Being boring is the cardinal sin of art.
Many people have opinions on what makes art unpalatable. Bad pacing. Flat characters. Low stakes. But I think, chief among all these, is being boring. In other words--being forgettable. Since this is all so subjective anyway, I've uncovered a mantra to guide my consumption of delicious stories. Be good. Be bad. Just don't be boring.
I've spouted my love for bad movies time and time again on this blog and on social media. The Room is one of my favorites. I've seen it live multiple times and even had the unique pleasure of meeting the wacky auteur, Tommy Wiseau, in person. Give me all the bad films I can handle. Birdemic. Samurai Cop. Miami Connection. Fateful Findings. Do you know what these movies have in common, besides laughable production values and dialogue that sounds like it's been chewed up by Google Translate? None of these works are boring. They might defy most conventions of storytelling and filmmaking but they are. Not. Boring.
Like I've said before, most creators usually don't set out to make bad art on purpose. The minds behind the best bad movies thought they were the next Marlon Brando or Hitchcock or Bruce Lee. That earnestness is clear, especially when it's missing from B movies made to be purposefully bad. Everyone wants to make good art. We all dream about critical and commercial success. We rehearse acceptance speeches in the shower. We doodle cover art in the steam on the mirror. I think we should all set out to create the best possible books, movies, music, and whatever else. There's the truly great stuff. Saving Private Ryan and Infinite Jest and Dark Side of the Moon. Set your sights high. Make something that's truly yours.
There's also value in bad art. Hell, I sometimes enjoy the schlock more than a year's worth of Oscar/Pulitzer/Man Booker bait. There is, however, no value in boring art. You know what I'm talking about. The middling, the vanilla, the insipid. The art that's so content with simply existing that it fails to say or do much else. Take, for example, the new Power Rangers reboot. I found it dour and unimaginative, especially when compared to the original TV show's rainbow of raving campiness. There it is. Boring and bad, side-by-side.
Here's another example: Miracles from Heaven, that quasi-religious flick from last year. Jennifer Garner stars as a lady who yells at doctors and Jesus until her sick daughter falls into (not off of) a dead tree. Even that quick and dirty description makes the film sound way more interesting than it actually is. In practice, getting through Miracles From Heaven is a chore, the story too saccharine and uncontroversial for even the most seasoned hate-watchers.
Compare this with 2014's God's Not Dead--an entertainingly bonkers religious film that plays like a Bible study group's collective fever dream. It has everything! Kevin Sorbo as a mustache-twirlingly evil caricature of an atheist. Dean Cain as a prideful businessman. That dude from Duck Dynasty defending The Faith in an ambush, TMZ-style interview. All in all, it's a hell of a watch and, of course, truly awful in the best ways. Again, boring and bad, side-by-side.
And now I need to talk about Big Bad Beetleborgs, a late 90's Power Rangers clone from Haim Saban. I watched the first couple of episodes on Netflix this weekend and, well, damn. This show is crazy. It's bad. Very, very bad. But guess what? It's. Not. Boring. Beetleborgs is an incomprehensible mash-up of the best parts of tokusatsu, comic books, and classic monster movies. That's right. This is a show about three kids who wander into a haunted house, hide from vampires, mummies, and werewolves, meet a ghost who inexplicably grants wishes, and get turned into their favorite comic book heroes (the eponymous Beetleborgs). Did that sentence give you whiplash? My nose started bleeding while I was writing it. Mixing Power Rangers and the Universal Monsters? Why the hell not? I won't be forgetting Big Bad Beetleborgs any time soon.
When you create your projects, don't hold back. Don't shelter in the middle in some misguided attempt to avoid offending people. Take risks. Make bold choices. Art is about rifling through the most intimate parts of your soul, ripping chunks out, and presenting them to the wide world on a platter. Don't give us fluff. Give us bloody bits of your still-beating heart. Try to make it as good as possible. Don't be disappointed if it's bad. Only be disappointed if it's forgettable.