Pink Flamingos and a Short Exploration of Bizarro

Raymond Marble likes to tie meat products to his genitals and flash middle to upper-class girls. Crackers likes to have three ways with chickens. Connie Marble likes to kidnap women, impregnate them, and give their babies up for adoption. Babs likes to eat dog shit.

. . . and thus the stage is set for the most significant competition of all time: the battle for the title of filthiest family on earth.

John Waters’ 1972 cult classic Pink Flamingos remains the pinnacle of filth film. While most widely known for his film Hairspray, Waters’ early career consisted of generating shock films, and is known by many as the godfather of filth. In part, this title stems from Pink Flamingos, the story of two families struggling to outdo one another in an all-out, no-holds-barred competition to see who can be the dirtiest, grossest and most appalling.

What makes the film bizarro? By today’s standards, there isn’t much here that qualifies as bizarro. Sure, there’s cannibalism, coprophagia, sodomy, incest , a guy who can . . . what the hell is that guy doing with his anus during the party anyway? It looks like he’s making it talk or something, but no words are issuing forth. Still, while all of those subjects are integral parts of one or more bizarro text, that’s not what makes those texts bizarro.

So what is bizarro?

For me, bizarro can best be described by likening it to other phenomenon, like love for example. How do we know when it’s bizarro? In the words of Tequila-swilling stoner Sammy Hagar, “it’s just something you feel.”

Bizarro for me is characterized by the reaction it produces. It makes me think, “what the hell?” while simultaneously intriguing me. Bizarro isn’t just weird, it is like  a layer cake, with multiple, chocolate sheets of weirdness draped over one another. Bizarro

Kuato from Total Recall. Is he bizarro?

is beyond the scope of what we normally conceive, and it only makes sense that sex and violence plays a part in that from time to time. Many people have such rigid understandings of sex, guided by their own hard-wired impulses. So when they hear about fetishes that don’t facilitate to their personal urges, they think it is weird, or disgusting or intriguing. So for some people who decide to pick up a bizarro text, what I see as layers of weird coupled with several other factors could be construed as multiple layers of disgusting. Hell, sometimes people are compelled to read certain texts because they are disgusting, which strikes them as a weird impulse.

So perhaps Pink Flamingos is bizarro. I guess in part it would depend on your threshold for weirdness, and what you deem weird. Is filth so far outside of your scope of reality that it strikes you as weird, outre? Then Pink Flamingos is probably bizarro for you. When I first watched it, I would have agreed. But in retrospect, I think Pink Flamingos is shock film. So I find myself wondering, what would make Pink Flamingos qualify as bizarro for me? Humping furniture? Maybe if Babs would have laid eggs for her mother to eat instead of buying them from the egg man? I’m not sure, personally. But I find my inability to articulate exactly what bizarro is as a liberating factor, allowing me to experiment with my own notions of bizarro which bubble inside on an unconscious level. Much to my surprise and pleasure, every time I sit down to write bizarro, I can generally point at the product of my endeavors with the knowledge that it fits my definition, whatever that definition may be.

So Kuato: is he bizarro?

No, you say?

If he sings Tay Zonday’s “Chocolate Rain” is he bizarro? Arnold seems to think so.

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