The Academy Museum To Open John Waters: Pope Of Trash Exhibit In September

In what seems like something a very long time in the making, John Waters is getting his very own museum exhibit. However, this tribute won't just be at any museum, but rather the Academy Museum itself. The Academy of Motion Pictures released a statement today that announced the "John Waters: Pope of Trash" exhibit will begin exhibition on September 17, 2023, and will remain on display until August 4, 2024. Timed in conjunction with the director getting his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Academy teased that it will provide an unseen look at his uncompromising style.

"Works on view will include costumes, props, handwritten scripts, correspondence and memos, scrapbooks, photographs, moving-image material, and more," writes the Academy Museum.

"Pope of Trash" will not stand on its own, however. Screenings, public programs, and an adjacent gallery highlighting the broader New Queer Cinema movement will also be held. An official catalog for the exhibit will also be published, featuring contributions from Waters collaborators and famous fans alike.

"Known for pushing the boundaries of 'good taste,' Waters has created a canon of high shock-value, high-entertainment movies that have cemented his position as one of the most revered independent auteurs in the history of American movies," wrote co-curators Jenny He and Dara Jaffe in a statement. "A massive inspiration to other artists who rebelled against the mainstream, Waters's renegade films are replete with muses and themes derived from obsession and celebrity culture."

Who wants to die for art?

If there is any filmmaker that deserves to be given a museum treatment like this, it's Waters. Whether he was working independently or with a studio, he has been responsible for some of the most boundary-pushing works in American cinema – taboo topics like sex, debauchery, and especially queer sexuality are intrinsic to what makes him so iconic. Without movies like "Female Trouble" or "Multiple Maniacs," there's no telling what the landscape of queer art would be like nowadays.

However, there is a double-edged sword to this announcement, as well as the larger reclamation of Waters. While this might be cynical, there is something to be said about how something radical can be repackaged into something normal. It wasn't that long ago when "Pink Flamingos" was still considered a disturbing movie that nobody should watch, at least in the mainstream. As a diehard fan of Waters, I'm extremely happy he's getting this recognition while he's still here — too many queer artists have only been celebrated after they've died or been forgotten. It's strange seeing an awards body that arguably stands for everything his art stands against praise him like this. It begs the question: can mainstream cinema truly separate a director's body of work from the rebellious politics embedded within them?

The answer probably won't come for a very long time. "John Waters: Pope of Trash" runs from September 17, 2023, to August 4, 2024, at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles.