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John Waters, Beverly Hills John, Sprüth Magers Gallery
"Beverly Hills John", 2012Courtesy of Sprüth Magers Gallery

John Waters on Divine, Trump and feminism

The Pope of Trash weighs in on fucking up the Trump administration and eating shit as a political act

In 2015, John Waters, the filthy iconoclast behind Pink Flamingos and Divine’s sparkling filmic career, gave a now viral commencement speech to students at Rhode Island School of Design. The transcript has now been made into a book, Make Trouble. Speaking to Kaitlyn Greenidge of Lenny Letter, the filmmaker spoke at length about his latest release, particularly given the emerging far right framework and Trump’s America. As always, Waters had some intriguing thoughts.

Firstly, the artist suggests that someone needs to go “unwork” at the White House. He refers to Valerie Solanas, the creator of radical feminist work, the SCUM Manifesto. The theory of “unworking”, as Waters describes “means you go and you act normal but you fuck up every single thing you can while you work there”, with the hope it leads to systemic collapse. Right on, John.

“I’m a feminist. I love women who hate men and hate men who hate women,” he declared.

Waters also discussed radical groups that have manifested in the far right, touching upon the time he met Andrew Breitbart, the late owner of the ultra right-wing news site.

“Breitbart said to me, ‘Look, I’m just like you. It’s just I’m on a different side.’ He said, ‘I learned all my tactics from Abbie Hoffman.’” Waters explained.

“They are doing the same thing that we do,” he added. “They are yuppies on the other side.” Waters outlined how he thought it was “kind of funny”, how anarchist group DisruptJ20 and conservative group Project Veritas oversaw various stings and faced off with each other over the inauguration.

“To me it is kind of humorous in a way, but at the same time when I saw those demonstrations (against Milo Yiannopoulos) in Berkeley I was just fascinated by all the cute boys that had ski masks on.”

The director also told Lenny Letter that Trump’s choice of Pelican 212, a rock group, for his inauguration was awful: “never has there been a more hideously untalented amateur group...you see, musical taste, it is grounds for impeachment.”

While discussing impeachment, Waters related that Trump does enough ridiculous things each day to provide new material for his spoke-word shows. Though, when it comes to actually seeing Trump thrown out of office, he’s unsure.

“I hope that, too, except I don’t, really, because I really, really believe Pence is much, much worse. I think Pence looks and acts normal, and he’s the Devil. The scariest thing that Trump did was when he acted normal one time, he made that one speech,” he observed.

“You forgot that everything he was saying was horrible but because he wasn’t being a crazy person, you thought that it was normal, and he was saying terrible stuff.”

It’s something that’s definitely worth thinking about: with Trump out, we’d be left with the evil Pence as the most powerful man in the world. A baby-man who wants to force women to have funerals for foetuses, who consistently goes after women’s body autonomy, who supports gay conversion therapy and opposed laws like those that would protect transgender students and LGBT people in the workplace.

Waters also discussed the message of his artistic works in the world today.

“They’re trying to raise money for this statue in Baltimore of Divine eating dog shit and I think I’m against it, almost. I think Divine would want to be remembered for not just that. It was a terrorist act against the tyranny of good taste,” he said.

“It was a political act. It’s hard to imagine that now. These days if someone ate shit in front of Trump it might be good.”

Read more from the Godfather of filth’s interview on Lenny Letter here.