(You may notice that I use male pronouns for Divine while referring to him as “trans”, and the reason for this is “it’s complicated”. Divine himself has not identified as trans and has used masculine pronouns in daily life, but much later scholarly readings interpreted Babs/Divine, the character in Pink flamingos, as trans. Please don’t try to cancel me for this. If I deserve to be canceled for anything, I believe anyone who has ever modified a vehicle to be louder than it normally is deserves a life sentence in Moon Jail.)
What is Cult Culture?
If you go to a screening of Pink flamingos in a theater, you’ll likely see a few people dressed in Divine’s signature red mermaid dress. Pink flamingos does not have a culture as codified as The Rocky Horror Picture Show does, but it has an undeniable significance. It left a huge mark on the drag scene, and if you’ve ever watched RuPaul’s Drag Race you have almost certainly seen Divine or Pink flamingos directly mentioned. You’ve also almost certainly seen RuPaul undermine contestants for personal trauma so she can bring them to tears, because the tears of young people are what keep her so young.
I attended many screenings of Pink flamingos, and at a few of them, everyone who had never seen the film before was seated in the front half of the room so that the already insiders could better enjoy their cries of disgust. I have also personally known several people who, after seeing the film, decided to try living the dirty lifestyle depicted in it. Which, as far as movies to model your personality, beats fight club and The Man Who Takes a Ballpeen Hammer to the Park to Kill Birds.
This is where I would like to tell you about my dear deceased friend Fester, for whom Pink flamingos was practically a religious text. Fester didn’t have one but various different divine cosplays he would release at all times, and he also hosted and participated in an annual event called Naked Wars where other contestants living the Filth Lifestyle would compete to win the Naked Wars belt. I don’t think I have the right to tell you about the events of the Naked Wars that I’ve seen over the years, but I will say this: it was a long time before I could bear to eat hot dogs again.
Once, to completely recreate the final scene of Pink flamingos, my dear, sweet friend Fester, a man who once heard that I was sad and drove over an hour to come to my house and took us to an all night dinner and bought me waffles for make me feel better, ate several cat poops in the name of verisimilitude. If convincing someone to do this isn’t the mark of a cult movie, I don’t know what is.
Guillaume Kuechenberg is an acclaimed screenwriter, Nicholl’s Top 50 finalist and award-winning filmmaker. He is currently looking to become an assistant writer or assistant showrunner in a TV show: tell your friends, and if you have no friends, tell your enemies! You can also see his mental diarrhea on Twitter.
Top image: New Line Cinema