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REVIEW: Make Trouble by John Waters

May 4, 2017 5:00 am0 commentsViews: 31

Waters-Make-Trouble-CoverWhen filmmaker/writer John Waters gave the commencement address at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in 2015, listeners were treated to a humorous, but also insightful speech that acknowledged both the great privilege of this generation of artists studying in art school and the obstacles they will have to overcome. The video of the speech, as well as transcripts and discussions of it, were disseminated all over the Internet. But now, Waters has published the speech as his new book Make Trouble, and it is a perfect gift for graduation season.

In Waters’ speech, he talks about being an outsider and how it’s become so mainstream to be one. He tells his listeners to carve a new path, to “f**ck up the world beautifully,” but also to find a way to be an insider where you can make the most trouble. He cites his own film Hairspray as “the only really devious movie I ever made,” because it has become such a mainstream phenomenon, rather than an underground movie or cult classic like Pink Flamingos.

We are living in a time when there are vast, drastic changes afoot. Questioning gender and sexuality, moving away from religion and marriage as foundations of one’s life, and becoming politically engaged at a younger age may be things we’ve seen in the past, but these shifts are almost mainstream now. Waters acknowledges these changes and even speaks to parents in Make Trouble, letting them know that their role is to make their children feel safe in the world. And yet, he also cautions the graduates not to request or expect trigger warnings, not to think talent is enough, and to become familiar with failure, as all artists must.

Not everyone can have John Waters as their commencement speaker, but now everyone—whether a new graduate or simply someone looking for direction—can benefit from the wisdom of the self-described “Filth Elder.”

Make Trouble (2017, Algonquin Books) is available in local bookstores as well as online in hardcover and e-book versions.