Short 'n Curlies #45 by Si Spurrier
Terrible movies can save us all from an Evil Future. Behold My Tortured Logic:
See, a couple of Interesting Viewing Experiences this week have hacked-open a rambly contemplation in the viscera of my Culturegut, on the subject of Indefensibly Bad Stuff Being Defended By People Who Should Know Better.
We have all seen this happen.
My Movie Week began with 1981 awesomefest Dragonslayer which — before you get your knickers in a twist — is Not an indefensibly Bad Film. No, no, no. It's hewn from a slab of solid YAY, and I know this for an ironbound Fakt because, between the ages of 7 and 10, I watched it at least twice every week. I've had a Dragonslayer-shaped hole in my life for about fifteen years now, so when it cropped-up in the TV-Guide I approached it with great trepidation. What, I wondered, if it turns out to be plop? I duly stocked-up on the plentiful Crash-shock Airbags that are Cheap Supermarket Beer, and an industrial-scale packet of Misery-Mitigating Twiglets, and made sure the Missus Was Out.
I needn't've worried: Dragonslayer still rocks like an attention-seeking orphan stapled to a seesaw.
Alas: my reignited enthusiasm caught me out. Convinced that my younger self was obviously trustworthy in his pleasures, I reached for another youthful favourite: Pullman/Moranis/Candy hypervehicle SpaceBalls. And this time I watched it with the SheSpur; confidently promising her a Hilarious Catalogue Of Brilliance from yesteryear.
And Oh Sweet Jesus That's a Rotten, Rotten film.
Now. It may be that an overlong Star Wars spoof rammed with weak Visual Gags and the sorts of innuendo to make Benny Hill dig out his radial arteries with a trowel really is "Bad" in a provable, scientific way. It may also be that a po-faced fantasy flick with a dodgily animated dragon, an old thesp in a silly hat and a curly-haired American Twat pretending to be a 6th Century Sorcerer's apprentice really is a timeless Classic and undeniably "Good."
…But there's also the troublingly Quantum notion that the manner in which an event is witnessed fundamentally affects its outcome. Consider: by simply sharing my viewing experience with my fiancée, and failing to surround myself with the comforting safety-nets of Snacks'n'Slurpies, in the Spaceballs case I was (a) exposed to a host of external tutting, eye-rolling and head-shaking within my Cultural Womb, and (b) was unable to access the warm, reassuring taint of nostalgia which papers-over every crack.
Who's to say that, if I watched Spaceballs solo, it wouldn't be a lot better? Who's to say Dragonslayer wouldn't lose 90% of its SHEER FUCKING BRILLIANCE if I'd forced Her Indoors to watch it with me?
…actually, a quick Straw Poll on Twitter suggests my Inner Critic is basically on-the-money in these cases, but that simply serves to underline the denominating truth here:
A Shit Movie isn't inherently shit. It only becomes Shit when Other People Who've Also Seen It Agree With You That It Is Indeed Shit. (Or, sometimes, when your Lone Voice Of Praise is drowned out by Thousands Of Haters, One Of Whom May Very Well Be An Older And Wiser Version Of You.)
Of course, it's not that rare — in our Western PseudoPubBollocks Culture — for there to be a dissenting voice. 9 times out of 10 it's someone flying in the face of overwhelming public praise: loudly decrying as Unmitigated Crap (for instance) an astonishing Swords-n-Sandals Oscar-Winner The World Has Fallen In Love With, or (say) a Devastatingly Popular Relaunch Of A Much-Loved BBC TV Sci-Fi Classic, or (e.g.) Being fucking Human, or whatever it may be. Such people are usually labelled contrarians, or sanctimonious bastards, or Hate-Themed Column Writers, or etc etc, and are generally ignored/tolerated.
What's far rarer is someone bold enough to stand up and declare they see the pure, glowing light of Genius at the heart of a movie (or show, or book, or comic, or etc etc), which everyone else is queuing-up to describe as Bloated Unrepentant Satanspunk. Such people are often frustrating to be around (morseo even than the Negative-Trend Contrarians described above), because it's almost impossible to be angry at someone for being too generous with their praise, or too charitable, or just plain Too Easy To Please. These people are so utterly invested in their enjoyment — whether they're being helped-along by nostalgia, or stupidiy, or beer, or simply because (par example) Halle Berry in a leather catsuit speaks to their cultural centres of gratification like Nothing Else Could — that they become intractable, self-satisfied; stubborn in their refusal to See The Awful, Awful Truth like everyone else.
Nothing fosters Smugness like an opinion Under Siege.
…all of which reminds me — prepare for a tangent here, kids — of nothing so much as the fucking Church Of Scientology: a religious institution structured around its devotees achieving successive "levels" of spiritual attainment, whose crazy batshit head-up-its-own-ass alien warlord volcano-bombing TruthFuck is only revealed to members when they finally reach a level of advancement requiring years of devotion and hundreds of thousands of dollars of Financial Loyalty. By which stage, frankly, they're so catastrophically Balls Deep in the psychic con that they daren't even entertain the notion that it might all be A Big Pile Of Sub-Par Sci-Fi Daftitude, because to do so would expose them to how unbearably wasteful they've been with their time, money and emotion.
So it is with any sucky, sucky Movie which you — yes you — have no fucking RIGHT to like.
What's truly fascinating is that both these threads — the denial of Movie Shitosity even in the face of frothing wraparound critical harpooning, and the inability to objectively discern the galloping ludicrousness of a Cultish joke — come together in their truest, purest conjunction under the aegis of a single Godawful Stinker: the much-lamented Battlefield Earth. The fear, of course, is that thousands of Young People sat through that writhing pile of drekk when it first came out — alone in darkened rooms — and thanks to their ill-developed cranial ganglia, or drugs, or mental retardation, or just a lack of Proper Objective Cynicism, Still Enjoy It Today.
Pay attention, now:
These people… these people are the Demagogues of Tomorrow. They're the ones who'll set-up or join their own wacky little cults. They're the Travoltas and Cruises of this century, the David Koreshes and Jonestown Dwellers of the future. Oh, not because of some subliminal Scientology Signal buried in the crud of that ghastly, ghastly film, but simply because they have — via their enjoyment of it — revealed a Dark Genetic Predisposition. They're the ones who are so blinded by the illusion of quality — by a tiny glimmer of gratification, by the merest soupcon of emotional payoff, by the confidence trick of genius — that they will defend, proselytize and fucking crusade in the name of Whatever-It-May-Be, However-Stupid, Whatever-Shit-It's-Made-Of, in defiance of all common sense.
These people must be given a Second Chance, just to be safe. If you know someone who falls into this category — someone whose devotion to a genuine piece of cultural cowturd is unshakeable; someone who still claims Howard The Duck was magnificent, or Mac And Me was genius, or Epic Movie was the zenith of human achievement — sit them down and make them watch it again.
If they persist in their attitude — and only if — then you may confidently declare them an Avatar Of Delusional Self Confidence, an Anointed Master Of Self-Inflicted Denial, a Religious Lunatic In Waiting, A Motherfucking Reality-Dodger, and in the name of all the laws of evolution you are obliged to CLEAN THE FUTURE by murdering them while they sleep.
Shit films are a litmus test for All Mankind. Use Them Wisely.
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