More power of negative thinking -- bad films

by Rob Horning

21 November 2005


I followed a link from Atrios to this post, which provides a list of a few well-received movies this film professor hates, along with—what I found especially interesting—a defense of negation for its own sake. At the end she half jokingly proposes a social network a la Friendster in which you list not what you like but what you ardently dislike, forming a community of the wary and unconvinced. Is it possible to found a community on negation, or does that soon flip to being a group united by affirmation of common hatreds? I’m not sure, but I think that in our blandly affirmative culture, which tends to reduce all possible desires to promotional endorsements,  a “yes” to some purchase, negation requires more energy to sustain, and as such, may lead to a more vivid and forceful expression of an individual personality, or better, it may lead to preventing something so reified as a “personality” from ever materializing. Negation—unsubstantiated and undefended pure rejection—may be a form of pure resistance, a way escaping traps of rationality that support systems of domination that play out at the seemingly innocuous level of popular culture. (I offer my thoroughly unreasoned and purely visceral rejection of all condiments and pickles as an ennobling example.)

That being said, I agree with every selection on her list of hated movies with the exception of Grease 2, which I think is brilliantly bad, while exposing and sending up all the phony nostalgic sentiment of the original.

And I also agree with many of the films the commenters appended below, the ones I’ve seen, anyway. Especially worthy of hatred: American Beauty, the praise for which I’ll never understand. Wow, middle-class life in suburbia can be so phony! We should probably smoke some weed. And I would add another insipid Oscar winner, A Beautiful Mind, an egregious example of a bad genre, the biopic, which always pushes the “great man” theory of history while forcing simultaneously all lives to fit the same cliched patterns exemplified by VH1’s Behind the Music and its rise/fall/redemption formula.

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