Wall Street Journal Soapbox: John Waters

The enigmatic auteur on his weird childhood, the sorry style of today’s rebels and the social importance of bad taste

By John Jurgensen (The Wall Street Journal, 3/29/2012)

GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL At 65, director John Waters is still impish, hilarious and subversive but has also mellowed a bit with age. Photograph by Adam Golfer.

John Waters, the writer and director who emerged from the midnight movie circuit of the 1970s, has earned his status as a social critic. In 13 feature films, including “Pink Flamingos” and “Hairspray,” he gleefully presents depraved characters undermining a society of squares.

In the seven years since he made his last film, the director has written “Role Models,” a collection of essays about his idols who hurdled over adversity, including Johnny Mathis, Little Richard and a seedy pornographer. He’s also hunting down funding for his next script, “Fruitcake,” a Christmas movie for kids. He lives in Baltimore, his native city and the setting for his films, in a house purchased in 1990.

At age 65, Waters remains a celebrated figure for counterculturists but accepts that his time as a revolutionary has passed. Earlier this year, protestors at Occupy Baltimore built an encampment they called Mortville, a tribute to the criminal enclave depicted in Waters’s film “Desperate Living.” Waters supports them but declined to join. “I have three homes and a summer rental, and some of my money is in Wall Street,” he explained. He champions younger filmmakers whom he says succeed in subversion, including Johnny Knoxville and Todd Phillips. At the same time, he reviles “the new bad taste,” which he defines as entertainment that tries too hard to shock and lacks inventiveness and wit.

“If your kid comes out of the bedroom and says he just shut down the government, he should have an outfit for that.”

Continue reading “John Waters” at The Wall Street Journal.

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