In Pauline Kael’s essay “Trash, Art and the Movies” she allows us to see how a very illusive form of spectatorship within the comedic world works, one were the audience seeks out bad films to laugh at it’s badness. Kael does speak more broadly about poor films as a whole when she writes “At some basic level they like the pictures to be cheaply done, they enjoy the crudeness; it’s a breather, a vacation from proper behaviour and good taste and required responses” (Kael, pg 130-131). In so many academic writings, we are told to seek out the best in cinema and never be content with the standard we see, we should push for better but here we see that there is a legitimacy in honestly enjoying trash movies. When Kael writes “you talk less about good movies than about what you love in bad movies” (pg 129) I believe that she is writing about a genuine love of an “adolescent dream” which reminds me of how I would watch the trashy, cheap videos my friends and I would make when we were children. We watch with a lack of agenda, it isn’t punishing the film’s badness but an embracing of it and an innocent call back to a more juvenile humour.
The seminal example of this, in my opinion, is found in The Room (2009, Wiseau, USA) and The Disaster Artist (2017, Franco, USA). The Room, after it’s original obscurity has created a massive cult following as the film itself is a spectacle of trash and awful filmmaking which is accompanied by awfully confusing mythology around the making of the film which even demanded it’s own film to cover in The Disaster Artist. In the clip from The Disaster Artist we can see how Kael’s theory of enjoying the trash works. We are laughing at the complete ineptitude of James Franco’s Wiseau but we are pulled into the production crowd, we prompt the lines along with them. We feel the comedy and sentiment of this scene by a communal atmosphere. It is had to feel a part of a huge, larger than life comedy film but the trash stoops to our level and invited us into it.
The best cup of tea in the world might be in a far off land and cost £200 but you will take your gran’s look-warm mug everytime if given the choice.