5 Stupid Movie Genres (And Why They're Popular)
Is your favorite movie Mac and Me? Probably. From now on when I watch it (every Wednesday at 4), I'll imagine you're here with me. We'll sit close but not too close on the couch, drinking Coke and eating McDonald's, as is demanded by the Mac and Me producers, and when it gets to the infamous, pulse-pounding wheelchair scene, we'll hold each other ever so supportively until it's all over. Mmm. That sounds good.
And you smell delicious.
Anyway, have you ever wondered what it is about your favorite movie (Mac and Me) that makes you like it? Or just your favorite genre? Or someone else's favorite genre that maybe you hate? There are reasons, my friend. It's not all just Bradley Cooper's beautiful face and the promise of titties that makes people like adult comedies. There are matters of psychology and shit at work. I read about it. Then I made it funny. Then I typed it one handed. You know what I'm saying. Faptastical!
Vampires = Sexy Sex
Every one of us has wondered why Twilight was popular, and before that why Anne Rice books seemed to fly off the shelves, and before that why Vampire in Brooklyn was clearly Eddie Murphy's greatest cinematic triumph. Why the shit do people love vampires so much, especially as they get lamer and lamer with the passage of time? Remember Nosferatu? That dude was gross nasty. Then we end up with Edward Cullen who threatened to step into the sunlight and explode into a bouquet of Faberge vaginas at any moment. What happened? Sex happened.
The psychology of vampires is very much centered in a female audience and very much focused entirely, in every possible way, around sexual fantasy. Now many of you ladies may be thinking, "I'd rather someone beat me to death with a leg of lamb than endure 10 minutes of Twilight," and I would say bless you.
For resisting those beautiful golden eyes, if nothing else.
But that just means you're "the fringe." No story will appeal to everyone, and the numbers behind Twilight's popularity don't lie. You can hate it because 10 other women apparently couldn't watch it without ruining their seat.
The vampire is the ultimate bad boy. He's not even human, but he is. And handsome. And his existence depends on blood. Your blood. Your vitality -- your essence -- is what he craves and needs. And maybe in old fiction, he'd savage you in an alley and murder you for it, but how does it work in these gushy vampire movies? He needs your permission to come in. He fuckin' courts you like an eyeliner-sporting Cyrano.
You give yourself to him, and of course he never takes you fully. He penetrates your neck and feeds from you. He needs you like no other man ever could. He would literally die without you. There's so much schmaltz here, it's piled up to your asshole. Your asshole that he'll tickle with his very posh pinky ring.
Slashers = the Ultimate Thrill
Serial killers are everyone's favorite kind of killer. That sounds terrible with no context, and even in context it's kind of creepy. But the proliferation of serial killer movies certainly demonstrates we enjoy watching large numbers of people being murdered sequentially. Despite a supernatural element, Jason, Mike Myers, and Freddy are all serial killers. Then you have Hannibal Lecter, Jigsaw, apparently everyone in Europe if Hostel is to be believed, Norman Bates, those Scream assholes, and on and on.
The reason you like some murder on screen -- all that blood, and guts, and terror, and things that literally make you jump -- is the same reason some people like to jump from planes, bungee jump, or sleep with strangers they met in dive bars: sensation-seeking. It's the thrill of something that is inexplicably terrifying yet life-affirming all at once. It makes you happy while it scares the shit out of you.
This is every bit as exhilarating as a knife to the chest.
Not everyone has the sensation-seeking response in life, which is why some people try to avoid scary movies as much as they avoid a round of roshambo. But those people may be bad in the soul, science isn't sure. The rest of us just really get into the morbid thrill of it all, getting close, even emotionally, to the edge of human experience and also seeing that which shouldn't be seen! No, not Renee Zellweger's old face, just guts and whatnot. Because even if it's movie guts and not entirely anatomically correct, how often do you get to see intestines in your day-to-day life? Barring work in a hospital, butcher shop, or porn set, probably not often.
Gross-Out Comedy = Wrong Is Right
Have you ever heard of the benign violation theory? Probably not, but it sounds uncomfortably sexy, doesn't it? The theory goes that we're willing to accept and even enjoy something that is considered a violation, a degradation, or an offense so long as it's mostly harmless and it happens to someone else so we have a psychological distance from it. This can best be exemplified by diarrhea. Any and every movie scene in which one character has tragic diarrhea that was played for laughs (as opposed to the diarrhea scenes played for romance or dramatic resonance) is a grand example of this theory. If you had diarrhea like Harry in Dumb and Dumber, you would not be laughing. But since it happens to a bumbling idiot, we can all enjoy it with some popcorn!
That idiot being the star of HBO's The Newsroom, specifically.
