Opinion: In Defense of Trash – How a Movie Transcends its Own Pitfalls

Isaiah Simeon ’22 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
In terms of art, not much can rival a terrifically made film, except, maybe, a horrendous one.
Eye-opening documentaries, niche art-house films, and blatant Oscar bait all have their place in the cinema ethos, as they should. But not every film can change the world. Sure, Citizen Kane is great, but nobody in their right mind would choose to watch that over Hurricane Heist.
There is a razor-thin threshold in the cinema world, containing films that are so spectacularly bad that they leap to the other side of public opinion and become amazing. But how does a film achieve this status? What makes a film “so incredibly bad that it’s good,” or an S.I.B.I.G.?
Detailed below are the four essential rules that a terrible movie must inadvertently adhere to in order to classify as an S.I.B.I.G. Following these four rules can turn a flop into a must-watch film.
1. The movie cannot be excessively self-aware (a.k.a. The Sharknado Principle)

Ian Ziering in Sharknado 2: The Second One. Photo Credit: Syfy.
When the filmmakers are in on the joke, the movie no longer qualifies as an S.I.B.I.G. The strongest violator of this rule is the Sharknado movie series.
The films are absurd, stupid, and nonsensical. These are standard characteristics of S.I.B.I.G.s, but when such traits are artificially manufactured it is painfully apparent. The terribleness needs to be natural, authentic, raw.
A common theme that will be mentioned in this article is the importance of the “hope factor.” The “hope factor” is the knowledge that every terrible aspect of a film was once seen by the film’s creators as a great idea. The more hopeful the creators were about their terrible film, the better it becomes. The ‘hope factor’ cannot co-exist with self-awareness since in that case, the filmmaker’s hope is that the audience gets the joke.
James Nguyen’s Birdemic is a perfect example of the ‘hope factor’ turned up to 11. The movie centered around the bird-apocalypse has become a cult classic due to how terrible it is, yet its creator stands by it as a serious film. Nguyen is completely not in on the joke, and that’s what makes his film so good.
So sorry Sharkado, you are just a bad movie.
2. “The Money Laundering Explanation”
Tommy Wiseau in The Room. Photo Credit: TPW Films and Wiseau-Films.
The best S.I.B.I.G.s are those which creation defies all logic. The viewer must think to themselves, “how did anyone think this was a good idea? Who paid for this?”
The creation of these films do not make sense, so the viewer must rationalize the film’s existence in whatever way they can. If the most reasonable explanation for a film being financed was that a group of mobsters needed to funnel dirty money through a legitimate operation, and decided that making a movie was the most inconspicuous, then the film is most likely an S.I.B.I.G.
Take, for example, the now-widely known and infamously terrible Tommy Wiseau film The Room. Without prior knowledge that somehow Wiseau was able to front the film’s $6,000,000 budget himself, one could only assume something shady was going on in the background.
3. In some capacity or another, the audience needs to care about something in the film
Sylvester Stallone in Rocky IV. Photo Credit: MGM/UA Entertainment Company.
Bad movies are bad, no doubt. But, in order to properly enjoy any form of art, the audience needs to care about something in the film. S.I.B.I.G.s typically have two options here: the characters or the plot.
Now, “caring” in terms of S.I.B.I.G.s is usually not in the conventional sense of the word. “Caring” can simply mean that there is a curiosity about the outcome. The curiosity is what keeps the viewer from watching something else.
Perhaps the viewer has a vested interest in the film’s characters because they are eager to see them face a tragic death. While morbid, this is a perfectly valid form of caring.
And the other option: plot. In bad movies, the ideal plot is one that is comically absurd, while having an aspect of intrigue. One movie that perfectly strikes this balance is 1984’s Rocky IV. The film follows boxing icon, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), as he avenges the death of his former rival/turned mentor, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), by defeating USSR hero, Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), and claiming a moral victory over communism.
Wild, right?
4. Fun (Bonus points if unintentional)
Birdemic: Shock and Terror. Photo Credit: Severin Films.
Why watch a bad film if it’s not fun? The main appeal of S.I.B.I.G.s are their entertainment factor, primarily in ways they did not intend to be.
The worst thing a film can be is not bad, but instead mediocre. There are no redeeming traits to mediocrity. This is a flaw that well-made movies can be guilty of. Breathtaking cinematography, unmatched acting, and all other qualities of lauded pictures cannot save a movie that suffers from the worst disease a film can catch: boringness.
Entertainment value can propel the most inexcusably bad movie higher on a watchlist than an Oscar film that’s drab.
And just like that, an S.I.B.I.G is born.
Well-made films will always get the attention they deserve, but the importance of trash movies should never be understated.
Oscar films come and go, but S.I.B.I.G.s live forever.

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