Continuing to try to squeeze in a few more John Waters before the end of the year, I went back to one of my favorites, Female Trouble. Although Pink Flamingos has always been Waters’ most notorious movies, the follow up is a far better and funnier film. Waters wrote in his memoirs Shock Value that he knew Pink Flamingos and its notorious dog turd eating scene would be a tough act to follow, and that the only way to do so would be to make the ideas, rather than the actions, shocking in his next film. Divine plays Dawn Davenport, a run-of-the-mill juvenile delinquent who graduates to harden criminal after being brainwashed into believing that “crime equals beauty” by the owners of an exclusive beauty parlor. She is thrilled when she gets the electric chair because it in her chosen field it is like getting an Academy Award.
Those ideas are indeed shocking, but there are shocking (and funny) actions in Female Trouble as well, such as Divine, then in his mid-30s, playing a teenager who knocks her mother over with a Christmas tree. This film also has one of the funniest sex scenes ever filmed as Dawn Davenport (Divine) runs away from home on Christmas morning and meets a leering perverted man Earl Petersen (also Divine), and they “make love” on a filthy mattress in a city garbage dump, while he reveals poo stains on his shorts and she steals his wallet. Surely the only sex scene in which the same actor plays both participants.