PINK FLAMINGOS: The most controversial film in history

There is no movie more disgusting than Pink Flamingos, this competition of revolting characters redefined the concept of bad taste, but attracted followers. Carrying out such a bizarre project couldn’t be less unusual.

Pink Flamingos is a 1972 American post-modern exploitation, comedy or strictly speaking camp film directed, written, produced, narrated, filmed, and edited by John Waters. It is part of what Waters has labelled the “Trash Trilogy”, which also includes Female Trouble (1974) and Desperate Living (1977). The film stars the countercultural drag queen Divine as a criminal living under the name of Babs Johnson, who is proud to be “the filthiest person alive”. While living in a trailer with her mother Edie (Edith Massey), son Crackers (Danny Mills), and companion Cotton (Mary Vivian Pearce), Divine is confronted by the Marbles (David Lochary and Mink Stole), a pair of criminals envious of her reputation who try to outdo her in filth. The characters engage in several grotesque, bizarre, and explicitly crude situations, and upon the film’s re-release in 1997 it was rated NC-17 by the MPAA “for a wide range of perversions in explicit detail”. It was filmed in the vicinity of Baltimore, Maryland where Waters and most of the cast and crew grew up.

Displaying the tagline “An exercise in poor taste”, Pink Flamingos is notorious for its “outrageousness”, nudity, profanity, and “pursuit of frivolity, scatology, sensationology [sic] and skewed epistemology.” It features a “number of increasingly revolting scenes” that center on exhibitionism, voyeurism, sodomy, masturbation, gluttony, vomiting, rape, incest, murder, cannibalism, castration, foot fetishism, and concludes, to the accompaniment of “How Much Is That Doggy in the Window?”, with Divine’s consumption of dog feces (coprophagia) — “The real thing!” narrator Waters assures us. The film is considered a preliminary exponent of abject art.

The film, at first semi-clandestine, has received a warm reception from film critics and, despite being banned in several countries, became a cult film in subsequent decades. In 2021, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.