Obviously, I am a John Waters fan. Who didn’t love Hairspray? Serial Mom? And how can you not be obsessed with the larger-than-life character of Divine? But I think my favorite movie of all of them was Cry Baby.
I want to say that I identified with Allison, the straight-A student who gets seduced by rock’n’roll and the morose charms of Cry-Baby, but in reality, I always knew I was a Hatchet Face.
Mona, aka Hatchet Face, played by Kim McGuire, wasn’t “ugly.” No. Her face had CHARACTER.
Okay, so it was largely cakey foundation and smeared lipstick, but I am reminded of the Amy Poehler quote, “There’s power in looking silly and not caring that you do.” McGuire played a walking punchline with dignity. She deserves to be recognized for her talent for physical comedy, too! Look at Lucille Ball curling her lips, Gilda Radner scrunching up her nose. They all knew how to make their faces work for them, and the faces McGuire pulls out show that she understood how to work her assets for laughs.
What’s also important to note is that Hatchet Face is beloved, unlike many “ugly” characters whose appearance is a handicap. She has an adoring boyfriend in Milton, who loves her exactly the way she is. He comes to her defense — not that Hatchet Face needs any help defending herself! — and it’s so refreshing to see an “ugly” character being shown unconditional love for once, instead of lamenting (for laughs, of course) why she can’t get any love:
Ramona — arguably the mother figure of the gang — praises her for being tough and cunning. She chases and plays with Pepper’s kids, even flies the helicopter into prison to break Cry-Baby out of jail. She is a valued member of the gang. They don’t hang out with her out of pity, or to have a punching bag for the group. She plays a mean sax and she’ll cut you if you mess with her friends. Hatchet Face knows her worth.
John Waters’ movies have always given voice to the freaks, the outcasts, the subversives. From the interracial 50’s romance in Hairspray to Divine’s inspirational drag, Waters gives everyone a chance to shine. By depicting an (albeit over-the-top) “ugly” person on screen as an accepted and lovable member of a group, I like to think he was telling me, “Be proud of who you are.” Which is what I desperately needed to hear.
Though McGuire passed away last week at the age of 60, her legacy as Hatchet Face will live on in our hearts and on our screens. Inspiring us to be proud, be tough, and not take anybody’s crap. Thanks for showing us the way, Kim.