The Science Behind Why Smart People Like Dumb Movies
When it comes to movies, everyone is familiar with the “so bad it’s good” mantra.
After all, while most of us won’t willingly spend time reading a terrible book or investing in a second-rate video game, there’s something about getting together and howling with laughter at the shoddy production value and outright absurdity of “Sharknado.”
Growing up, my friends and I spent most Friday nights dedicated to our *ahem* studious analysis of MANY of these b-list flicks. We’d cackle our way through an anthology of “20 Action-Packed Thrillers” from the five dollar bin at Walmart because they were complete garbage. We’d even see something in the theater if we thought the trailer looked bad enough, *cough* “The Zookeeper” *cough.*
Well, good news. If you’re the kind of person who prefers curling up on the couch in front of some delightful schlock like “Troll 2” (or almost anything with Nicholas Cage), science says you might actually be smarter than your average moviegoing schlub.
Recently, scientific journal Poetics published the first study delving into this phenomenon entitled “Enjoying trash films: Underlying features, viewing stances, and experiential response dimensions.”
First, what makes a film “trash?” Is it more than just ham acting and chintzy special effects? The team responsible for the study surveyed a number of respondents and came back with “cheapness” as one of the most common traits.
Of course, budget doesn’t necessarily dictate a film’s quality. Look no further than this summer’s biggest blockbusters. ‘Suicide Squad’ and ‘Batman v. Superman’ had budgets the size of the Titanic, yet tanked when it came to critical reception. Still, there is something strangely pleasing about watching a low-budget movie that knows it’s low budget.
Keyvan Sarkhosh, postdoctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, writes “At first glance it seems paradoxical that someone should deliberately watch badly made, embarrassing and sometimes even disturbing films and take pleasure in them.”
But Sarkhosh and his team concluded that such ironic viewing is common among frequent movie watchers, exactly because it’s viewed as a departure from the shiny production values typical of Hollywood.
“To such viewers, trash films appear as an interesting and welcome deviation from the mainstream fare,” says Sarkhosh. “We are dealing 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.
So there you have it. You don’t have bad taste. You’re just a “cultural omnivore.” Remember that one next time your friends groan when you suggest Adam Sandler’s ‘Jack and Jill’ for your next movie night. They’re just plebs, and there’s science to prove it.
For those who forgot about this Sandler gem…