Face/Off (1997, dir. John Woo)

PopTalk: What Makes Something “So Bad It’s Good?”

From The Room to Southland Tales, "so-bad-it's-good" cinema has become a cult industry. Why do people waste time on ostensibly "bad" films?

Theoretically, if a work of art is bad, we will view or listen to it only once and never return to it again; after all, if it is truly bad, why would anyone want to spend additional time with it? Yet dozens of films fall under the umbrella of “so-bad-it’s-good”, where a film’s badness becomes the very reason why we enjoy it. From the terrible direction, performances, and editing of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room to the apocalyptic nonsense of Southland Tales, so-bad-it’s-good cinema offers moviegoers the chance to have fun at the expense of itself.

In the latest PopTalk, Evan Sawdey and Brice Ezell examine this phenomenon, analyzing examples, including the two aforementioned films, to figure out how it is people can get enjoyment out of things they claim to hate. Moreover, attention is given as to why film is the one medium that is usually referenced when talking about so-bad-it’s-good art. Could there be a so-bad-it’s-good album?

Evan Sawdey is the Interviews Editor at PopMatters and Brice Ezell is the Assistant Editor.