A comment from one of my earlier posts coarsened some hairs: "Why celebrate movies at their most pathetic and incompetent when there are so many genuinely good ones that remain unseen, even by knowledgeable fans?"
A couple of people — themselves fans of MST3K and RiffTrax — both tapped my shoulder to let me know that a lot of the time such experiences are not about the film itself but the camaraderie the film generates. The earliest modern example I can think of for this sort of thing is The Rocky Horror Picture Show, for which I attended no small number of midnight screenings myself before I realized I didn't need (or particularly want) the pretext of the movie to hang out with the people involved. Nothing against them or their tastes; I just wanted to cut more directly to the chase.
The best I can figure it, some people see cultural artifacts as things unto themselves — sometimes sacrosanct, sometimes just there, but as an endpoint of some kinds. Others see them as raw material of a sort, to be processed and turned into other kinds of experiences, be they fanfics, audience participation games, or what have you. The former and the latter don't see eye to eye very often, if at all, and more often than not the former accuse the latter of turning their favorite things into mere jokes. Anyone who has had a favorite song covered badly knows this feeling.
Trying to prove one better than the other is futile, so choosing between the two is a personal matter. What it comes down to, in my case, is what I'd really rather spend my time doing. There is not much more than that.
I had a fair stretch of time earlier in my life when I was very much in the MST3K crowd, but after a while it showed me its limits. My priorities changed. The boom in the home video market provided by DVD and Blu-ray has made it possible to get caught up with a whole galaxy of material that was never made available before, much of it as good as, if not better than, the movies we already know well. It all came down to a single question: What did I really want to be spending my time doing, and why?
I feel acutely aware of how precious our moments are. We're lucky enough to live in a moment in history where truly remarkable work only experienced before by a tiny minority — not just on film, but in print and on record — is now available at lower cost and with far more convenient modes of access than ever before. The biggest limitation, apart from rights and clearances for such material, is our spare time. And given that I have less spare time than ever, I'm all the less inclined to fill it in ways I can't justify to myself. I know full well I have been promising myself to see the newly-restored Children of Paradise, so I'd rather do that than giggle along with others at the excesses of The Dark Knight Rises. (I already enjoyed that film just fine as it was; why go back over it only to track mud across its floors?)
So none of this is meant to be an argument that the people who download RiffTrax (or, for that matter, make them) are wasting their time. It's an explanation about where that feeling comes from for me. My attention is elsewhere, that's all.
New York City
Other Lives Of The Mind