Rock and Roll taught John Waters how to annoy his parents, but it was the nuns from his local church, who inadvertently encouraged his interest in cheap, exploitation films:
‘The first thing I can remember rebelling about really, was when I was about 8-years-old and every Sunday we’d go to church. Once a year they’d read us this pledge that we had to take for the Legion of Decency, which was the Catholic Church rating the movies—what you could see and what you couldn’t—and the condemned ones were the ones they’d tell us you’d go to Hell if you saw these movies.
Well, I remember refusing to do this pledge and my mother was kind of shocked, but I was just a child, and she didn’t make a big deal out of it. And on Sundays, the nuns would read us this list, with this voice like the Devil, and you know, seeing this nun stand there saying, “Love Is My Profession, Mom and Dad, The Naked Night.” I thought “What are these movies?” I’d never heard of them—they didn’t play at my neighborhood, believe me—but I would go and see them, or read about them, and clip the little list and keep a record of all these condemned movies. The Mom and Dad poster is hanging right in my hall—it’s still that much of an influence. But it made me want to see these movies I’d never, ever heard of. So, in fact they encouraged me, [the nuns] encouraged my interest, without ever knowing it completely.’
Growing Up With John Waters is a fabulous Channel 4 documentary from 1993, where the notorious director of Pink Flamingos, Multiple Maniacs, Female Trouble and Hairspray talks about the childhood events that shaped his life.