The Sharknado Thing

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Cleaning up in the social networks. Scary whirling air. Boo. We’re fans.

So we watched the Sharknado sequel, having missed the first one. My wife hates gore, but having started we couldn’t stop watching. Repeatedly, she exclaimed, “I can’t believe I’m watching this movie.” I explained that it was my blog duty to keep up with what’s “trending.” We both laughed throughout. A lot. Blood colored cotton candy.

Imagine my surprise that there could be anyone so humorless as to consider the Sharknado franchise sinister. But here’s the proof (h/t Hotair):

Last year, Flavorwire’s Jason Bailey argued that Sharknado is bad for people who love bad movies. “For those of us with a genuine love for bad movies, who seek out treasures of terribleness,” he wrote, “the Sharknado social media storm was kind of like when everybody discovered rap music via Vanilla Ice.” Bailey made the case that the appeal of so-bad-they’re-good gems like Manos, Miami Connection, or The Room is that they weren’t deliberately manufactured to be bad. Those cult hits came from people who truly believed they were making good art, and the gulf between their visions and the reality of their work was what made them enjoyable. The same cannot be said of the Sharknado films — “a plastic, artificial, manufactured substitute” made with “snickering, ironic snark-viewing in mind,” Bailey wrote.

But that doesn’t get to the bottom of why Sharknado is so pernicious. Imagine that you’re a top Hollywood executive — the kind that calls shots and greenlights projects. If you’re searching for the Next Great Box Office Smash Hit — especially one that’s cheap and likely to put butts in seats — you’d be crazy not to see the cultural phenomenon of Sharknado as an instant money-making opportunity. Hire some washed-out, B-movie stars on the cheap; attach a no-name director; commission a hastily written screenplay; and don’t break the bank on your cheesy, cheap special effects. If it’s half as successful as Sharknado, it’s a recipe for some serious cash money.

But what kind of precedent does that set? If studios succeed by making bad movies, other studios will follow suit. Social media buzz becomes more important to Hollywood every year, and it won’t take many more Sharknados before studios, filmmakers, and writers race to the bottom, creating terrible lowbrow art for the sake of irony (the one thing that we do not need more of these days).

If you read the comments, there are few additional points to be made. My own unique observation is that no other movie could make Snakes On a Plane look, comparatively, like Citizen Kane.

And there’s another link between these two titanic productions. Behold:

As Freud said, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. And sometimes fun is just fun.

Have yourselves a fine day. But keep your eyes peeled for sharks. You can never tell where they might be lurking.

  1. Peregrine John’s avatar

    Can there be any question about why Sharknado (et al) is a smash hit? I discussed this with an old friend just this morning. Tara Reid was worried that the goofy monster flick would end her career, and the image accompanying the article caused me to observe that a beautiful woman with mid-short length hair can be made entirely stunning by simply adding 8″ or more to its length. (I haven’t seen her in anything in quite a while, it would seem.)

    For his part, he was incredulous that such intentional dreck would get such enormous ratings. I hear that the original got 1 million which is big for cable-only, and the sequel quadrupled it. He refuses to see any of it, including the even more absurd Sharktopus, and I simply have no interest and too many other things to catch up with. But I pointed out to him that this whole wackiness was guaranteed success by the SF producers being all Dark and Dramatic and Important! and such, and forgot that people just like to have fun now and then. I’d rather watch Warehouse 13 (about 80% comedy) than Continuum or Defiance any day, but the former has ended. My friend agreed, complaining that everything tries to be “edgy” and so everything is, and so nothing is – it’s just gloomy and depressing.

    I have a Mystery Science Theater sort of love for inadvertent hilarity, and will agree with part of Bailey’s point that doing it on purpose sort of pulls the rug from the joke itself. I think this is an example of a genre’s viewership having had so little simple silliness in its area that anything will do to release the pressure.

    So here’s to flying sharks! And killer tomatoes, for that matter. May they be around just long enough to get the message through the producers’ skulls.

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