So Bad it’s Good

Sorry it’s been a while since I rambled at ya, lovely lurkers, but any of you who have never taught English at the college level would blanch at the size of the multiple stacks of paper I have been wrangling these past several weeks, not to mention the recreation of syllabi and lesson planning. Not that I’m complaining, mind–I love my job! Just, sometimes it does tend to take me over. And when I have some breathing room, I tend to have the brain capacity only for killing demons, not creative non-fiction.

BUT! Here I am, back and better than ever (well, we shall see, sez you), and the topic I’d like to hash out today is the concept of the Fight So Awful It’s Brilliant, or: So Bad It’s Good–Is It Really A Thing?

As a stage combat professional and a teacher of same with nerdy tendencies, I am often asked by both students and theatre colleagues: What is your favorite fight scene?

Now this question is as difficult as What’s your favorite book?, What’s your favorite food?, or Who’s your favorite Doctor? There ain’t one answer to any of these questions (1), but I notice one pattern emerges when I am forced to answer the fight question in particular. I always ask in return: Do you mean what’s the best fight, in my opinion, or my favorite fight, regardless of quality?

Look again at my composition of the different fight categories (Genrification), and see what I mean. Depending on what’s needed for that particular piece of drama/those particular characters, “my favorite fight scene” will take on many different forms. For example, I love the big group melee in Anchorman (one of the best fights in cinema), but I also love the final sword duel in Rob Roy (incredible acting tension and actor-combatant skill). If I were to answer either one of these alone as my favorite ever, I’m not really accurately answering the question.

Anchorman-The-Legend-of-Ron-Burgundy-2004-movie-photosAnother category of fight (does this fall into the Comedy camp? Discuss in comments, please) is the fight that, on purpose or no, is so bad it’s good. Fights in Black Dynamite are fabulous in this way, on purpose (booms appearing in the shot, a break of character and stuntman replacement), whereas fights in Last Dragon, individual actor skill notwithstanding, are awful on accident. Some old-school Kung fu movie fights, with their over the top reactions and hydraulic geysers of blood can’t be called good fight scenes (again, stunt people’s skill notwithstanding), but they can be enjoyable to watch. Fights in the Bourne movies are badly edited, and yet are often good fight scenes. Actually in that last case it’s not the bad that makes it good–is this a different category, then, of So Bad it’s Good? Why does the So Bad It’s Good phenomenon occur, and what is the difference between a scene that’s just bad, and one that transforms into something enjoyably so? What’s the statute of limitations on Schadenfreude?

These are honest questions, not rhetorical ones, lovely lurkers: I would like this to be an actual blog post and engender some comments and discussion. I want answers, people.

I will use the discussion results in my next book. So comment. You may end up famous.

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(1) The big Anchorman fight, the Princess Bride sword duel, the lightsaber duel at the end of RotJ….; The Lord of the Rings, Song For the Basilisk, Swords Against Magic, The Kingkiller Chronicles, Fox in Socks….; sushi, cheese, beer, roast chicken……; 4th, 10th, 3rd.

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