troll 2

Why Young People Love Bad Movies

The obvious question is, “Why do people watch this garbage?” It’s been posed by scholars and concerned loved ones alike. A recent study in the journal Poetics gave an academic reason. People who like “trash films,” it reasoned, tend to be film buffs. They enjoy “a broad spectrum of art and media across the traditional boundaries of high and popular culture.” A movie that pushes the traditional boundaries of pop culture could be an avant garde film like Meshes of the Afternoon. Or it could be Birdemic. The good news is that, either way, it’s an indication of intelligence. (So if you like bad movies, you’re basically a genius.)

Ironic viewing is obviously a factor here, which has led some people to argue young people are being unbearably hip. In her book No Logo, Naomi Klein suggested this is exactly what happened with Showgirls. “Six months after the movie Showgirls flopped in the theaters, for instance, MGM got wind that the sexploitation flick was doing okay on video, and not just as a quasi-respectable porno,” she writes. “It seemed that groups of trendy twenty-somethings were throwing Showgirls irony parties, laughing sardonically at the implausibly poor screenplay and shrieking with horror at the aerobic sexual encounters.”

(This perception that young people are laughing derisively at bad movies is also what led Kurt Vonnegut to decline a dinner invitation from Hodgson, in a pretty incredible anecdote.)

While snark is key for some viewers and some movies, none of that explains the genuine sincerity expressed by so many followers of terrible films. It’s all over Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2. Throughout the documentary, fans show off the sequel screenplays they’ve written, the tattoos they’ve inked on their arms, the costumes they’ve made. They reenact scenes to rapturous cheers. They lose their minds whenever actor turned dentist George Hardy, who played the father in the movie, makes an in-person appearance. They love Troll 2 for exactly what it is. “It’s genuine. There’s no irony going on,” one fan says. “A film that genuinely expresses a story. A totally whacked story.”

Young fans have a deep affection for these movies because they see in them a silly sketch they shot with friends in high school. They watch a bunch of earnest people putting everything into a profoundly dumb idea, and recognize all the dumb ideas they’ve had. They know these people didn’t get famous, at least not in the way they imagined, from this ill-advised movie. But hey, their Shawshank parody didn’t get them anywhere, either.

“There’s a certain nostalgia factor to it,” Solovey said in an interview. “If you’ve ever picked up a video camera and tried to make something, you recognize Manos: The Hands of Fate.”
Maybe you never dreamed up Torgo or Nilbog, exactly, but someone did. For young people who love bad movies, that means something. Maybe even everything.

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