Saturday, October 9, 2010

Eating Spaghetti in the Bathtub

When I saw Cloris Leachman eating spaghetti in a bathtub during this week's episode of Raising Hope, it took me back to a similar scene in the movie Gummo that haunted me for years. For years.

When I saw the movie Kids back in the mid-1990's, it affected me deeply. My teenaged life had been nothing at all like the lives of the kids in Kids, so it wasn't that I identified with them strongly. I didn't identify with them at all really. My square middle-class Midwest upbringing bore no similarities to the lives of these New York City kids who comparatively ran wild. Maybe it was the realization that someone's life could be so diametrically opposite from mine that struck a chord. I don't actually know what it was, but I do remember being so hypnotized by the characters and their stories that the first time I saw Kids I stayed up until five in the morning watching it twice back-to-back. Shortly after that I felt like I couldn't live without continued access to this movie so I special-ordered a VHS copy from a movie store at the mall. (Remember life before DVDs, DVRs, even before widespread use of our friend The Internet?! What a different world it was back then)

When Harmony Korine, the writer of Kids, directed his first movie, Gummo, a couple years after Kids came out, I was super-excited to see it. I was certain that lightning was going to strike twice and Harmony was going to change my life again. I wasn't wrong, but it wasn't what I expected. Gummo affected me strongly too, but not at all in the same way Kids did. Whereas Kids told the somewhat/sometimes attractive stories of 'cool' teenagers in NYC, Gummo tells the stories of complete weirdos in completely weird Xenia, Ohio. While Kids had instantly captivated me, Gummo immediately and forevermore repulsed me.

I can't remember what theatre in Chicago showed Gummo, but I remember it was old and dirty and I was wearing a ridiculously short dress that just barely covered my bottom when I was standing up (Ah, Youth!). The longer I sat with not nearly enough material between my body and that dirty seat, and the longer I watched scene after scene of filthy houses and strange-beyond-belief people, the grosser I felt. The scene that disturbed me the most was the one where a dirty kid is taking a dirty bath in a dirty bathtub while eating a plate of spaghetti. I'm not a germaphobe, but I couldn't get all that dirtiness going on out of my head and I went straight home and took a shower, plus I couldn't bring myself to eat spaghetti for years after that. For years.

I'm sure I can find the scene on youtube, but honestly I don't want to see it again and I don't want anyone reading this to feel like they have to watch it either. Trust me when I tell you that it's OK if you never watch a minute of Gummo. Just picture every house you've ever seen on Hoarders being in the same tiny burned-out town, and that entire town is wholly populated by the 32 people included in a bizarre special Redneck edition of the Who's Who of Mental Illness.


  1. What if it was chili? Would that have made a difference? Chili from Hodges.

  2. Chili might have actually been worse because it would call to mind farting/poop.
    Which reminds me, there was also a chocolate bar involved in that scene. It dropped into the filthy water at one point and he still fished it out and ate it.
    I feel ill remembering that additional detail.

  3. I like Gummo... The truth is that Gummo shows the reality of small villages/towns where parents are uneducated and kids are uneducated as well...

    I think Gummo is a very good movie... I also saw Kids and I like both movies very much!