Make Trouble is John Waters’s commencement address to the graduating class of the Rhode Island School of Design of 2015. This is a slight book–only 71 pages–with minimal text and decorated with illustrations by Eric Hanson. I am a fan of Waters and have read and posted reviews of his books Role Models and Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America however I was not too thrilled with Make Trouble. Maybe it was because I expected more out of a graduation address. Its basic premise was that in order to become successful, you have to make trouble, or as only Waters could say it, “Go out in the world and fuck it up beautifully.” Waters is never afraid to tell it like it is, and I can hear his ebullience and see his pencil-thin moustache curl into a parenthesis as he tells impressionable twenty-year-olds “And, young adults, maybe today is the day you stop blaming your parents for every problem you’ve ever had. Whining is never appealing in a college graduate. Yes, it’s a drag you were kept locked in a cardboard box under their bed and whipped daily with a car aerial, but it’s time to move on. We’ve all been dealt a hand. Deal with it!”
Waters recounts–briefly, of course–his past subversive successes by having made trouble. About his original film “Hairspray”:
“You need to prepare sneak attacks on society. Hairspray is the only really devious movie I ever made. The musical based on it is now being performed in practically every high school in America–and nobody seems to notice it’s a show with two men singing a love song to each other that also encourages white teen girls to date black guys. Pink Flamingos was preaching to the converted. But Hairspray is a Trojan horse: it snuck into Middle America and never got caught. You can do the same thing.”
I have read all of Waters’s books but would not recommend Make Trouble. It is far too short even for a commencement address. You can sit comfortably with it and read it–unrushed–in fifteen minutes.