Shaidle Unchained

John Waters, Singular Maniac

April 04, 2017

What did startle me was one of Waters’ offscreen talking points. In virtually every promotional interview, he’s said a variation on the following, regarding the scene in which the “Weatherman” and “Lady Divine” (a criminal of apolitical persuasion) swap cop-killing anecdotes:

I look back on it now and think: “Oh my God, all this stuff about killing cops—not even the most radical group would say anything like that today.” And you forget, in the ’60s, “Off the pig” was a common slogan on a march, which is shocking today to look back on.

And in not one of these many interviews did anyone shoot back: “Are you still high? You live in FUCKING BALTIMORE!”

You know: Freddie Gray. Riots. Black Lives Matter. “Pigs in a blanket, fry ’em like bacon.

In Charm City 2017, poor Tracy Turnblad wouldn’t end up dancing merrily with the black guys on the freshly integrated Corny Collins Show. Instead, they’d rape and kill her in an alley behind the studio. And no one would riot in her memory. After all, Baltimore averages a murder a day. Who can keep up?

I said earlier that Breitbart’s televised meeting with his hero was a disaster. It took place during the Tea Party’s ascendancy (which had been accompanied by the inevitable scatological response from the left), so Waters greeted him with “So are you a Tea Bag top or bottom?” The audience dutifully howled.

But, well, it’s not really funny, is it? Neither is Waters’ quip that Milo Yiannopoulos is “just the next Fred Phelps.” I’ll bet his famous mustache curdled when he mouthed that dumb, leaden line.

Yet those are the familiar sad, sputtering sounds liberals make when they’re trapped. Like all transgressive, avant garde blah blah blah progressives, Waters finds himself stuck in the very future he helped create—a reality show host for president!?!—but which is no longer under his control.

His apparent confusion about the real world extends even to one topic you’d think he’d be an expert on: political correctness.

He always insists perversely (and again, without journalistic pushback) that “all my movies are politically correct,” but then again, he clearly doesn’t understand the concept:

My philosophy is “Don’t judge other people until you know the whole story” and “Mind your own business.” That’s politically correct. That’s a very democratic way of thinking.

Like the kids say today: I can’t even!

Don’t get me wrong. The world will always need a John Waters or two. But he was never one of my heroes, even though, through his books—which mostly (and entertainingly) catalog his “loves” and “hates”—I learned about other artists I went on to revere, like Flannery O’Connor. For that I’m grateful.

Trying to track down a quote I didn’t end up using here, I came across another, in the revised edition of Crackpot, put out in 2003, fifteen years after the first. In a new introduction, Waters reevaluates some of his old passions, such as smoking. (He’d since quit.)

And after reading journalist Oriana Fallaci’s new book (‘The Rage and the Pride’), I think I hate her now rather than love her.

“Hate” is such a strong word. But I think I know how he feels.

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