Director John Waters as auteur.

Essay by jmt901A+, December 2003

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John Waters is a true auteur. He uses many of the same themes and images throughout his films. The John Waters' films that I viewed were Hairspray (1988), Cry-Baby (1990), Serial Mom (1994), and Cecil B. Demented (2000). Consistent themes in these films included the use of the same actors, Waters' love for scandal ridden celebrities, all were located in Baltimore, comedic portrayals of sex, outcasts, altercations with the police, and a shot of a mouse, rat or gerbil.

Hairspray is the story of Tracy Turnblatt, a chubby hair hopper in 1960s Baltimore. Waters uses many of his stock actors in this movie, drag queen, Divine in the dual role of Tracy's mother and the television station owner that runs The Corny Collins Show, Mink Stole as Tracy's best friend's mother, Alan J. Wendl as Hefty Hideaway shop owner, Mr. Pinky and starring as Tracy Turnblatt, Waters' muse, the incomparable Ricki Lake.

With the exception of Divine who died shortly after this movie was made, all of these actors appear in all four of these films. Tracy longs to be on The Corny Collins Show, Baltimore's poor man's version of American Bandstand. Through luck, fate and pure chutzpah, she makes it onto the show, becomes a council member and even steals the cutest boy on the show away from the most popular girl in all of Baltimore. According to Curry, Hairspray is a "musical comedy film about desegregation in Baltimore during the early 1960's. Waters revives the turbulent times as a backdrop to a television dance show phenomenon. (Curry, 1996)

The expected Waters penchant for media celebrities, past and present, pops up here and there in Cry-Baby with cameos by David Nelson, Patty Hearst, who shows up again in Serial Mom and Cecil B. Demented, Joey Heatherton, Troy Donahue, Iggy...