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Film / Female Trouble

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She's got a lot of problems.

"Where do these people come from? Where do they go when the sun goes down? Isn’t there a law or something?"

Brought to you by the same person who brought you Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble is a 1974 dark comedy film, starring Divine, David Lochary, Mary Vivian Pearce, Mink Stole, Edith Massey, Michael Potter, Cookie Mueller, and Susan Walsh.

A parody of the juvenile delinquent films popular in the 1950s and 1960s, it tells the story of Dawn Davenport, from her youth back in the 1960s to her increasingly bizarre and violent life of crime after running away from home.

Provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Dawn is this to Taffy. Other than beating her, she couldn't even bother to give her daughter a normal life like go to school or have friends.
  • Alliterative Name: Dawn Davenport, Donna and Donald Dasher.
  • Author Appeal: Baltimore and beehive hairdos? Check.
  • Bad Liar: Even though Dawn is a chronic liar as her teacher says, no one ever believes her since she's blatantly refusing to own up at what she was just doing, like eating a sandwich in class. It bites her in the ass during her trial where she spouts a bunch of Cassandra Truth.
  • Beehive Hairdo: Being a John Waters film made in the early 1970s but set in The '60s, big hair is still in full swing. They're mostly bouffants rather than actual Beehives, but still.
  • Berserk Button: Do not jump rope within ten feet of Dawn Davenport.
  • Big Eater: Dawn eats hero sandwiches in class.
  • Black Comedy: The characters are all massive jerks and do unspeakably terrible things, but that's what makes it funny.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: The Dashers use Dawn for their own sick experiment to warp her mind, making her believe her scarring makes her only more beautiful and that crime is glamorous.
  • Butt-Monkey: Aunt Ida of the dark comedic variant, depending on your tastes. First, she witnesses Gator get married to Dawn sobbing as if she's attending a funeral, sparks a feud with her, kidnapped to be caged like a bird (along with being dressed like one in the form of a feathered dress) in her neighbor's apartment, and the icing on the cake, gets her hand chopped off by Dawn.
  • Camp: John Waters' bread-and-butter is on display here, particularly with the character's performances, over-the-top costumes, and ridiculous plot.
  • Camp Straight:
    • Subverted. Gator for the most part is the least campy of all the characters despite being a hairdresser himself, but he is straight as he claims to be.
    • Donald Dasher, who is married to Donna.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Taffy Davenport. Also, Aunt Ida.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: After not getting her cha-cha heels, Dawn screams at her parents, "I hate you, fuck you! Fuck you both you awful people!"
  • Coming of Age Story: In a twisted sort of way. Dawn first starts off as a juvenile delinquent back in school, and after running away from home and giving birth to her daughter, she gets worse from there.
  • Crocodile Tears: Dawn accuses Taffy later in the film by telling her not to get any crocodile tears on her furniture.
  • Dawson Casting: Invoked and Lampshaded by Dawn, who tells Taffy (played by Mink Stole who was well into her twenties) that for a 14 year old, she doesn't look so good.
  • Et Tu, Brute?: Dawn is noticeably upset when Donna chose not to defend her when she's invited to speak at the stand, and instead betrays Dawn rather than admit her involvement in the crime to save her own skin. Donald does the same.
  • Explicit Content: Not as much as Pink Flamingos, but just as the same. There are at least two close-up shots of male genitalia and hardcore sex is shown, enough for the DVD release to get an NC-17 rating.
  • Facial Horror: Dawn's scars from the acid attack is proudly flaunted by herself after friends discourage her from getting corrective cosmetic surgery.
  • Fag Hag: Aunt Ida, to the point of rebuking heterosexuals and heterosexuality in general.
  • Fan Disservice:
    • Ida loves her leather dresses.
    • Dawn as a very sweaty stripper.
  • Fat Bastard: Dawn Davenport. Also, Earl Peterson, Taffy's father.
  • Foreshadowing:
  • Gaslighting: The Dashers convince Dawn that "crime is beauty", and that her grotesque wounds are basically a glamorous makeover. She's put over the edge so much, by the time she's in the electric chair, she's crowing about how she's getting an "award".
  • Good Is Boring: The reason Aunt Ida tells Gator to "go nelly" is that she's worried he'll get a 9-to-5 job, be Happily Married and have children, a "sick and boring life."
  • Gorn: Aunt Ida throws acid on Dawn's face, horribly disfiguring her and the effects of it were shown seconds later. Her grotesque scars last throughout the film.
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: Every scene with Dawn and Taffy Davenport. They seem to be in a neverending contest in who can steal the scene better.
  • The Hero Dies: While Dawn Davenport is not a hero in any light, she is eventually caught and charged with first-degree murder and sentenced to death in the electric chair.
  • Hook Hand: Taffy gives Aunt Ida one after Dawn chopped her hand off and kept her in the home as a "pet" for her daughter.
  • Humiliation Conga:
    • The film is one long one for Dawn, though a lot of it is karmic.
    • The Dashers kidnap Ida, keeping her caged in Dawn's home as a gift and encourage Dawn to chop off her hand.
  • I'll Kill You!: Dawn threatens this to her daughter, Taffy when she said she's thinking of joining the Hare Krishna people. Taffy shows up later having joined them, and gets strangled to death by her mother for it.
  • Inconsistent Spelling: Chicklette/Chiclette/Chiclet/Chicklet's name seems to have no official spelling since even looking at The Other Wiki and the credits just adds to the confusion. Gator/Gater is a much milder case in comparison.
