A friend of mine brought around a hilarious B-movie spoof called The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra (None Can Stand Its Mental Power!). It was complete schlock, with such classicly idiotic dialogue like "Yes, honey, I am a scientist and now I shall go do science." B-movie's typically have bad dialogue, cheesy plotlines and very cheap effects. (This one had an evil skeleton that walked around puppetlike which you could obviously recognize as left over from a medical school model).
Some B movies can still excel. To get away from the stigma of B movies, they are now sometimes called "independent films", although I'm not sure if that does it any good.
Ever since watching Clerks, a decade ago, I've found a whole new respect for these movies. Made on a budget of $27,000 I believe at a convenience store that the director actually worked at, it was the first independent film which I thought should have gotten an Oscar for best screenplay.
Take George Romero. Dawn of the Dead is still considered one of the best zombie (B) movies of all time. But it spawned a whole new generation of such movies from the Evil Dead series to the absolutely hilarious Shaun of the Dead. With his new release (that I have not yet seen) Land of the Dead, Romero was honored with an ovation at the pretigious Cannes film festival this year.
On US TV, the remake of the Battlestar Galactica series loses the idealistic, sophomoric drama, and heavy stock footage reuse from the late 1970s series, for a significantly more hard-hitting drama that poses the tough questions that sci-fi at its best tries to bring forward.
Like War of the Worlds, the Battlestar Galactica series has a non-human force that easily overwhelms the skills and ability of humanity. In this case, this force is the Cylon "race" of intelligent robots that humankind created to handle warfare. After many smaller wars, the Cylons retreat for years eventually returning with new self-designed models that are very humanlike. More significantly, they develop the notion that God has created them to replace humans with a more organized civilization.
These are the tough questions that the legends of sci-fi like Asimov, Niven, Wells, and others posed. Too often today, the sci-fi stories are simply covered up with cute relationship drama, and special effects (e.g., the new Star Wars series spent too much time on these elements rather than building a deep story).
Whether probing the classic futuristic themes or just providing entertainment, many of these same shows have developed a very healthy community of faithful followers. Some of them have even become some of the biggest brands in entertainment (e.g., Star Trek, Star Wars, etc.)
If you follow Douglas Atkin's theory as described in The Culting of Brands, many leading brands have similar features whether it is a company, an organization or a religion. These include ideas like:
- a common vision or theme that people appreciate and find themselves drawn to;
- a definition (implicit or explicit) of values that followers accept and can bind to;
- an identification of what the community is not about;
- the use of iconography, fashion, and special language to help followers communicate and identify each other;
- a regular rhythm of activities like meetings, conventions, TV shows, etc.;
Atkins' talks about how such activities exist in many leading organizations like JetBlue, Apple Computers, Harley Davidson and others.
Can you see any of Atkins' elements in movie and TV show fan followings?