Last night I went to a movie theater in Oakland to see The Room. (If you're not familiar with The Room, well, this might not be the blog for you, but this might give you some idea.) I've seen it on the big screen before, in London, but this time was special: writer/director/producer/star Tommy Wiseau, the finest auteur of our time, was there in person. Getting to meet him, shake his hand, get his autograph, and have a photo taken with him is definitely one of the high points of my life to date.
A couple of things struck me about the audience for The Room. First, everyone was exactly the same age – members of the “are you being sarcastic, dude?” “I don't even know anymore” generation. Second, a lot of them were kind of douchey.
When Tommy took questions before the movie, most of the askers – a group, I note, comprised exclusively of dude-identified humans – were out to be as obnoxious as possible, trying to make themselves seem hi-larious. (The dude who suggested The Room 2 should be a zombie movie, so undead Johnny could tear Lisa apart? Bitch, please.) And when it came to the movie itself, things got even worse.
Maybe it's because the cult of The Room hasn't been around as long in the UK, so people are more joyful about it and less vicious, but when I saw it in London the audience riffing was a lot less mean-spirited. This time around, there was just so much vitriol directed at the character of Lisa. I myself am hardly immune to getting carried away in the excitement of audience participation and shouting something I regret a moment later, but the full 100 minutes of dudes hollering “slut” and “whore” was a bit much. There's a fine line between mocking the movie's misogyny (“because you're a woman!”) and actively participating in misogyny yourself, and these dudes were way over the line.
It's a funny thing about fandom: if you were a nerdy kid who liked a lot of music and books and movies and TV shows that the kids around you had never heard of, meeting a fellow fan of these things was incredibly exciting. “Wait, you know all the words to Tommy as well? INSTANT BFF!” There's still a part of me that wants to believe anyone that likes the things I like is a kindred spirit. Certainly I have had and do have some very deep and meaningful friendships based primarily on a shared enthusiasm for MST3K or the Coen brothers or Sharktopus or Ursula LeGuin. Hell, for me a necessary component of a good friendship is the frequent saying and hearing of the words, “You were right. [Venture Bros/Veronica Falls/Community/Margaret Atwood] is AWESOME.”
However, “douche” and “person that likes the things I like” are not mutually exclusive categories, and that's a hard lesson.