CFP: "Role Models: John Waters and His Influence(s)" (SCMS 2018 Proposed Panel)

deadline for submissions: 
August 14, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
Matt Connolly, University of Wisconsin-Madison / Kate J. Russell, University of Toronto

Role Models: John Waters and His Influence(s)

Throughout his career as a queer film director, author, and showman, John Waters has both expressed devotion to those cultural figures that influenced his own work and inspired generations of artists to follow in his filthy footsteps. Film and media scholars have addressed various elements of his filmography and cultural impact—most recently Chris Holmlund’s Female Trouble: A Queer Film Classic—but few have thoroughly considered Waters in relation to the question of influence itself.

This panel seeks to investigate Waters in connection to both the works that have influenced him and those that he has, in turn, influenced. On the one hand, what can we learn about Waters’ own output by considering his relationship to his various cinematic and cultural influences? How has film history itself been shaped not only by his advocacy for undervalued works and directors, but by his love for the cinematic experience itself, including publicity, anticipation, theatrical gimmicks, and showmanship? On the other hand, how can we trace the impact of Waters’ body of work to more contemporary films, media texts, directors, visual artists, writers, and performers? How has the subversive queerness and radical non-normativity of his oeuvre been translated, reconsidered, revivified, and even normalized?

In asking these questions, we hope to further expand the conversation surrounding this vital and still-surprising figure, and chart with greater nuance the various impacts he has made—and continues to make—in media and culture.

Potential topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Individual filmmakers who influenced Waters’s own work, including Russ Meyer, Herschell Gordon Lewis, the Kuchar Brothers, Kenneth Anger, etc.
  • Influence of marketing gimmicks and the extra-cinematic experience on Waters’ career: midnight movies, Kroger Babb, William Castle, etc.
  • The impact of disruptive and/or disreputable film genres and traditions on Waters’ work: exploitation, the Underground, art cinema, etc.
  • Waters as film historian – how the filmmaker has advocated for various underappreciated filmmakers and worked to reshape cinematic taste
  • Waters’ acolytes – filmmakers who have taken up the director’s mantle of queer subversion
  • The co-option of Waters’ aesthetic and/or humor by the mainstream: gross-out comedies, appropriation of queerness, etc.
  • Waters’s influence beyond film and media, including the fine art world, theatre and stage performance, fashion, music, queer culture and politics, etc.


Proposals need to include an abstract of 2500 characters, 3-5 bibliographic sources, and a brief biography (500 characters).  Please send your proposal to Matt Connolly ( and Kate J. Russell ( no later than August 1, 2017. We will reply to all submissions by August 14, 2017.