A little while ago, I went to go see The Room with a group of friends. In addition to being a delightful reminder that chunks of Atlanta are very similar to a small town (Oh hi there, 20 kids I went to high school with! Hello, friends of my friend’s roommate!), the film was its usual dose of terribad. (For those who have not seen it, The Room is regarded as possibly the worst film ever made. Seeing it in public involves pelting the screen with spoons. It’s like a mellower Rocky Horror Picture Show.)
For the most part, the shoutalong dialogue was great. The film truly is terrible, and public evisceration of continuity errors, unlit establishing shots, and inexplicably graphic (and occasionally out of focus) sex scenes is great fun.
But there was a second undercurrent to the shoutalong commentary that was frustrating and a little disheartening. Though the main female character is a badly-written, sociopathic robot of a human being, most of the insults directed at her were comments about how she was a) a whore, or b) fat. It’s irritating to have a mostly-male set of commentators commenting on the woman’s weight and perceived unsexyness when she’s thinner than you and—if she was just a person you met on the street—pretty conventionally cute.
Poking fun at the cheesy sex scene music and the needless nipples is great, and is pretty equal opportunity. But shoutalong commentary seems to be prone to devolving into sexist jeering at actresses for not being the right kind of hot. That’s unfair, and displays the same troubling assumptions about the fact that it’s a woman’s duty to be attractive that routinely get critiqued in the feminist internet corner.
Everyone at my post-movie diner table agreed that the looks-based insult commentary had made them uncomfortable to varying degrees. This included some folks who had participated in it. If we’re a representative group, then it seems like folks viewing the film should make an effort to move away from the “Ew, she’s fat” commentary and back into the “You’re reusing sex scene footage and for the love of Christ why are you people petting each other with roses” school.
The Room is great and terrible on its own. Sexism doesn’t make it better, funnier, or more enjoyable to fling spoons at. The film is misogynist in its own right. Making fun of that is much more entertaining than contributing to it, and it has the bonus fun time side effect of not making half the theater kind of uncomfortable.