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Cinophile – Pink Flamingos

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The word ‘toilet humor’ is thrown around too easily these days. And too many films resort to disgusting punchlines because they don’t know how to be funny. But aficionados of the filthy gag know it is an artform and when done right is probably the funniest thing you could never show your gran. Yet she’s probably in on it, because she might have seen Pink Flamingos. Then again, maybe she hasn’t. There is no doubt that back in the day this film was banned…


John Waters is a name that resonates highly in the right circles. His pencil moustache is iconic. so are films like Serial Mom and Hairspray. The man might have also done more for the gay movement than a hundred pride parades. He probably wrote the book on camp. And he had the moxie to cast a 100%-legit transvestite in his 1972 masterpiece.

Divine, incidentally also the name of the crossdresser playing the part, is the world’s filthiest person. But she is hiding out in a trailer with her mentally-slow mom (who dresses like a baby and obsesses over eggs), her sexually deviant son (though deviant is putting it lightly) and her blonde friend (who is equally, er, deviant). Divine’s nemesis are a couple who engage in ample toe-sucking and run a baby-farm from their basement with the help of their gay butler. The couple are unhappy that, despite their worst deeds, they are not considered the filthiest people alive.


Hence the audience is taken on a journey of depravity, though one that feels like Waters simply rung up his strangest friends and asked: “You want to do that on camera?” The acting is feeble, the cinematography quite awful and the script just seems to run from one shocker to the next. Today Pink Flamingos seems tame, but in its day the combination of poor taste and comedy was groundbreaking and shocking.


Hands down the most notorious moment of Pink Flamingos happens at the end, but one avoids describing it because it might put you off watching the film at all. Which would be a shame, since there is plenty of other stuff in it that will put you off as well. But can you really live in a movie world where you think everything is a teen romcom or torture porn horror? Pink Flamingos is arguably the first toilet humor mainstream hit made and it really still stands on its own. Just don’t watch it with your gran. And if she’s seen it before, best not ask what else she got up to in the Seventies. Ignorance is bliss, after all.

Cinophile is a weekly feature showcasing films that are strange, brilliant, bizarre and explains why we love the movies.

Last Updated: July 2, 2013

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