I can safely say that I have seen more good movies than bad, but those few truly awful movies leave a lasting image. After my husband decided to watch Howard the Duck, to see if it was as bad as everyone said (oh, it was worse), I was angry for an entire week. My memories from watching Manos: The Hands of Fate with friends are blissfully hazy with drink. But my experience with Pink Flamingos was unique and something I could have never expected.
If you do not know what Pink Flamingos by John Waters is, you have lived a blissfully sheltered life, in terms of film. The plot, a challenge to see who is “The Filthiest Person Alive”, is pointless, stupid and horrifyingly crude. If you want to maintain a certain level of innocence, I suggest you stop reading now. The film is filled with sex acts that would make any decent person disgusted. Dyed carpet matches the drapes. There is a couple with a live chicken in between them, scratching, trying to get away. A man flashes young girls, cured meat hanging alongside his own. And it gets worse.
I saw Pink Flamingos in a college class, it was our “What is a bad movie?” week. At the beginning of our screening, in one of the medium sized lecture halls, about sixty students showed up. One way I can tell how bad a movie is, is how often I check my watch. I was easily checking every three minutes. Part of me wished for a power outage within the first fifteen minutes. Within half an hour, most of the class had walked out, only about a dozen of us remained.
About ¾ through the film, one moment was especially overwhelming for the remaining brave souls watching. At this point, tired of the depravity on the screen, I glanced around the lecture hall. One young man rested his cheek on his chin, his eyes glancing down. Another, with his arms crossed, stared ahead, like he could have been watching anything. A young woman had her elbow rested and had her hand over her mouth, her eyes wide at the graphic image ahead. The air was thick and charged with a collective uneasiness. Suddenly, out of the middle of the room, came a small voice. To this day, I have no idea who it was, but in a tone between laughter and tears she said, “I just don’t know what to do!”
It felt like a fresh air had just been let in the room, and we all busted out laughing. After that, the crude jokes got so much easier to laugh at, and even enjoy. There was comfort knowing just how uncomfortable everyone else was with Pink Flamingos. And after class, we could even look each other in the eye. It was probably the worst movie most of us had ever seen, but we all came out with a positive experience from it.
My advice if you ever plan to attack Pink Flamingos, or another utterly terrible film: assemble a team who will willingly laugh at it with you. Laughter is the best defence against letting something so awful get to you. If anyone there is easily offended, get them out quickly. Maybe give them a small token for the support. And do not go it alone, you’ll wonder what the hell is wrong with you and a sense of shame could become crippling. All in all, it can be hard to have a good experience with an awful movie, but if you can, it is worth it.