Nerding from the Garbage Heap: Loving Things that Suck

Hey, y’all! So, today feels like a good day to talk about something I’ve had rolling around in my brain for a while. Or rather, it feels like a good day to get it out in the open (and out of my system already!). It’s a concept I think most of us nerds have grappled with, or at least run across. And while I suspect it could (gasp!) spark a little controversy, I hope will inspire some good discussion!

In short, it comes down to this: What happens when you like a story, a movie, a book, or other nerdy thing that you know is bad? By “bad,” I mean any of the following — poorly written, super cheesy or over-the-top, garishly low-budget, filled with flat characters, or even problematic from a humanist perspective. It’s anything that got slashed to pieces by critics, anything that causes people to scoff (or cringe) whenever it’s mentioned.

This is a complex topic, and one I have no hope of covering in a blog post, but for now, I just want to get you thinking — mostly because, as much as I’ve thought about this myself lately, I haven’t reached as definitive a conclusion as I’d like. So what do you do when there’s something you love but no one else can understand why? How do you handle it when you can see all the flaws in the form, but love the thing in spite of them?

Image Credit: iO9

Image Credit: iO9

Let me share a couple of examples. Peder and I both have our own objectively crappy things that we love, despite their manifold failings. For Peder, it’s B movies like Repo! The Genetic Opera and Big Trouble in Little China. And for me, it’s a certain brand of fluffy, horribly written romances that do the trick — not so much the Harlequin romance types; instead, things like Hallmark original movies, foofy YA first-love stories…and yes, of all things, the Twilight Saga (I know, I KNOW, you guys; whatever you’re thinking, I’ve already thought it, I promise).

Image Credit: RogerEbert.com

Image Credit: RogerEbert.com

In talking about our respective craptastic affinities, Peder and I have found that there’s a key thing that makes you love something that sucks — whatever else its failings may be, there’s something in that story that rings true to you, or speaks to you in a way that, for whatever reason, nothing else can. Peder tells me that to him, the great thing about B movies is that they’re just sheer, unbridled escapism. They’re so absurd that they could never, ever happen in real life — and that’s what makes them so much fun. The painfully cheesy special effects and ridiculous dialogue just add to the sweet, sweet escapist scenarios. And for me, cheesy romance stories speak to that simple, fundamental desire all of us humans have — to be loved. They speak to it in a such raw, unembarrassed way and I find it totally intoxicating. Whatever problems Twilight has (and boy howdy, you guys, there are SO MANY OF THEMMM), that story in particular somehow manages to speak to that desire in a way that rings true to me, in a way that’s so stark and arresting that I can’t help but see it shining (sparkling??) there, deep (DEEP) down at the heart of the story.

I think the main thing that makes this sort of nerdy love so difficult is pretty simple — embarrassment. I mean, think about it — how many things did you love when you were a kid until you found out somebody else didn’t think it was cool, and you suddenly stopped liking it (or at least hid your love for it)? And how much has that emotion followed you through your life, making you feel like you should only like things that others around you think are acceptable? And when you get right down to it, isn’t this concept what nerddom is all about? At its heart, it’s that genuine, unabashed love for things that most others turn up their nose at for being too cheesy, too obscure, too weird, too whatever.

So let’s ask this — what if we went full-throttle and allowed ourselves to like what we like, regardless of what people think or don’t think about it? What kind of power would that give us?

Maybe not much to speak of. But maybe a lot. So far, I’ve decided that the key here is awareness. Be aware of all the reasons why the story in question is crappy (especially if it comes to that humanist thing I mentioned earlier — and that’s all I’ll say about that, because that could be a whole other blog post). Knowing all the reasons to dislike something doesn’t mean you have to dislike it yourself — it just helps you pinpoint what it is you do like about it. And with that knowledge, you can responsibly love that silly, cheesy, weirdsauce, crappy thing with reckless abandon. And you don’t have to care who knows it.

Phew. We got a little deep here, guys…thanks for bearing with me for so long! To cap off this madcap blog post, let’s hear from you — what crappy thing do you love, and how does it manage to be great amid its crappiness?

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