An investigation into the cultural phenomenon surrounding books and movies that are considered critical failures, but are nonetheless championed in popular culture. Stories are an essential part of American culture, and many people not only tolerate but truly enjoy those stories that are shocking, confusing, and, in some cases, those that were created by storytellers with almost no talent at all. The continued production of these lackluster stories was considered, with an eye to the corporate influences on film studios and publishers. This paper also looked at two storytellers, the filmmaker Ed Wood and the author Stephen King, whose value as artists has been debated by passionate fans and their strongest critics. The sociological concepts of taste and cultural capital, as defined by sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, and the art movements of postmodernism and metamodernism, particularly the style of camp as defined by Susan Sontag and the value of bad taste in art as defined by John Waters, were investigated in regards to their connection to the popularity of bad films and novels. A brief investigation into the psychological effects of consuming bad stories, especially in children, was also included. From this foundation of the bad story as an important part of our culture's ideas about art and its consumption, the paper then addresses some of the popular methods of consumption of the bad story. For novels, the paper examines the trend of pulp fiction novels and of romance novels, going into depth on the role of E.L James' Fifty Shades of Grey in popular culture. For film, the paper examines the impact of the midnight movie trend on the popularity of subversive, counter-culture films, the role of camp genre films like Sharman's The Rocky Horror Picture Show in our culture, particularly with an eye towards audience participation screenings, and the way in which other projects, like Joel Hodgson's Mystery Science Theater 3000, transform bad films into new, enjoyable entertainment. Overall, this paper investigates all of the positive aspects around a failed story that allow these missteps in writing and directing to still find success in our culture.
- The Cultural Value of Bad Storytelling
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