— 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.
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 FaceHeel Turn (to the extent that she was ever a "face" in the first place) and gets shot in the end.
- 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.
- 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.
- Transgender: Subverted. Mole claims to be "a man trapped in a woman's body" and (sort of) transitions to male, but it turns out she only wanted to be male so that she could be with Muffy, whom she mistakenly thought was heterosexual.
- 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.
- 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.