How Bad is Good?

We all have them. Like an embarrassing relative, the movie, book, game or TV show you keep hidden from the world, lest you burst into flames of ridicule. Whether it’s Twilight, Fifty Shades of Grey, Flash Gordon (AHHHH!) or something on SyFy, they’re out there. And like the old saying that there’s someone from everyone, there’s also someone who likes whatever you don’t.

However, that raises the question: why? Is it nostalgia, that tricky little bastard? I’m one of the aforementioned Flash fans, and I love that movie to death. But when I tried to introduce it to some friends, it did not go over well. On the other hand, they have likes that I don’t. But nostalgia can be so deceptive, and let us down so easily. We’ve all gone back to things we loved as a child that just didn’t hold up later in life.

How bad is too bad? I’ve seen my share of bad films as well, both through the filter of MST3K (without which I would not have survived) and on my own. What’s the tipping point between “I am dumber for having watched that” and “Hey, that was hilarious and fun, even if the budget was pocket change)”? It seems to be a fine line and vary from person to person. Is it just different strokes? More masochistic tendencies?

And yet, some of that “borderline” entertainment goes big. Look at Evil Dead. No-name director and actors make a cheap horror film about people trapped in the woods. The bargain bins are full of people who have tried to imitate it. What was different? Something appealed to enough people to bypass the “bad” and make it a cult classic and cultural touchstone for a lot of people. And sometimes we just want to turn off our brains and shamelessly indulge ourselves in something that will not require any kind of response. The problem there is if it’s too terrible, it will provoke a negative feeling and ruin everything.

It can’t be learned, because very talented and educated people don’t manage to pull it off consistently. It has to be an intuitive spark, something that can’t be labeled or found in a classroom. Like anything else, some people have it more strongly than others, a gift for connecting with people. The same way someone can write a song or a story (or a blog) that will make you laugh or cry or think. It’s that word, sympatico. It just strikes a chord. Maybe it’s a good thing it’s not more common. That way we enjoy it all the more when we find it. But don’t let that stop you from picking up some bargain bin entertainment along the way.


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