The Baltimore artist: taste, class, and distinction in John Waters’ Pecker

Padilla, Elisa (2020) The Baltimore artist: taste, class, and distinction in John Waters’ Pecker. Quarterly Review of Film and Video. pp. 1-19. ISSN 1050-9208

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In John Waters’ Pecker (1998), an amateur young photographer is discovered by a New York art dealer and becomes an overnight sensation in the art world. When he is recognized as an artist, however, the spontaneous snapshots he used to take -of his abnormal friends and relatives, of his local striptease and gay clubs, of Baltimore’s buses, fast-food joints and alleys- are no longer accessible to him. Surreptitiously alluding to the photography of Diane Arbus and Nan Goldin, Pecker illustrates conflicts between taste, class, and distinction. Drawing on the work of Pierre Bourdieu, I argue that the film shows how taste organizes the social world and parodies the ways in which outsider art constitutes a type of social capital. Through textual analysis, this article argues that Pecker illustrates Baltimore as a queer site and explores the meta-reflectivity of the text, as Pecker’s art mirrors Waters’ authorship. Pecker represents, I argue, an interesting case study to comprehend Waters’ humour and operations of taste and authorship in the lesser known and studied years of his filmmaking career (post Hairspray, 1988).

Item Type: Article
Keywords: John Waters, Pecker, Baltimore, Diane Arbus, Nan Goldin, photography, cult cinema
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Film and Music > Media and Film
SWORD Depositor: Mx Elements Account
Depositing User: Mx Elements Account
Date Deposited: 08 Apr 2021 12:08
Last Modified: 08 Apr 2021 12:16

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