Follow TV Tropes


Creator / John Waters

Go To


John Samuel Waters Jr. (born April 22, 1946 in Baltimore, Maryland) is an American director, producer, actor, screenwriter, and owner of a badass pencil moustache. He spent much of the '70s and '80s making low-budget exploitation films, such as Pink Flamingos and Female Trouble, before achieving relative mainstream acceptance with Hairspray in 1988.

Waters' films all take place in his hometown of Baltimore, are packed with as much sleaze as possible, and celebrate trashy Americana, with awful fashion and gaudy designs featured prominently. He also has a regular group of actors, known as the Dreamlanders, chief among them the late drag performer Divine.

Likes a good smoke.


"Tasteful tropes about bad taste":

  • 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.
  • Cloudcuckooland: Baltimore and its suburbs.
  • Creator Backlash: He has gone on record stating that he regrets making Multiple Maniacs a full-length feature.
  • Creator Provincialism: All of his films are set in Baltimore.
  • Cringe Comedy
  • Do Not Do This Cool Thing: invoked Not his films, but he mercilessly parodied this in a theater warning which featured himself. He's supposed to tell the audience that smoking is restricted in the theater, but he does so by intentionally sending out mixed signals, like happily puffing on a cigarette himself and questioning the validity of the rule.
  • 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 films would qualify. Especially Pink Flamingos.
  • Insult Backfire: 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?" The quote was posted on the Waverly Theater poster, and in Village Voice ads for the film. When 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.
    • Same thing happened with Multiple Maniacs due to one of the songs.
    • In 2016, the film was restored and rereleased theatrically. It was issued a DVD/Blu-ray by The Criterion Collection the next year.
  • The Knights Who Say "Squee!": In Shock Value, he tells a story about bringing his Dreamlanders crew up to New York City to visit Andy Warhol's Factory, and that Warhol was absolutely amazed by Edith Massey.
  • 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."
  • No Animals Were Harmed: Averted. Several chickens are decapitated in Mondo Trasho, and a chicken is raped and crushed to death in Pink Flamingos. Regarding the latter, he said:
    "Animal rights activists always say to me 'How could you kill a chicken for a movie?' Well, I eat chicken, and I know the chicken didn't land on my plate from a heart attack. We bought the chicken from a farmer who advertised freshly-killed chicken. I think we made the chicken's life better. It got to be in a movie, got fucked, and then right after filming the next take, the cast ate the chicken."
    • He has gone on record as saying he does regret killing the chickens in Mondo Trasho, since he just left them in the gutter to rot.
  • Public Domain Feature Films: Mondo Trasho was never properly copyrighted due to Waters using licensed music without permission and his Old Shame towards the final cut.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Yes. Screenings of Pink Flamingos handed out vomit bags called "Pink Phlegmingos".
    • Waters told film critic Dennis Dermody that vomit was like a standing ovation, and Dermody, who was working in one of the theaters at that time, said he'd had to clean up about three ovations a night.
  • 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 Waters.
  • Stylistic Suck: All his films 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 and started telling the audience something completely different. Because Waters doesn't speak Dutch, he didn't know this was happening 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.


Video Example(s):


John Waters Theater Warning

He's supposed to tell the audience that smoking is restricted in the theater but he does so by intentionally sending out mixed signals, like happily puffing on a cigarette himself and questioning the validity of the rule.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / DoNotDoThisCoolThing

Media sources: