When a movie such as “The Room” (that is touted as “the worst movie ever made”) ends up filling theatres everywhere even 15 years after its initial release, and when the same movie is based off another critically acclaimed film about its hilariously awful production, there are several questions that the uninitiated — people who have never seen “The Room” — and even the people who have seen the film several times are posed with. Why would anyone even watch that? How did this culture of maniacally throwing spoons at a screen and yelling in the middle of a screening come to be?
Well, to truly answer the question, one must understand camp as a genre. A movie, or any piece of art for that matter, is considered campy when it is deliberately and absurdly, well, bad. However, a great campy movie isn’t just something that’s absurd for the sake of being absurd (like “Sharknado”). In fact, it does something far more ingenious than that. It understands every film trope and flips it entirely. A campy film exaggerates omnipresent and niche film tropes to entertain its audiences.
Whether, it’s the cartoon-y, insanely colorful and everything-is-labeled (Shark-Repellent Bat Spray included) world of Adam West’s Batman, or the sex-crazed demons from “Transexual Transylvania” dancing in a mansion owned by an evil genius doctor, great campy films tend to subvert and build off of already present tropes, and end up innovating and creating astoundingly entertaining new ones in the process. So when Austin Powers turns to the camera and unapologetically and confidently says “Groovy baby,” not only is he making fun of the overly charming spies like James Bond, but he’s also inspiring an entirely new genre of quirky spy flicks like “Johnny English” or “Kingsman.” Or take the unique action-romance of “The Princess Bride,” that tells a tale of adventure with high stakes while also having good storytelling and interesting characters — but doesn’t forget to add the little backflips in the middle of a fight on the “Cliffs of Insanity” or having a literal “battle of wits to the death.”
Furthermore, even critically and publicly famous directors have embraced and honed camp in their films. Wes Anderson continues to write quirky characters who talk in a monotone voice. He even goes a step further by awkwardly cutting at the end of every sentence to punctuate the already unrealistic dialogue. Quentin Tarantino, who is known for his over-the-top action sequences, has a scene in “Kill Bill” where a character wearing a yellow jumpsuit is fighting an actual Japanese schoolgirl.
Out of all of these enigmas, what makes “The Room” an entirely different beast is that Tommy Wiseau achieved all of this unintentionally and ended up creating a culture where a group of people can get together and enjoy pointing out everything wrong with his performance. Entirely mocking the fundamental lack of understanding of the art of filmmaking, and also films as a medium in itself. In spite of what it may seem, this genre hasn’t just come into being so that a group of people can get their share of schadenfreude. It’s about entering a community of people who all enjoy the same kind of humor as you. It’s for the sense of being a part of something bigger. It’s about throwing plastic spoons at a screen surrounded by people yelling “Oh hi Mark” and simply enjoying ridiculing of something that is already pretty ridiculous altogether.