Ever since the early 70s, filmmaker John Waters has been shocking audiences with his subversive taste in all aspects of life. When Waters is not making movies, he’s writing books, and his latest one, “Role Models,” is bound to have fans and nonfans alike rolling with laughter.
A role model to the average person is nowhere near the same as a role model to John Waters. In his book he discusses those who have made an influence on his life, which include likes of former-Manson girl Leslie Van Houten and pioneer amateur gay pornographer Bobby Garcia, who prides himself on having performed fellatio on hundreds of “straight” marines. These are just a sample of some of the people Waters refers to as his role models, an eclectic mix of the infamous, obscure and absurd.
If there’s one thing that Waters can do, it’s write an interesting essay. The way he speaks about his heroes and his childhood are fascinating. Although the lives they lead might be dubious, the way Waters speaks about them is with nothing but awe and gratitude. He respects the people he looks up to, even if they don’t respect themselves.
The only segment of the book that I didn’t find interesting was when he uses the pieces of art he has around his apartment and changes them into living roommates, while at the same time going into the history of each artist. It’s tolerable at first, but by after a few pages I wanted Waters to be quiet about his art collection and move on to bigger, better and trashier things.
Waters enthusiasm for the subjects he’s writing is obvious in the actual sentences on the page. With nearly every other sentence ending with an exclamation point or two (sometimes paired with a question mark), his love and passion for the subjects he’s writing about shines through, but it’s done with such frequency that it begins to lose its meaning.
Getting into the wacky, weird world of Waters is able to make up for any shortcomings this book may have. The anecdotes Waters tells about his private life, which include decorating his apartment with fake food and prescription drugs, are hilarious and will always leave the reader wanting more.
Waters’ role models may be sketchy and not altogether nice people, but they’re interesting and that’s what Waters values about them. For the most part, they’re not afraid to let their true selves be seen, no matter how ugly they might appear to be. Growing up as an outsider, Waters surely commiserated with the people he saw around him. Although it’s not the same as one of his movies, it bears the John Waters seal of trash, which is a good thing.