When Does Awful Become Good?

Recently, I played a game called Goat Simulator. It’s a pretty bad game. The graphics are horrible. The controls are functional but problematic. It’s difficult to have the goat maneuver through tight spaces well. The people in the game don’t react realistically. The in-game physics are totally wrong. The world is incredibly small. And there are a lot of bugs where you can get stuck in walls, fall through holes in the floor, etc.

Goat Simulator is also one of the best games I’ve played this year.

I’m not the only one who thinks the game is great. There are a lot of other games that give Goat Simulator high praise even if, by all standards, is supposed to be terrible. Then there are movies like Sharknado and a whole slew of Troma films. There are even television shows that we admit to ourselves are terrible (The Following comes to mind). Yet we love these guilty pleasures are call them “classics.” Why is we sometimes like awful things? Or, better yet, why to we consider them good in the first place?

I think a lot of it has to deal with our expectations. One thing has to be the expectations we have for the product. Right off the bat, it’s easy to see that a movie like Sharknado will be terrible or Goat Simulator won’t be the next Fallout or Grand Theft Auto. No, we come into it expecting them to be bad. But fun in a way we’ll at least be entertained! Then again, there are Hollywood films like The Last Airbender or Skyline where we set high expectations for them. So, when we expect something to be awesome and we get garbage, we’re definitely disappointed.

Another thing would be the degree of how things contradict our expectations as well. Catwoman is a bad movie but it just met our expectations on how bad the movie can be. It’s like like the “uncanny valley.” It still remains in the realm of realism but never ventures out to the point where it’s cartoon-y fun. You can still see some hints on how good the films should’ve been and you can see the missed opportunity it was. This is why Catwoman is just a bad movie.

If you look at a movie like The Room, however, a film that was originally envisioned as a drama. It’s a pretty good film… if you think of it as a dumb comedy! The acting is horrible. The writing is atrocious. The cinematography is horrendous. The plot doesn’t make a lick of sense. The characters don’t behave in a logical manner. All of this awfulness made what was supposed to be a drama into a laugh out loud comedy! The viewing public imagined it would be bad but they could never envision The Room to be as bad as it was!

But the most important factor would be the passion the people involved with the project. Passion is something that you feel and put into everything a person creates. If the product is awful but the people involved are passionate about it, you can feel it in the resulting work, no matter how bad it is. This is why we still love movies like Birdemic with its lousy special effects and acting and remember Resident Evil’s lousy voice acting with nostalgic love. The people who worked on it loved what they were doing and we also felt it when we experienced it.

Of course, all of this is a matter of perspective as well. Some people watch bad movies and find them great. Others will watch the same film and just see a bad movie. Creating something that is “so bad it’s good” isn’t an exact science. There’s no magic formula to it. Like nature, it just happens. I think trying to figure it out and bottling it will destroy the magic to why there are enjoyable horrible things in the first place.

Let’s just enjoy the awfulness.

Why do you think there are “so bad that they’re good” items? Leave your theories in the comments section below!


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