Question of the week: is it okay for things to be shit?

Transformers 3

This was actually inspired by @snarkandfury: ‘I’m so tired of the “it’s only a kids film/TV show/property based on an 80s toy it’s supposed to be shit” defence. It’s never OK to be shit’ who I think was inspired by a recent discussion on this ‘ere blog.

So simple question/set of questions:

Is it okay for something to not have any artistic merit whatsoever and to be shit, provided enough people like it? Does artistic merit actually stop something from being as entertaining as something more visceral? Or is merely being enjoyed by people at a visceral level actually an artistic merit? And does all that get cancelled out and become null and void if it turns out that not only is something completely shit, it’s also racist, sexist and homophobic?

Answers below or on your own blog, please




  • Steffan

    It’s fine for anything to exist if it’s not damaging, isn’t it? If millions of people like it, that’s a fine goal. Personally, I prefer things *I* like – but that’s everyone’s position.
    If it’s also racist, sexist and/or homophobic, I’d say the damage starts outweighing the advantages. Plenty of films entertain millions without being prejudiced. We aren’t desperate enough for films to entertain millions to put up with prejudice.

  • MSK417

    No it is not. Crap like Michael Bay’s movies are an embarrassment to our culture and generation. Because they are successful there will be more crappy movies made similar to them and less quality movies made.

  • There’s no shame in looking for cheap thrills and material that has very little artistic merit, but that doesn’t mean that as an audience we can’t be critical and expect a certain level of quality and craft from our entertainment.

  • MSK417

    There are many great movies that are pure entertainment. Explosions, chases, girls, etc. Nothing wrong with a thrill ride movie. But they have the benefit of having a story, a plot, some acting, etc. Perhaps some were weak in areas, but you still liked the ride.
    The problem I have with Michael Bay is that his movies are juvenile, they lack solid story telling, plot or exposition, characters, character development, charm, taste and sophistication. It kills me that he makes so much money on them. He gets more clout and power and he does not grow as a director.
    Then there are movies like Serenity, for example, don’t do that well but they are deeply moving and exciting. But we can’t get more of that story because the money is just not there.

  • SK

    You know what? I don’t care. Good or not, Transformers: Dark of the Moon delivers nostalgia, and as far as I’m concerned that’s what it’s for.
    As for the argument that it’ll spawn equally bad (or worse) imitators, well, it probably will — I won’t go to see them as they have no connection to the toys I played with and the comics I read as a child. So again, as I won’t see them, I don’t care. However, ‘It’ll spawn terrible imitators’ is an odd argument as even (especially?) the best films do that…

  • SK

    (Though interestingly I sampled the new comics & came away totally uninterested: turns out comic-wise, I only get the nostalgia buzz with reprints of the actual pages I actually read way back when, especially as I come across panels that I remember. Make of that what you will.)

  • Jason S.

    It’s one thing if you are making a movie or TV show just for the sake of entertainment. It is another thing when you make that project a piece of shit. And tragically, most of the new films and TV series nowadays are nothing but utterly disgraceful globs upon globs of shit that offends both one’s intelligence and one’s morals.
    Nowhere is this more unpleasantly evident than in productions intended for children, who are actually much smarter than the cash-hungry studio executives think they are. Even little kids will say in you face that they are sick and tired of potty-laden crap like “Alvin and The Chipmunks:The Squeakquel”, “Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen”, and “Shrek 4Ever After”! Why on Earth can’t we make kid’s entertainment in spirit of nostalgic classics such Ocean Girl and Spellbinder?

  • TemplarJ

    Well it’s all objective isn’t it, art and shit art?
    I think the more immersive cinema becomes, the more call there’s going to be for material that’s essentially just a thrill ride. It’s when a narrative gets clumsily attached, and becomes the focal point of criticism, that these debates happen. Nobody bothers to analyse the plot or characterisation of a roller coaster, why do it with a Transformers movie? Perhaps they should dispense with any notion of story, just get a Big Name voiceover at the start saying ‘there are some robots, they fight, now put your 3D hologlasses on and start shovelling that popcorn’ .
    On the other hand, the good thing about all art is that it breeds resistance. The worse blockbuster Holywood gets, the more we’re likely to see a quality response from the objectors. I point you to ‘The Tree of Life’, in cinemas right how. Let the masses have their opium, sit back and feast on the lobster (oh but that sounds awful, doesn’t it…).

  • Mark Carroll

    Hmmm. While not mainstream, I grant you, is “The Tree of Life” more than well-shot nostalgia wrapped up in a big ball of pretention? I haven’t quite talked myself into possibly wasting a Netflix slot on it to see for myself.
    Anything remotely thoughtful that one has to pay attention to seems to do badly in the US, not as badly in Europe though.

  • Mark Carroll

    My kids much liked “Alvin and The Chipmunks:The Squeakquel” and when I am not around they watch “Wizards of Waverly Place”. I haven’t actually disowned them yet, but I think about it! There really is such dreck produced for them and, despite exposing them to alternatives, I’m sorry to say that they still lap it up.

  • Mark Carroll

    Gah, “pretension”, sorry for incoherent noise, didn’t have my coffee yet.