John Waters loves taking potshots at sacred cows. And no cow is more sacred than the American mother. From dog-poo ingestion to serial murder to sex addiction, Waters's films don't at first glance look like paeans to women and motherhood. But add up the plots and there is an odd sort of feminism in all of his films. Waters's female characters — many of which hail from Waters's hometown of Baltimore — break loose from their stifled lives and wield iconoclastic power by self-appointed authority; they revolt against society's norms, and they manifest a dynamic exhibition of sexual power. And let's also not forget that Ricki Lake was one of the first women of size to have a romantic lead in an American film.
Pink Flamingos (1972)
The film that made Divine a superstar was also a film about the difficulties of caring for an aged parent with dementia. Edith Massey's plaintive cries for "Eggs, eggs, eggs!" suggest the plight of post-menopausal women everywhere.
Female Trouble (1974)
Divine may have been leading a life of fashionable crime in Female Trouble, but she was still a mother with all the responsibilities that came with raising her young daughter, Taffy.
Once again, Divine plays everywoman in Waters's homage to the films of Douglas Sirk. As a woman she struggles with her alcoholism, as a wife she struggles with her pornographer husband's sexual affairs, and as a mother she suffers the shame of a pregnant teenage daughter and a son who has a violent foot fetish.
This film explores the racial tensions of the early '60s, but at the same time it is a story of how two very different mother's reaction to the times that are a changin'.
Below: Velma von Tussle (Deborah Harry) has a hands-on approach to the effects of her daughter's raging hormones.
Below: Divine as Edna Turnblad tries to be the perfect mom and make sure her daughter and husband have nicely pressed clothing.