What does the pursuit of bad taste mean in the internet age?
It's a question that I've been pondering over the last week after watching master of schlock John Waters' 2006 one-man show "This Filthy World" on Netflix. I'd seen it before a decade earlier and remembered my delighted revulsion as he talked on the topics of abusing food stamps for caviar parties with friends, the snorting of cremated remains ("There's knuckles and shit in there!") and the good-spirited abuse inflicted upon and suffered by Divine, his main starlet, for their art.
The second time around didn't quite pack the same punch. That could be due to a number of reasons: the 10-year culture lag from when the show was recorded, that it was a repeat viewing for me, or that I'm a jaded millennial with a digital native-level of exposure to weird and disgusting shit on the web. Select all that apply.
All the years I've spent planted in front of a computer with a rather shameful level of gullibility in clicking any link a friend sent me may have helped to build up this callus, and I can't be alone in that. Not while there are thousands following YouTuber dermatologists to get close-up video of the best pimple-popping, blackhead-exploding moneyshots around. (That's probably the most innocuous example of weird subcultures you can find online, but you catch my drift. Or think I'm a pervert. Whatever, I'm cool with either.)
So the sloppy and the schlocky are within arm's reach for anyone who cares to click in the right direction. What you once had to line up for outside of a midnight movie house is now freely available without leaving the stain-ridden couch. But what's the fun in that?
Thinking back to that first viewing of Waters' show in 2006, I realize I got just as much of a kick out of hearing the weird shit he was spouting as I did seeing the reaction of my dad, who was watching it with me. Maybe not everyone's first choice for familial bonding, but hey, it worked. With others watching alongside you, everything is amplified — the gross is grosser, the filthy is filthier and the funny is funnier.
And it dawned on me that I (giddily) clicked on all those links sent by friends knowing full well that something gross lurked beneath because the act of shouting "Jesus CHRIST what is WRONG with you" across the house or dorm is in its own way an act of shoring up a connection. A bond formed through mutual revulsion is strong indeed.
Boulder is primed for a direct injection of those weird connections as Waters himself is in town performing a Christmas special at the Boulder Theater next Wednesday, Dec. 7. Tickets are $35 to $65. If that's a bit out of your price range, fret not: This Friday, the Dairy Center is showing "Pink Flamingos," the director's magnum opus of sleaze, as part of the Friday Night Weird film series. In person or on screen, the smut calls to you.
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