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Director John Waters on remaining transgressive and his new book, Make Trouble

The director talks about how he remains radical in a time when shock value is rampant, the US political climate, and his new book.
John Waters' new book, Make Trouble, comes out on April 11, 2017. (Stephen Maturen)

In 2015, John Waters gave a commencement speech to the Rhode Island School of Design that went viral. One thing that's changed since the speech? Donald Trump is the president of the United States. "It's certainly a world that we need to make more trouble in," says Waters.



Make Trouble is the title of John Waters's new book, and also the advice he gives to young people just out of school or starting out as artists. Waters classifies his book as "a gift item for problem students, for someone who took 12 years to finish college."

Waters is often considered a pioneer of shock value in Hollywood. His work, including films like Pink Flamingos, Polyester and Hairspray, is known for its transgressive nature, often pushing the boundaries of conventional thinking.

For Waters, the key to being a revolutionary is to not ask for permission, but rather to take the Trojan horse approach. "Hairspray is the only perverse thing I've ever done. It's playing in every school in America, you have a man in drag singing love songs, a white girl being urged to date black guys. This is not the usual thing that middle America would root for, but they don't seem to notice," says Waters. "I think that's important, to be a Trojan horse in your life, to get in the inside where you can make things work."

Waters's new book, Make Trouble, is available on April 11.


*The full audio will be added to this post following the broadcast.

— Produced by Chris Trowbridge

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