Hollywood: Bad cinema's bad 'other'

Jane Mills

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Paracinema is widely defined in terms of its binary opposition to Hollywood cinema, making it Hollywood's 'bad other'. This proposes Hollywood as the opposite of bad, and therefore good. Underlying this conceptualization is a Hollywoodcentric approach to studying film in which the globally dominant cinema sets the standard by which all other cinemas are judged - and often to be found lacking. Paradoxically, cinemas seen to oppose Hollywood often tend to be valorized at the expense of the globally dominant cinema which is denigrated. Thus good becomes bad and bad is perceived as good. Hollywood, however, is seen to be doubly bad: not only is it accused of 'ruining all the cinemas in Europe', it is the 'significant bad other' from which all other cinemas need to be protected. In this scenario, cinemas are imagined to possess rigid and impermeable boundaries preserving distinctions of taste. These borders supposedly keep Hollywood conservative and immune from the ideas, images and sounds of bad cinema while those erected around bad cinema are thought to keep Hollywood out and protect paracinema's essence and 'otherness'. This article proposes replacing the notion of fixed cinematic borders within a Hollywoodcentric screenscape with that of a chaotic, fluid screenscape in which global cultural flows carry 'badness' between cinemas in a transnational imaginary. In challenging the common perception of Hollywood's relationship to its 'bad other', it asks whether a cinema commonly perceived to abhor the excess, low production values and sleaze of bad cinema is widely imagined to be bad itself. But just how bad is bad, what value can we place on badness, and do two bads make a good?
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)667-677
Number of pages11
JournalContinuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2010

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