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‘Dirty Shame' A Parody of Uptight Culture

5 Apr, 2005 By: Erik Gruenwedel

The dark and sexually charged vision of writer-director John Waters may be more than just shock video in a culture leaning ever further to the right.

Waters readily admitted, however, that without that divisiveness, there wouldn't be a sexploitation genre.

“Sometimes, all the bad things are what makes parody happen,” he said.

New Line Home Entertainment June 14 (prebook May 10) will street Waters' ode to sexual fetishes, A Dirty Shame, on DVD for $27.95.

A retrospective DVD boxed set of New Line's seven Waters films — Hairspray, Pecker, Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble, Desperate Living, Polyester and A Dirty Shame — will bow the same day for $102.98.

The 2004 dark comedy Dirty Shame stars Tracey Ullman and singer Chris Isaak as sexually repressed parents of an over-the-top stripper daughter (Selma Blair) who battle unsuccessfully to save their family, community and themselves from the influences of a depraved sexual healer, played by Johnny Knoxville.

The film grossed about $1.3 million at the box office in limited release.

Available in theatrical, ‘NC-17' and ‘R'-rated editions, A Dirty Shame on DVD (‘NC-17' only) includes requisite commentary from Waters and the mini-feature, “All the Dirt on A Dirty Shame.

With its unabashed symbolism and homage to sexual anatomy and mores, A Dirty Shame would appear to be something of a commentary on a domestic society preoccupied with media decency and conservative values.

“Subconsciously, maybe I'd like to take credit for being such a genie that I saw this coming,” Waters said. “But the truth is I love the sexploitation movies I grew up with, and I have a parody of that genre [here]. So it just came naturally.”

Waters said that though the film's treatment of sex is safe in its approach (i.e., not graphically explicit), the subject matter, coupled with the film's release at the time of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq, met a general public not feeling too comical about weird sex.

“It is really amazing how this country is that uptight about sex,” Waters said.

The director said Shame is an attempt to humorously show what would happen if your neighbors or family members lost all control over sex.

Waters rued the film's ‘NC-17' rating, typically the kiss of death at the box office from the Motion Picture Association of America. “I never expected it would get one,” Waters said. “I think [Shame] is a non-explicit American comedy, and the first one that got an ‘NC-17.’

The director labeled the rating as “corporate censorship,” which he said is “much harder to fight.”

Waters and New Line lost on appeal to the MPAA. He said the rating kept the film from screenings in the big chains.

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