‘So bad its good’ is a type of enjoyment that seems specific to film and television. You probably wouldn’t wilfully listen to a terrible album, read a lousy book or go to see thematically redundant art, and yet many of us will sit down and watch the worst movie we can find with glee.
For the first time, academics have delved into this phenomenon, with the journal Poetics this week publishing a study entitled: ‘Enjoying trash films: Underlying features, viewing stances, and experiential response dimensions’.
"At first glance it seems paradoxical that someone should deliberately watch badly made, embarrassing and sometimes even disturbing films, and take pleasure in them,” writes Keyvan Sarkhosh, postdoctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics.
The team started by trying to ascertain exactly what makes a film ‘trash’, with the most common characteristic respondents cited being their “cheapness”. Low budget horror films were the most common example, probably because they’re so plentiful and so easily churned out.
Ironic viewing is obviously what is at play here, and the researchers found it is mostly film buffs who watch trash films, which would make sense, as very often their enjoyment comes down to analyses of production values, dialogue and plot structure.
"To such viewers, trash films appear as an interesting and welcome deviation from the mainstream fare", says Sarkhosh. "We are dealing here with an audience with above-average education, which one could describe as 'cultural omnivores'. Such viewers are interested in a broad spectrum of art and media across the traditional boundaries of high and popular culture." He went on to explain that their engagement in film culture is demonstrated by their discussion of these films in blogs and forums.
Now we just need a study on ‘okay films’, so I can work out why the hell I’ve seen the Bourne films 300 times.
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