Cult Classics

By: DJ

Popular Culture – Topic Selection Paper

            For the weeks that we get to choose the subject, I think it would be interesting to look at the phenomenon of “cult classics.” There is not a solid definition for what makes a cult film, but these movies are general ones that are not widely accepted when they are released, but are greatly liked by a small group of highly devoted fans. Cult films are normally very unsuccessful in the mainstream despite being loved by a subculture or other small group. This connection to subcultures along with their steadfast devotion is where the analogy to ‘cults’ is formed. Many of these films fail to connect to a wide audience because they contain controversial messages, ideologies, or content that only appeals to a subculture. Most people have certain movies that they really like that are ignored by the mainstream, and it would be interesting to look at what draws certain people to these movies while so many others are turned off by them. I myself have many favorites that a lot of people would never have heard of.

Because the definition of “cult classic” is hard to pin down, it is also difficult to give exact examples of them. Some cult classics, despite being shunned by the majority in their initial release, have later found their way into the mainstream.  The movie “Fight Club” starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, about a group of dissatisfied white-collar workers starting an underground fighting club. Despite losing money on its initial release and being considered to strange and morbid by most people, it has gone on to have a great cultural impact on young men like the main characters. Numerous underground fight clubs were started illegally in the wake of the movie by young men who the movie resonated with.

Another example of a movie widely considered to be a cult classic is “The Big Lebowski,” a movie about ‘The Dude’ who is a laid-back slacker that gets caught up in a ransom situation. This movie has a very off-beat sense of humor and a plotline that feels too unfamiliar to a lot of people. The movie, despite getting mixed reviews when it came out, has inspired a festival, Lebowski fest, that grows every year, and an online religion based on the attitude of the main character. Other cult films include movies like Office Space, Donnie Darko, Pulp Fiction, A Clockwork Orange, the Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Evil Dead, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and Taxi Driver to name a few. The list would be too long to include, and I am sure that many other students would have movies that the really enjoy which fall under cult status that they could bring to the discussion.

I think this topic would be an interesting one to explore because it would be a great way to look into the place of various subcultures using popular culture. It could also be an opportunity to look at the different kinds of ideologies that these films present. We will be able to discuss why these ideologies were not able to be popular, but were popular to these subcultures that enjoy these films.

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