Liking trashy films is a sign of high intelligence, study finds

Joe Vesey-Byrne
Sunday 06 January 2019 10:45
Cult classic Mean Girls is being made into a musical(Anthea Le Trelle)

Watching ‘trashy’ films isn’t a sign you’re dumb, in fact quite the reverse.

A study published in Poetics: Journal of Empirical Research on Culture, the Media and the Arts has brought into doubt the idea that a ‘trashy’ film is only enjoyed by uncultured persons.

For the purposes of the study ‘trashy’ was used to refer to low budget films that are considered to have been poorly made and ones which featured explicit content.

The aim of the study was to investigate how the term ‘trash’ with regard to film and culture had come to be used in a more positive sense.

The study used an online survey to collect data from regular consumers of 'trash', and found many of them were intelligent.

It transpired that one of the reasons the films appealed to intelligent audiences was the ironic value of some of the poorly produced films. Of course, this doesn’t matter to the film makers because ticket take at the box office is measured in cold, hard cash and the value of the ‘ironic purchase’ is not subtracted from the haul taken from the ‘legit fan of this garbage’ audience.

Another feature of ‘trash’ films that attracted smarter audiences was the culturally subversive elements. In part because of their low budget, a ‘trash film’ can be less routine in its plot and execution. As such the transgressive deviance from mainstream films appealed to intelligent audiences who might usually be able to predict the direction in which a plot is heading, or recognise cliché and unoriginal ideas.

Finally there is the laugh factor. A 'trashy' drama with a ludicrous plot or over the top acting can also be an accidental comedy, and more intelligent viewers will probably enjoy the film because it's 'so bad it's good'.

The study was conducted by Kevyan Sarkhosh and Winfried Menninghaus, both of the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics.

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