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John Waters, social protest, civil rights, movies


In this Article Professor Banks argues that what makes many of filmmaker John Waters early films so subversive is his use of the “white-trash” body—people marginalized by and excluded from conventional white America—as countercultural heroes. He uses the white trash body as a surrogate for talk about race and sexuality in the early 1960s. I argue that in many ways Waters’ critiques of mid-twentieth century American society reflect the societal changes that occurred in the last forty years of that century. These societal changes resulted from the civil rights, gay pride, student, anti-war and women’s movements, all of which used social protest and the legal process as vehicles for social change. Waters used his films not only as counter-narratives of mid-twentieth century mores but also as critiques of the increasingly disruptive effect of media forces in glamorizing criminality. Although the films Professor Banks discusses in this Article are set largely in the 1960s, many of the themes they raise - acceptance of difference, a rejection of exclusionary mores and the media’s disruptive role in the quest for justice - continue to have currency.


Civil Rights and Discrimination | Film and Media Studies | Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Ethnicity in Communication | Law and Society