Guest Post on “The Research Whisperer”, March 2017.
From “Filth is my Politics, Filth is my Life”, Reading Kristeva, and Pink Flamingos”, Presented as part of a panel at NEMLA 2017 in Baltimore, Maryland.
John Waters’ film Pink Flamingos lays claim to the idea that “filth” is a desirable state of being through Babs Johonson’s ambitions to become the “filthiest person alive” through the unspoken perception throughout the film that “filth” is something that can be achieved. In contrast to the popular idiom that “cleanliness is next to godliness”, Babs embraces filth in the same way that puritans value purity: she glorifies waste, promiscuous sex, and a number of criminal activities (theft, kidnapping, or murder). Babs and her family of filth groupies compete against Raymond and Connie Marbles for the title of “filthiest”. In the same way that “purity” or “salvation” is attained through good works in the protestant tradition, filth is something to be attained through action. To be “filthy” in Waters’ sense, is to engage in subversive behavior.
From “Female Subjectivity in Stephen King’s Carrie”; “Stephen King and Philosophy”, editor Jacob M. Held, Rowman and Littlefield, 2016:
In response to the enormous popularity of Carrie, Stephen King writes, “one reason for the success of the story in both print and film, I think, lies in this: Carrie’s revenge is something that any student who has ever had his gym shorts pulled down in Phys Ed or his glasses thumb-rubbed in study hall could approve of.” Indeed, Carrie is a novel to which any student can relate. What makes it interesting is that “any student” is personified by a teenage girl. Coming-of-age novels frequently use female protagonists, from Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre to Judy Blume’s Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret. What sets Carrie apart from the others are her supernatural abilities–as well as her body–as a source of transformation.Carrie White’s telekinetic power acts for her when she cannot: made powerless by her mother’s abuse and tormented by her peers, she finds new agency in her mental capabilities. King clearly suggests that the transition from girl to woman as well as from helpless teen to powerful supernatural entity is intentional, which raises all sorts of questions concerning Carrie’s identity. Particularly, how does Carrie White grapple with femininity throughout the novel? And how does femininity rub up against monstrosity if we regard Carrie as a horror story?