When I was younger, I got caught watching Master of the Flying Guillotine, mid-mystic arm-stretch attack.


“What the hell kind of crap is this,” my dad asked me. “Why don’t you watch something worth seeing?”

“It’s just a dumb movie,” I quickly covered. “I’m just watching to laugh at it.”

I had, of course, been aware of that the movie was not quite a cinematic accomplishment. But my response to my dad’s disdain was a first for me-I felt bad about enjoying what I was watching.

Just like that, the movie turned into a guilty pleasure, defined by wikipedia as “something one enjoys and considers pleasurable despite feeling guilt for enjoying it. The “guilt” involved is sometimes simply fear of others discovering one’s lowbrow or otherwise embarrassing tastes, such as campy styles of entertainment.”

Shame is the great motivator when it comes to keeping in step with mainstream tastes.Someone, somewhere, a long time ago, decided that deviations were bad. Because of that, I have to deal eye rolls and explain why Big Trouble in Little China is actually more thoughtful than it would seem and should be viewed as a parody of action movies starring swaggering white males and their clever minority sidekicks, instead of just being able to enjoy it.

When it comes to movies, terms like b-movie, cult, and camp, sleaze get attatched to those beyond the pale.To be sure, these terms have meaning. Cult movies may not always be low-grade productions, just as there high camp. But the attatchment or use of the term to a movie usually is a signal that watchers shouldn’t openly enjoy it.

Naturally,community support helps: I doubt that any of the hundreds or thousands of people who attend yearly midnight showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show would blush and demurely agree that the movie is something to be embarassed by liking. Instead, they’d probably dress up in drag and throw toast around.

As I mentioned in another post, one of the first movies that helped draw me into B-movies/cult movies was Deathrace 2000. My overly-long search gave me community capital, it connected me to a whole network of fellow fans; people to whom these movies were not guilty pleasures but sincere loves.In this instance, guilty pleasures are being subverted into key community texts.

So my question is this-does the existence of the term/idea of guilty pleasures and cult movies strengthen or weaken movie fandoms, and who gets to decide what makes a guilty pleasure or cult movie-the subculture or mainstream?

> Written with [StackEdit](http://benweet.github.io/stackedit/).


Join the conversation! 3 Comments

  1. I just want to bring up any of the Evil Dead movies here. Those movies are terrible. I don’t find them to be well made, scary, interesting, or groundbreaking but people love them with a passion. There are so many people who think they are great, I feel guilty saying I don’t like them. Maybe that’s when the guilty pleasure becomes mainstream.

  2. I feel like watching a guilty pleasure is definitely better than watching a guilty pleasure wanna be. For Evil Dead, they were mocking the horror genre by being incredibly cheesy while 100% satisfying the B rated movie requirements. I enjoy finding a good dollar movie that I can really sit back and laugh at just for the sake of laughing. People actually put this stuff together thinking it may be a hit…somewhere.

  3. I love artists who are in on the joke, the ones who see society’s tastes and wants, blatantly pander to them, all while grinning wily and subtly (or maybe not-so-subtly) thumbing their nose at our notions of art or culture.

    Snakes on a Plane. Damn right, I was the first one in line opening day. I was not disappointed.


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About tomwink

Graduate student at Rowan University currently researching public spaces and their impact


fandom, long post, participatory culture, Uncategorized


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