Director, actor, writer, and owner of a badass pencil moustache
. He spent much of the 70s-80s making low budget exploitation films, such as Pink Flamingos
and Female Trouble
. He achieved relative mainstream acceptance with Hairspray
, in 1988.His films all take place in Baltimore
, and are packed with as much sleaze as possible. They celebrate trashy Americana, with awful fashion and gaudy designs
featured prominently. He has a regular group of actors
, chief among them the late drag performer
Divine.Likes a good smoke.
"Tasteful tropes about bad taste":
- Alliterative Name: Tracy Turnblad, Francine Fishpaw, Dawn Davenport, etc.
- Alternate DVD Commentary: Provides it for Christmas Evil, of all things. Also provided one for Mommie Dearest.
- Affectionate Parody: Of So Bad, It's Good B-Movies.
- Black Comedy: Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble and Desperate Living all get gleefully twisted.
- Black Comedy Rape: In Multiple Maniacs, Lady Divine is raped by a giant lobster called Lobstora.
- The Chicken Rape in Pink Flamingos. Made even worse by the fact that they actually raped that chicken.
- Camp Gay/Straight Gay: One of the few people who manages to somehow embody both aspects at once.
- Canon Discontinuity: Did not include The Diane Linkletter Story in his filmography in his first autobiography Shock Value. May be a case of Creator Backlash, as he mainly made it to test out a new camera he had.
- City of Weirdos: Baltimore
- Cloudcuckooland: Baltimore and its suburbs.
- Creator Provincialism: All of his movies are set in Baltimore.
- Cringe Comedy
- Exploitation Film
- Genre Shift: Polyester was his first step toward the mainstream. It took him to Hairspray to actually get there, but, it is the earliest film of his that Leonard Maltin includes a review of in his books.
- Grossout Show: Many of his movies would qualify. Especially Pink Flamingos.
- Identical Stranger: He looks so similar to Steve Buscemi that he once put a picture of Buscemi on his Christmas cards to see if anyone would notice.
- Insult Backfire: A long-delayed example, but it counts. Rex Reed had hated Female Trouble, to the point that in his review he had asked, "Where do these people come from? Where do they go when the sun goes down? Isn't there a law or something?" When Female Trouble was released on DVD, this quote was on the front of its box.
- Keep Circulating the Tapes: Mondo Trasho has yet to see DVD release due to rights issues (Waters took the soundtrack from his own records collection), but was released on VHS, making it rare but available.
- Lost Forever: While not lost in the same way as, say, London After Midnight, Waters refuses to release his first three movies in any format, and they have not appeared since their original showings.
- Lysistrata Gambit: He's recommended this as a way to promote reading.
"We need to make books cool again. If you go home with somebody and they donít have books, donít fuck them. Donít let them explore you until theyíve explored the secret universes of books. Donít let them connect with you until theyíve walked between the lines on the pages. Books are cool, if you have to withhold yourself from someone for a bit in order for them to realize this then do so."
- Self-Deprecation: Appears at the start and end of The Lonely Island's song "The Creep", as apparently, to be a certified creeper, you need to look like John Waters.
- Stylistic Suck: His movies are intentionally trashy
- Tactful Translation: Brought Female Trouble to a film festival in Antwerp, Belgium. While describing the film, the translator became so appalled at what Waters was saying that she stopped translating his comments and started telling the audience something completely different. Because Waters doesn't speak Dutch, he didn't know this was happenening until someone told him afterwards.
- True Art Is Not Popular: Invoked in a criticism of the standards of the art world:
"In the art world, if everyone likes your art, it's terrible."
- Vulgar Humor: All over the place. Refuge in Audacity does not even begin to cover it.