When Waters said, Im PC. That might give you pause, but I am, he fought against the connotations and limitations of the term, where conservatives have turned caring about people into a dismissive punchline.

Of course, he isnt perfect (a tangent about how Johnny Depp was always a gentleman during filming of Cry-Babywas unnecessary, to say the least) but Make Trouble, without directly saying it, demanded a more nuanced way of navigating the world, one where one comment doesnt invalidate all others.

Where many older queer men struggle with anything that doesnt centre themselves, Waters repeatedly noted that the trans community were the new target of conservatives and need the wider communitys support.

At one point, Waters went off about TERFS trans exclusionary radical feminists, who believe trans women are not real women and grew up privileged as they were assigned male. But, of course,he did this in a distinctly trashy way, imagining Big Freedia running into a gender-neutral bathroom to piss on a Republican voters child.

Im PC. That might give you pause, but I am.

Waters also was ready to acknowledge that many of his films havent aged well in regard to trans issues, specifically referencing Desperate Living, but stood by a scene in Pink Flamingos where actress Elizabeth Williams flashes a male pervert by revealing her breasts and penis.

According to Waters, the scene was important to Williams, a trans woman, as it meant she was making the joke before anyone else could. Waters repeatedly mentioned owning the joke as a powerful move forward.

In one part, Waters asks what a juvenile delinquent looks like now, saying its a far cry from smoking behind the bleachers. He lands on hackers shutting down the government and the likes of Greta Thunberg, who he calls the one person that angers conservatives as much as trans people.

In short, he jokes that its not enough to just be gay to be a rebel against society: its a good start, he says, but to actually stand on the fringes, you have to do more than smoke cigarettes and suck dick. In an era where LGBTIQ identity and anti-establishment aesthetics have been co-opted by capitalism, we need to do more to make a stand.

Throughout Make Trouble, Waters keeps coming back to scatology. More than half a decade later, Divine eating dog poo in Pink Flamingos remains a steaming hot talking point, even though it wasnt really that weird for his freakish friends.

He calls Flamingos a film of limits, and makes a big deal about of pushing whats deemed acceptable and whats not today, that war is less about what eating shit than how you present and showing up in hostile spaces. In Waters world, eating shit is the same as being unapologetically you.

Still, he says theres power in the Trojan Horse approach, noting how even racists like Hairspray, and that Divines presence in the mainstream remains a beacon of weirdness and gender-subversion even if that was never her intent. Divine wasnt trans. He didnt want to be a woman, he notes. He wanted to be a monster. The latters still important, too.

Waters has made a living off irreverence, and recommends failing upwards and how he owes his early career to drug-fuelled brainstorms. While he doesnt suggest we all do the same, its a reminder to not take our lives so seriously.

Talking about Polyesters infamous smell-o-vision, he says, All over the world people gave me money to smell a fart. We should be so lucky.

At the end of the night, audience members stood behind mics and yelled out questions from the crowd. We ended on an important one: a fact-check as to whether Waters ever said his oft-attributed quote, if you go home with someone and they dont own books, dont fuck them.

He did, for reference, but wanted to give an update: If you go home with someone and they have books in their bathroom, dont fuck them. Some things remaintoo gross.

John Waters latest book Mr. Know It All is out now. Photo by Prudence Upton. His Australian tour continues in Melbourne on Friday 18 October at Hamer Hall, and Saturday 19 October at MONA in Hobart.

Jared Richards is a staff writer at Junkee, and co-host of Sleepless In Sydney on FBi Radio. He is on Twitter.

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Poo Is Still Political, And 5 More Nuggets Of Advice From John Waters - Junkee

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October 20th, 2019 at 8:45 am

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