Photo by anna.argentuma/Shutterstock.com
On March 17, 1972, the world met the movie, “Pink Flamingos.”
The cult classic turned 50 this month, and though its actual content doesn’t have much to do with the beautiful bird other than borrowing its name, director John Waters intentionally wanted to evoke the imagery of the fabulous fowl.
“The reason I called it ‘Pink Flamingos’ was because the movie was so outrageous that we wanted to have a very normal title that wasn’t exploitative,” Waters told Abigail Tucker of SmithsonianMag in 2012. “To this day, I’m convinced that people think it’s a movie about Florida.”
It is most certainly not a movie about Florida, but rather a criminal underground world in Baltimore centering around Babs Johnson, who calls herself “the filthiest person alive.” Put mildly, this film is not for the faint of heart.
“Pink Flamingos” has a controversial history, with countries like Switzerland and Australia issuing bans on it at certain points. But it has had a strong cultural influence, becoming a major piece of midnight movie screenings and playing a role in the punk culture that emerged in the 1970s. In 2021, “Pink Flamingos” was placed in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, which preserves movies that are deemed to have had significant “cultural, historic or aesthetic” impact on national cinema.
“‘Pink Flamingos’ has been shocking people for 40-some years,” Waters said to Hau Chu of The Washington Post in December. “And now the National Film Registry has finally shocked me.”
Five years ago, Waters admitted to Donald Liebenson of Vanity Fair that the midnight movie is dead, but that hasn’t kept “Pink Flamingos” from receiving recognition from the National Film Registry four years later. But the film’s director also told Liebenson that “Pink Flamingos” still does what he set out to accomplish back when he made it.
“It still works, I know that,” Waters explained to Liebenson. “It didn’t get nicer; it might have even gotten more hideous. Even people who think they’ve seen everything are sort of stunned by it. They may hate it, but they can’t not talk about it. That was the point. It was a terrorist act against the tyranny of good taste.”
John Waters says, of all his films, he thinks “Pink Flamingos” had the best chance of making it to the #NatFilmRegistry. And this year, it did. Here he talks about how drag icon Divine helped make the movie a landmark of queer cinema. https://t.co/uz3yyIqnbp pic.twitter.com/A45zuHj8GC— Library of Congress (@librarycongress) December 14, 2021
“Pink Flamingos” is not a movie for everyone, and being a flamingo lover doesn’t have any impact either way on whether or not you’ll find enjoyment in what the movie has to offer. But the name did help thrust our favorite fowl into the limelight at around the time when flamingos became a cultural icon in the United States.
If you have the stomach for it, “Pink Flamingos” could be for you, but if you’re here on The Popular Flamingo, then the real pink flamingos are definitely for you!