  • Karma Houdini: Donna and Donald Dasher manage to get away with their involvement in Dawn's tragic nightclub act after claiming to the court they were just caught in the rampage.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: In a twist of irony, the jury believes Ida and the Dashers' claims about the other crimes Dawn herself did not commit (among other things), like kidnapping Ida and putting her in a cage, splashing acid on her face, injecting herself with beauty treatment drugs, and setting the nightclub act where the shoot out eventually occurs—this was all the Dashers' doing. Aunt Ida's only crime was throwing acid on Dawn. Dawn calls them out on their lies but after everything that had happened because of her, no one in the right mind would listen to her now, let alone believe her. Adding to the fact that she's a Bad Liar just drives the point further.
  • Male Frontal Nudity: Gator lets his dick hang out when he invites Taffy to suck it.
  • Masochist's Meal: At one point, the Dashers serve Dawn little mascara brushes on a plate and she actually eats one.
  • A Minor Kidroduction: The film starts with Dawn Davenport's youth back in 1960, if you look past the true actors' ages when they're playing what seems to be high-school students.
  • Odessa Steps: The film parodies this with the nightclub act going wrong, particularly when the police arrive and they began shooting at people. It even focused on a man having been shot through his glasses.
  • Parental Incest: Gator, who is her step-father, invites Taffy to suck his cock. It's particularly icky in that Taffy is supposed to be 14.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: While Dawn doesn't die, it's still as effective.
    Aunt Ida: I got something for your face, motherfucker! (throws acid on Dawn)
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: That is a real umbilical cord Dawn is chomping through, folks.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: Dawn's nightclub act eventually culminates in her shooting at the audience. The police who arrived moments later also start shooting into the panicking crowd, killing a few people as well.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Ostensibly. The last thing Taffy did before being killed by her own mother was free Ida from her cage so she can go and tell the police where Dawn was then went to the nightclub to try and convince her mother to come with her before it's too late.
  • Screw Yourself: Achieved via Acting for Two from Divine, who plays both Dawn and Earl, the man who picked her up hitchhiking and had sex with Dawn on Christmas morning, getting her pregnant. He also tells her to "Go fuck yourself!" when she asked him for money, possibly alluding to that piece of trivia.
  • Sensory Overload: Taffy deliberately annoys Dawn by reciting the same words/tune over and over again even after being told not to.
  • Sexless Marriage: It's heavily implied with the Dashers since both think sex is a violation of the human spirit and would never be caught in any of those ludicrous positions.
  • Sissy Villain: Donna and Donald Dasher, especially the latter.
  • The '60s: The film begins in this particular decade, and ends at the year 1970.
  • Spiritual Antithesis: The Dashers and Dawn both view Taffy's turn to Hare Krishna as this to their brand of beauty.
  • Stripperific: A few revealing outfits are seen, but the most notorious of all would have to be Ida's leather get up which even included Vapor Wear. In any case, none of them are as titillating as they look.
  • Spoiled Brat: Dawn Davenport, particularly at the beginning of the movie. The whole reason she destroys Christmas presents, attacks her parents, runs away from home, and goes on a life of violent crime over the course of the movie is all because... her parents didn't get her black Cha-cha heels for Christmas.
  • Then Let Me Be Evil: The Dashers drive Dawn to be this, with her "nightclub act" basically being her pride in being a monster.
  • Title Theme Tune: Sung by Divine.
    I've got lots of problems
    Female trouble
    Maybe, I'm twisted
    Female trouble.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Taffy should've known better than to show up in front of Dawn after having joined the Hare Krishna movement and is still stubborn as ever after her mother's warning. You can see what happens from there.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The trailer blatantly shows one of the movie's final scenes, which is Dawn being escorted to the electric chair.
  • Uncanny Valley Makeup: Dawn Davenport (as per usual due to the actor portraying her) even before her face was disfigured.
  • Unholy Matrimony: The Dashers.
  • Villain Protagonist: Dawn Davenport. Also includes villain side characters like her friends Chiclet and Concetta, the Dashers, Aunt Ida, etc.
  • Villainous Breakdown: After killing her own daughter backstage, Dawn's descent into madness finally begins when she performs her nightclub act and shoots at the audience, killing a few people.
  • Villainy-Free Villain: Aunt Ida, kind of. She may be a fat, crazy old lady with a very, ahem, unique taste in fashion who has some strange preference to queers over heterosexuals, but isn't that much of a threat except becoming Dawn's arch-nemesis after Gator decided to marry her. The worst she's done would be throwing acid on Dawn's face (after Gator ran away, pinning the blame on her) and conspiring with the Dashers to lie about who kidnapped and imprisoned her.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Chiclet and Concetta, Dawn's school friends and later, partners-in-crime, are last seen fleeing for their lives when Dawn began shooting at the audience while on stage. After that, they disappear completely and don't even appear in court. They were mentioned during Dawn's speech when she's about to be electrocuted though, saying that they "should be with [her]..."
    • Also Vikki, the receptionist at the salon, doesn't appear again after sending Dawn to the Dasher's office.
  • World of Ham: Everyone overacts their roles, including incidental characters like the girl who rats out Dawn Davenport for eating in class.
    Miss Holland: (after Chiclet whispers into her ear that she'll cut her up after class) Now they're threatening me, these awful, cheap girls!
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Donna and Donald Dasher claim that they are upright citizens who are caught in the crossfire then go on to recall how they were actually terrified of Dawn and at the atrocities she committed. Unfortunately for Dawn, the jury believes them.
  • Writing Lines: As a teen, Dawn eats a meatball sandwich in class and, when a student tattles on her, the teacher makes her write "I will not eat in class" fifty times on the chalkboard.
  • Younger Than They Look: Lampshaded. Dawson Casting aside, Dawn says that for fourteen, Taffy doesn't look so good because of being a brat all her life.