The Farrelly brothers have built their career, probably unknowingly, on this theory, as have a number of other comic directors. Judd Apatow sprinkles it liberally throughout his works, and most teen comedies dabble in it as well. Just think of Stifler drinking a cup of jizz or everything that happens to Stu in the Hangover series. That would probably destroy you mentally if it happened to you, but if it's some other shlub, it just makes you laugh. And it's not as though you don't have empathy; it's just the situation is obviously played for laughs so you can let go and make a mockery of someone else's misfortune. You heartless monster.
Is this funny to you?
The key to making this work is that it has to be within some set of guidelines. They're not specific guidelines, but you'll notice that movies that push the envelope too far or handle it too clumsily usually don't resonate as well with audiences. The dog spooge scene in Van Wilder was probably more than anyone wanted to see from that film, and by the time the third Hangover movie was made, the entire thing seemed like it was trying to violate the audience more than the characters within it. Benign is really the key word here; it has to be awful, but not unbearably awful. Otherwise, it goes from being gross and funny to just gross, or awful, or creepy.
Action = Hero Fantasy
Action films, whether full-on superhero trips like The Avengers, or just Arnold Schwarzenegger killing people in his heyday like Commando, offer up a nice idea that audiences, especially manly ones, can get behind -- chaos can be brought to order and you, the flawed, everyman shlub that you may be, just might be the guy to do it if you're forced into it. Maybe you have to volunteer to get a super serum that will make you a soldier. Maybe you have to use your mind to build powerful machines and weapons. Maybe it's just you and your inexplicably good aim that's going to ensure you can do what the police and the army and probably the rest of the world can't do. You're a goddamn hero, son.
Any movie qualifies as escapism -- except for the works of Uwe Boll, which qualify as mild torture, and Lifetime movies, which are celluloid affronts to goodness -- but action movies appeal to a part of us that want to believe there is a kind of rightness and order we're not getting in the real world. A vigilante has to set shit straight. Things have to get blown the hell up. Michael Bay has to make titties bounce because American needs them to thrive!
The action hero represents not so much a fantasy ideal of who we want to be, but the ideal of the world we want to live in but know we can't. You'd be insane to want to live in a real action movie world; we'd all be dead by week's end, thanks to monumental collateral damage. But in the confines of a movie, it doesn't matter if the good guy accidentally knocks over the entire city of New York; he was doing so to get the guy who killed his brother, and that guy is an asshole who may or may not be Peter Stormare. Can you just let that prick roam free?
Basically what you have is a righteous individual who is doing right free from consequences or, when there are consequences, they're mostly just there to test your mettle and make you an even bigger bad ass by the time the credits roll. Whatever the case, you're going to end up as a badass and probably winning. That shit's dope.
Zombies = Self
Are you sick of zombies yet? All signs indicate no. Or, maybe you're just sick of really shitty zombies. Because a lot of zombie fiction is really, really bad. For every Dawn of the Dead, there are 30 Zombie Hunters that tease you with the idea that Danny Trejo is the star and then uses him for 15 minutes before having him killed off by the worst, shit-smear special effects this side of a Neo Geo game.
The reason zombies persevere and continue to entertain us, and the reason so many zombie stories fail thanks to not understanding this, is because they represent what we fear about our world. They are obviously the embodiment of death, but what death? A mass, virulent contagion, a death that kills not just you but the entire goddamn world. Society dies with you in the world of zombies.
Who wants this anyway?
Even if you live, who gives a shit? The world becomes a festering butthole. The zombie apocalypse represents the wet dream of 24-hour news networks -- it's disease, it's death, it's families turning on themselves, chaos in the streets, medical technology gone wrong, the failure of government, panic on a mass scale, everything is fucked, and we're all doomed, aaaaaagghhh!!
Like it or not, the appeal of the zombie is likely to never die out completely because we've explored it so deeply now, it's part of our culture, and it's the one true monster that represents everyone. Vampires and werewolves are the minority, serial killers are the insane, aliens are from beyond, but a zombie? That's just you afflicted with something beyond your control. It's you at your basic self -- a thing that feeds: no mind, no value system, just hunger that can't be controlled. A zombie represents the shit hitting the fan in the most catastrophic and unfixable way.
It's been fun, world.
It's worth noting that one of the most common complaints people have about zombie fiction (looking at you, The Walking Dead) is that it focuses so much on the living to the detriment of the dead. Writers and filmmakers think that zombie fiction is so compelling because it showcases how we deal with these situations, the real nature of humanity and biddy bladdy blah. No. Not at all. Every kind of fiction and nonfiction showcases the human condition, even The Adventures of Milo and Otis, and there aren't humans in it. Zombie fiction is about dead people eating the living, that's what audiences want to see. Force us to endure the living too long, and we may as well be watching a Lifetime movie starring Judith Light trying to spend the holidays with her estranged daughter. Who gives a shit? Not even Tony Danza would watch that.
For more from Felix, check out 5 Absurd Characters You See in Every High School Movie and 5 Things People Claim to Hate That Are Suspiciously Popular.
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