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Film / Desperate Living

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"Go home to your mother! Doesn't she ever watch you? Tell her, this isn't some communist daycare center! Tell your mother I hate her! Tell your mother I HATE YOU!"
Peggy Gravel (Mink Stole), later sampled in Portrait of an American Family

Desperate Living is a 1977 Black Comedy film written and directed by John Waters. It's the only film of his that doesn't star Divine prior to his death, as he was busy with another project at the time.

The film begins with Peggy Gravel, a suburban Social Climber, going on a psychotic break and murdering her husband. Her maid Grizelda Brown, a Sassy Black Woman, assists with the murder because the husband caught her stealing and was about to fire her. The two women go on the lam and end up in the Outlaw Town of Mortville. There they share a hovel with a lesbian couple, Mole McHenry and Muffy St. Jacques, who are butch and lipstick respectively. Meanwhile, Mortville is under the capricious rule of Queen Carlotta, the Big Bad, who enjoys putting her "subjects" through a never-ending Humiliation Conga. However, she is having her own problems with her daughter, the Rebellious Princess Coo-Coo, who is having a Forbidden Romance with a nudist garbageman.

It Makes Just as Much Sense in Context.

Provides examples of:

  • Adipose Rex: Queen Carlotta, being played by Edith Massey and all.
  • Barbie Doll Anatomy: Discussed when Mole, after her botched sex-change, complains that she's now stuck with a "Barbie doll crotch".
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Subverted. At the beginning, it seems like this will be Peggy's character arc, but ultimately she does a Faceā€“Heel Turn (to the extent that she was ever a "face" in the first place) and gets shot in the end.
  • Didn't Think This Through: By retaliating against Queen Carlotta, having Princess Coo Coo infect her with rabies, and serving Carlotta like roasted chicken, Mole and her goons didn't think that serving the former Queen as food would wipe out Mortsville.
  • Eat the Rich: Queen Carlotta is eaten by her "subjects" at the end. Probably not well thought out given the rebels deliberately infected her with rabies immediately before killing her.
  • Grande Dame: Peggy, at least in her mind.
  • Grossout Show: It's a John Waters film, after all. Even the trailer for the film admits it.
  • It's All About Me: "You must live here in constant mortification, solely existing to bring me and my tourists moments of royal amusement. I'm not responsible for your income, your living conditions or your personal happiness."
  • Outlaw Town: Mortville is an outlaw town under the capricious rule of Queen Carlotta, the Big Bad, who enjoys putting her "subjects" through a never-ending Humiliation Conga.
  • Playing Doctor: Peggy walks in on her children doing this and wildly overreacts, hysterically declaring that her daughter is pregnant and her son is a rapist.
  • Scarpia Ultimatum: Near the beginning, there's a cop who allows Peggy and Grizelda to escape to Mortville in exchange for their panties and make-out kisses.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Much like Female Trouble before it, the trailer blatantly shows the final scene of the movie, where the residents of Mortville bring out the cooked body of Queen Carlotta.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: By throwing a mudball at Queen Carlotta, Mole is unaware that she was responsible for kicking off the film's climax where Queen Carlotta, her soldiers, and Peggy Gravel plan a rabies outbreak in Mortville.
  • Vorpal Pillow: Mr. Gravel is smothered to death by the overweight Grizelda sitting on him.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Peggy's kids are never seen or heard from again once she and Grizelda escape to Mortville.
    • It is also not known what happened to Freddy (Muffy's infant son) after Muffy ran away to Mortville for killing her husband, who was berating her.
  • Wild Teen Party: In her backstory, Muffy comes home only to find the babysitter is throwing one of these.
  • World of Ham: Again, it is a John Waters film after all.