Part 1 – Film
I spend a lot of time watching sub par movies and reading one star reviewed books. It’s what my whole site is about. But I do not want people to get the idea that I think there is no value in the garbage I consume. Quite the contrary, I think having the worst of the worst existing in the world, with easy access for everyone, is fundamental and necessary. I realize my opinion might be quite contrary to the majority of humans in existence. So let me take a few minutes to lay out my argument. I am going to defend bad films in this post and plead my case for bad books in another post next week.
I hope you’ll forgive me but if I mention a film that I have done a review for I am going to link to that post below, on the off chance that you find some value in my opinion of it. Don’t let my shameless self promotion sway you from the merits of my argument. I genuinely mean what I say here.
I know that everyone has differing ideas of what constitutes a bad film. One person’s Transformers is their idea of a good, fun time at a summer blockbuster. Another person sees that same film as nothing but a money grab put out by a big studio simply looking to cash in on a bit of nostalgia. I can see the argument on both sides and while I clearly dislike Transformers, I will defend it’s right to exist without question.
There are other films that we might call objectively bad. As in, they are poorly made, have a nonsense plot, terrible acting, bad dialogue and special effects that simply don’t work. Yet some of these can be as entertaining as the best of the Oscar nominated films or summer blockbuster movies out there. Don’t believe me? Then how do you explain the lasting popularity of The Rocky Horror Picture Show or The Room both of which have interactive productions to their credit that consistently sell out. Again I will defend the right of these films to exist without question, entertaining or not.
Why do I think these things should be out there for everyone? Well, as bad as some of these films are, the alternative is worse. Have you been to the movies in the last 3 years? I’ll bet bottom dollar that it’s quite likely you either saw a sequel, an adaptation of another media, or a reboot of something that has been done before. Even if that’s not the case, I bet that what you did watch echoes a film from the past. There are some notable exceptions to this, and I applaud those, but those are rare.
In addition, we are getting fewer and fewer companies making films. If we’re not careful, all media is going to be conglomerated into some kind of mega-corporation (some would even say it already has) and the choice of what we view is going to be severely limited. It’s no surprise that a company sees a success and wants to repeat that success. But unlike producing the same drink formula over and over, making films is a definite art. There are nuances to it, and these works of art can make lasting impact to people’s lives. Not so much if we are shown the same three movies over and over again.
I don’t resent movie studios trying to make money, just to be clear. I resent movie studios actively not trying to make art. Too many executives and shareholders who only see the bottom line as the end product seem to be in charge.
Now don’t get me wrong, I adore the MCU, am a die hard Star Wars fan and pay good money to see Batman films whenever they come out. There’s lots of enjoyment and entertainment I can get out of these films.
But nothing will prepare you for the strange things you find in a film like The Toxic Avenger. Why is that? It’s a film that was made outside of the traditional Hollywood system. With people who could basically do what they wanted with the budget they had, and did. And it turned out in a way that literally no one could have predicted. Toxie is a beloved icon of independence, embraced by the oddballs and weirdos like me who showed up at comic book and film conventions before it was cool.
The only way to get original art and artists is to give room for failure. Some failure is unfortunate and people move on with their lives, others accidentally become successes and can inspire others. The highly sought after director, Quentin Tarantino said he had to make a bad film before he could make a good one. He also watched tons of cinema, including movies that would never be considered box office successes. However, elements of those types of films are clearly present in Tarantino’s work.
Another reason that we need to allow for things that would not traditionally be considered successful is that it can give a voice to those who don’t have one. It’s no secret that big blockbuster movies, that take in tons of money, very rarely have a relatable, realistic LGBTQ+ character. The director John Waters, best known for making the trash cinema classic Pink Flamingos, is and was light years ahead of the mainstream in this regard. And his work has broken through to mainstream success too. Hairspray the Tony Award winning Broadway play is based on one of Waters’ films.
I could probably mention a whole slew of other groups that are underrepresented in mainstream Hollywood films but it would come to the same point. Sometimes, failure is just a bit of culture not understood by the mainstream.
If all we ever want out of a film is for it to be a financial success, we’ll only ever end up with the same type of film that makes the most money. Even Transformers, with it’s financial success I would call a film making failure. The plot holes are big enough to drive a 16 wheeler through. You can see the pain on the actor’s faces as they deliver their lines. It’s only successful in that it made money.
So if I am arguing that I don’t want us to have the same movie over and over, how can I defend the right of Transformers to exist? Especially considering the fact that it has a slew of sequels that look the same? The reason is that, as cookie cutter as those films can be, there is always the chance that they can surprise you and be original.
I think most people would have said that prior to Thor: Ragnarok we knew what to expect out of a Thor film. But that film had the guts to do something different thanks to an independent director, who had not been so constrained by the studio system.
We need to allow the chance for people to try new things. You can’t be creative by only ever drawing inside the lines. Letting movies be out there that are the bottom of the barrel, like Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, or Surf Nazis Must Die allows for experimentation, creativity, independence and sometimes a voice for the disenfranchised. Let’s not give that up. Watch bad movies on purpose. Otherwise, you are never going to see anything you didn’t expect.
So what do you think? Do you agree with me? Let me know in the comments section. I’m always interested in civil discourse about terrible media.
Reviews for films mentioned:
The Toxic Avenger: https://slickdungeon.blog/2019/06/03/the-toxic-avenger/
Attack of the Killer Tomatoes: https://slickdungeon.blog/2019/05/28/attack-of-the-killer-tomatoes/
Surf Nazis Must Die: https://slickdungeon.blog/2019/06/10/surf-nazis-must-die-film-review/