“Cecil B. Demented”: an honest portrayal of Baltimore
John Waters, a Baltimore native, directed "Cecil B. Demented." Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.

“Cecil B. Demented”: an honest portrayal of Baltimore

The 2000 film “Cecil B. Demented” is a very unique and interesting film. It provides a new perspective on modern media and criticizes many of the films that people love today, including “Forrest Gump and “Godzilla.” This movie begins by introducing a “well-known” Hollywood movie star by the name of Honey Whitlock (Melanie Griffith). She is then kidnapped by a ragtag group of sex-crazed filmmakers headed by none other than Cecil B. Demented himself (Stephen Dorff).

Demented forces Whitlock to star in his offbeat movie that is intended to destroy the public’s supposed mindless intake of horrible Hollywood films. She resists at first, finding Demented and his followers to be crazy, but eventually realizes how much she needed an escape from Hollywood.

To film the scenes for their movie, the group goes to various theaters and storms in to cause a panic. They even crash a meeting for the Maryland Film Commission and break into a $65 million set.

This group of outcasts shows that they will stop at nothing to get their message out to the public. Many of them are shot and killed throughout the filming of their movie. The public, as a result of all the violence and death surrounding the filming of certain scenes, appears to be infatuated with Demented and his movie starring Honey Whitlock.

John Waters tends to create peculiar movies of this sort all the time. They give off a sense of hysteria and many of the laughs are generated through the absolute ridiculousness of the scenes. At one point, Cecil B. Demented lights himself on fire and rolls towards a policeman in a wheelchair to defend Whitlock.

Despite the weirdness that exists through the entire movie, there is some surprisingly accurate commentary on Baltimore. Many issues that are present in Baltimore — crime, violence, police brutality and large gaps between social classes — are all exhibited in the movie.

Not only did the outcasts show up at various locations with their guns blazing, but the police also arrived and shot into the crowd with no regard as to who they killed. In Baltimore, this ends up being one of the realities that a lot of the residents deal with. 

The most interesting aspect of this movie is the manner in which Demented and his followers were trying to dismantle the Hollywood blockbuster system. They used force and had no fear of sacrificing themselves for the cause. This is similar to the riots that took place in Baltimore after Freddie Gray’s death in police custody.

The rage that Baltimore residents felt was expressed as Baltimore erupted in flames. Stores were looted, hordes of people marched down the streets and violence was at an all-time high. The movie itself embodies this theme of fire and violence as resistance.

Although the death of Freddie Gray came years after “Cecil B. Demented,” it shows just how little Baltimore has really changed. It shows that some media surrounding Baltimore really reflects the characteristics of the city. Overall, the movie was interesting and so weird that it was hard to look away, and it gives a glimpse of the city that is in our very own backyard.