‘The Mother of All Bad Movies’: An audience research on the culture of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room based on the live cinematic experience

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The world of cult cinema is dotted with numerous films that are often characterised by event-like evening screenings in independent or art-house cinemas years or even decades after the film’s initial release. One film synonymous with the cult cinema circuit is Tommy Wiseau’s The Room (2003), which has often been hailed as the ‘Citizen Kane of bad movies’ due to the film’s lack of artistic vision, poor acting, and its general ineptitude in craft. Each month around the world, audiences would congregate at movie theatres to celebrate the movie through the conducting of numerous physical actions and verbal disparagement aimed at the screen. These types of screenings are the focus of this thesis where audiences of The Room in Copenhagen, Denmark and Malmö, Sweden were interviewed. Through the qualitative audience research methodology, this thesis places individual opinions at the forefront, emphasising on their abilities to ascribe meaning and constructing their realities. This approach allows the research to extract rich narratives and unpack the intricacies of audiences’ values and thoughts based on The Room screenings they attended.

The aim of this thesis is to critically analyse how individuals conduct readings of such aesthetically ‘bad’ texts and how they appropriate knowledge they have gathered in the screening. It explicates how such reading protocols produce an atypical and transgressive live experience where that is distinct from a normal cinemagoing experience. The thesis analyses the nuances of taste and how camp sensibilities can give rise to numerous social implications such as the creation of bonds and the ability to obtain discursive resources. The findings indicate that the live viewing culture of The Room constructs affinities and socialises the audience into an understanding of the cult film culture in general.

This thesis argues that the camp sensibility, with irony as one of its key tenets is crucial for audiences to find pleasure in a text that is objectively poor in terms of aesthetics. The camp sensibility was found to be rooted in the audiences’ perception that The Room was produced solely out of sincere intentions, creating a dichotomous condition that increases distance between audiences and the film itself. This allowed the live screenings of the film to embody the ‘carnivalesque’ in which social etiquette and especially the typical moviegoing etiquette is reversed. Based on this, The Room screenings can be considered to be an emotional public sphere where expressions of opinions and emotions are allowed. Due to the flow of expressions, the ‘liveness’ setting shapes the culture by creating a sense of belonging and camp capital is attained by audience members due to the screenings’ affective climate, which arises from a shared reading protocol anchored in the camp sensibility. Camp capital is then defined as a specific form of capital that is valued within the camp context where an ironic mode of engagement is necessary and functions as a discursive resource and also signify one’s place within the hierarchy of The Room culture.
Titel på värdpublikationExcellent MSc Dissertations 2018
RedaktörerDeniz Duru
FörlagMedia and Communicatons Studies, Lund University
ISBN (tryckt)978-91-981614-4-1
StatusPublished - 2019 feb. 1


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Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ)

  • Medievetenskap


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