Thursday, 17 July 2008

Bad, bad, really really bad

I saw a call for papers for a conference about bad cinema. I want to go - feeling a bit wistful for conferencing, especially of the sort one isn't responsible for - but I'm having a very hard time thinking of something to write a paper about, and I've been trying for quite a while.
The organisers suggest:
1. Cultural value and theory
2. Bad feeling and affect
3. Aesthetic value and bad art
4. Cultural morals and politics
5. Bad film theory and criticism
None of which helps me out a great deal. I could't trust myself not to do something foolish relative to 5, 2 will be oversubscribed since 'affect' is such a buzzword at the moment (I don't quite know what's wrong with 'emotion', but there you are) and 1 and 4, well, they seem a little vague to me.

The sort of thing I like to write really fits best into 3, but I never get any further than thinking that if art really is authentically bad, (let's say, 'The Passion of the Christ') and not 'so bad it's good' or Roger Corman movies or some similarly lame hipster-ironised subject, it's so damaged that there's nothing you can do except shake your head and put it out of its misery.

What would really be fun would be to give a paper on Ken Russell, but only people like the PM think his films are bad. Hm! I shall have to think about this some more.

14 comments:

Pavlov's Cat said...

Couldn't you do a paper on Bad Adaptations and vent your spleen about Possession?

lucy tartan said...

Dorian suggested 'badaptation' (his word) too. I don't know. Isn't there something ghastly about pointing out all the ways an awful thing is awful? That is actually the basic problem the theme is presenting to me. Why waste our short lives on stuff we know isn't worth it.

lucy tartan said...

And I do go on a bit about Possession in my thesis, actually. It's specifically introduced as the only really terrible failure of an adaptation I'll talk about.

Zoe said...

Well, the only time I've ever got up to turn a video off was "Lair of the White Worm". You know, the nuns bit.

But I've watched it a few times since then, with great pleasure ;)

Also, is the conference somewhere nice?

lucy tartan said...

If you like Monash Uni. I'm trying not to waste carbon on conference travel.

Bernice said...

Pick 5 & run with Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. The new journal "Derrida Today" is looking for papers...

jac said...

I read #4 as "Cultural morons and politics". I think I could be on to something here.

Kirsty said...

Well all the ironic hipsters will tell you that 'affect' and 'emotion' are not the same thing. There's some ineffable difference that I'll be buggered if I can figure out. There's similar posturing around 'empathy' and 'sympathy' too.

I think you've got a paper in category 5 with a discussion of category 2

Fyodor said...

Wot Mme. Pav said.

"Isn't there something ghastly about pointing out all the ways an awful thing is awful? That is actually the basic problem the theme is presenting to me. Why waste our short lives on stuff we know isn't worth it."

Heh. Are you quite sure you "get" the blogging concept?

Klaus K said...

I think 'affect' is supposed to be at a preconscious or bodily level and 'emotion' is what 'affect' becomes when you've figured out what you're feeling. Distinct but related concepts, then. The distinction would be useful for thinking about audience response in cinema, particularly the difference between what is going on in front of the screen, and the point at which you figure out how you really felt about it.

Maybe you should give a paper on trying to figure out whether or not there's anything worth saying about irredeemably bad adaptation? And about the tension between 'bad' with, and bad without, the scare-quotes. I mean, would a reparative reading also be a refutation of badness and thus exclude its own object from the category? Is there any point in constructing a counterfactual where you figure out exactly what is missing and could redeem a particular film? These questions could have boring answers, but probably wouldn't in your capable hands.

lucy tartan said...

"I mean, would a reparative reading also be a refutation of badness and thus exclude its own object from the category?"

I think it would, don't you Klaus?

Thanks for the comments about emotion vs. affect. I gathered that was the idea, but in the stuff I've read on the topic (_Ugly Feelings_ springs to mind, a really great book) the distinction isn't necessarily activated, as Kirsty said. I think the idea of sensibility is a much more interesting way of thinking about the difference between embodied and ratiocinated response.

klaus k said...

"I think it would, don't you Klaus?"

It's a question of a theory of the text and of reading, I suppose. I mean, it depends upon whether you see reading and text as independent (and thus reparative reading as 'bringing something' to the text), or whether you see a text as only ever activated through reading, and thus not worth discussing otherwise (and thus a reparative reading does refute the 'badness' of a text). It may not be a distinction much worth dwelling on.

On affect: I haven't looked deeply into it myself, but it seems to be a place where cultural theory is trying to draw itself closer to biological understandings of the body. Hence the use of Tomkins and the like, with lists of basic human affects.

An alternative use of the term is in Spinoza (and thus also in the work of Spinozists). Not being much of a philosopher, I couldn't give an account of the concept as it is used there.

I like the idea of sensibility, but I have spent less time with that concept than I have with affect, so I can't offer a sensible opinion. Maybe I'll look into it.

Alexis, Baron von Harlot said...

What about "bad" as in "badass"? "Badass Film Theory" ... that has a certain ring to it.

Ann O'Dyne said...

While US directors were Raging Bulls and Easy Riders, the early 1970's UK cinema had a genre of Confessions Of a Window Cleaner films which seemed to be a less-amusing extension of Carry On films ...