Monday 21 October 2013

So Bad It's Good

When it comes to the quality of a piece of media there's usually an inverse bell curve that demonstrates how entertaining it's going to be. The middle-of-the-road is often bland, tedious, and forgettable, but it's the truly great and truly terrible that stick with us and provide hours of genuine entertainment.

I've never been much of a "so bad it's good" aficionado, but I'm still familiar with things like the infamous scene from Troll 2, and the superbly awful Harry Potter fanfic My Immortal. What I want to discuss, however, isn't explicitly to do with these great examples of people trying and failing, but rather the idea of media being able to provoke a positive reaction even when it's bad and terrible.

I'm not even talking about hilariously bad movies or fanfiction here, it extends beyond that to books, articles, and movies that are genuinely offensive to us in some way. I myself am guilty of watching youtube videos and reading publications by certain "news" sites that I know are going to rile me up, purely for the sake of having a good old rant with some of my friends about how dumb and awful these things are.

Of course, I'd generally advise against that sort of media consumption (I don't believe much good comes from pursuing things that you know will aggravate you), but it's still an itch that we sometimes feel compelled to scratch.

So why do we do it?
I think it all comes down to catharsis. We can surround ourselves with lovely and pleasant things all day long, but every now and then part of us craves a little contrast so that we can appreciate quality all the more. I often have boring evenings sitting in front of my computer feeling as though I've got nothing to do with my evening, even with the wealth of entertainment the internet has to offer me, but if I spend a week away from home cut off from the online community you can bet I'll relish every second spent in my desk chair once I get back.

That's not quite the best analogy when it comes to media, but you see where I'm coming from. Even things like awful, deplorable, bigoted news articles can in some small way have a positive impact on us, as they tend to allow for a window through which we can crystallise and vent our opinions on certain issues. Sometimes it's good to watch something that makes you angry, or frustrated, or disillusioned, because it creates a cathartic moment for us to contrast against our everyday lives.

For a writer I believe this is especially important.
I've spent long stretches of time thinking about things that are unpleasant, unsavoury, and sometimes deeply depressing, because I want to understand how to better incorporate these ideas into my work. It's through some of the most morally unwholesome opinions I've heard, and some of the most difficult periods of my life, that I've crystallised not just how I feel about certain topics, but how I might go about illustrating that in writing.

It's hard to qualify that kind of stuff as "entertainment" in a direct sense, but if nothing else it's still important and intellectually stimulating.

I may be looking too far into the appeal of things like Troll 2 and My Immortal when I go off on a tangent about the creative importance of works like this, but My Immortal was, and has always been, by far the greatest reminder to me about the dangers of using too many adverbs in my writing. Even though it's first and foremost a hilarious read, it's still been a pretty significant educational tool in highlighting to me a lot of the things someone can do wrong in writing.
It's not always necessarily about catharsis or seeking out the educational value in things like this, but I still think terrible media holds an important place beyond just being "so bad its good".

Sometimes a little dose of what's bad can be exactly what you need.


  1. Hi Claudia,

    I am trying to find Book 7 in the Wild Instincts series. Cannot find anything on Amazon at all re this one. Help please ???

    Bev (an Aussie)

    1. Hey Bev, you should be able to find it in the Australian Kindle store at
      Hopefully that link works! If not you can always have a look on other retailers like

      Hope you're enjoying the series! :)