The joy of bad art is unexpected. We have all sat through interminable movies and sworn never again to be lured in by the poster or the offer of a free ticket. And everyone knows that bad theatre is ten times worse as you have to look the actors in the eye and, in a small venue, you can’t even leave .
So why, after a long week of work, am I feeling so invigorated?
Because I just saw a really bad film/play/piece of performance art. Before you think I am mean and uncaring and love revelling in other people’s creative failures I really don’t. I find it tedious and excruciating and would much rather find things I like about something than not.
But oh, the joy of the truly bad. The story that cannot be rescued or improved upon, the production that holds you in its tentacles and won’t let you go for two hours of torture. The giggles that threaten to erupt every time you look at your companion’s face. The drinks you have to down afterwards to make it go away.
The running elatedly down the road when it is over and you are released… When something is this bad it’s gotta be good.
Is it because it makes us less precious about our own failings as a writer or director or actor? Almost certainly. Does it comfort us to know our own ‘middle of the road’ writing could never be that bad? For sure.
And any extreme experience is worth celebrating. Some of the best works of art are the polarisers – the ones you either love or hate – rather than those dreaded in-betweeners, the ‘pleasant’ painting, the ‘watchable’ movie or the ‘well-made play’. There is probably nothing worse than a luke-warm review. Or the look on the face of a friend when you ask, ‘Should I see it?’ and they can’t say yes or no, they just don’t know.
The joy of failure is now celebrated. I walk past a billboard celebrating the many failures of Abraham Lincoln and designed to point up the value of trying again. I’m not sure failure is ever that joyful when it happens to you. It may be useful in giving you a sense of perspective when you finally succeed I guess.
But the schadenfreude of watching someone else’s failure is maybe why we love an all-out turkey of a movie. Failure is liberating. And at least we all tried for that hour or so to make it work. Audiences desperately want to be uplifted, transformed, fall in love with your characters, your world, your story. It doesn’t always happen.
Don’t be afraid to fail. It’s often said but seldom meant. Nobody likes to fail. But it’s good to remember the world won’t end if we make something just a little wonky round the edges.
What’s your favourite bad movie? The worst show you ever saw? The funniest mistake you ever made?
Leave a comment or tweet me @emlin32 on twitter… Or check out this list and see if you agree…