Aaron R. Davis
Here’s the thing: it’s hard to make a bad movie on purpose.
Last week, I joined in on the Thursday re-airing of Sharknado. I wasn’t really that interested in seeing it; mainly I just wanted to listen to the How Did This Get Made podcast about it. I knew it probably wasn’t going to live up to the flood of gif images on Tumblr, and mainly I was right. It’s another cheap piece of miscalculated crap, the kind the Syfy Channel specializes in, and of course it wasn’t fun-bad or funny-bad it was just bad-bad.
I really resent these movies that are supposedly fun, like someone made a stupid movie on purpose and the whole point of the movie is supposed to be that it’s stupid in a funny way and the fun is just sitting there and laughing at the awfulness, but I think that’s really a cop-out that people use when they’ve just made something so bad that it’s unwatchable. Sharknado doesn’t even approach that level of competence. It is just an incompetently made movie, all the more bizarre for how inconsistent its level of incompetence is at any given moment. It’s like someone who had no idea what they were doing made a movie, realized it was only an hour long, put in a bunch of stock footage along with its terrible CGI, still had something any reasonable person would have been embarrassed to be a part of and decided “It’s bad on purpose. Now it’s a comedy!”
But it’s not. Stop trying to convince me that movies like this are so bad they’re funny. It’s your awful justification for wasting time on this kind of shit that’s so bad it’s funny.
Sharknado isn’t even a movie. Not by any standards. Not even the “so bad it’s funny” standard.
But, Sharknado did actually force me to confront my own mortality.
See, a big chunk of the movie involves Ian Ziering fighting his way through inconsistent levels of flooding and rain and strangely shapeless CGI sharks to get to Beverly Hills and rescue his ex-wife and daughter. I knew that Tara Reid played his wife, but I was not at all prepared for the daughter. When his daughter pops out, she looks like she’s about 19 freaking years old.
See, what I’m used to in movies is some guy in his forties with, like, a 10 year-old kid. Hollywood and its double standards regarding age have trained me to expect it. You know how it is: guy in his fifties having a girlfriend in her early twenties is normal and accepted; woman in her forties has a boyfriend even seven years younger and people think it’s weird and that’s got to be the entire plot of the movie, because it can’t just be something we accept and then move on to a story about fighting space monsters or something.
I’ll give you another example: the same day I watched Sharknado, I was flipping channels and the pointless, mindless, dull-as-shit Cowboys and Aliens was on, and here’s 70-year-old, elderly Harrison Ford having issues with his son, 28-year-old Paul Dano. Not grandson issues, son issues. And we just sort of accept that as normal, because heaven forfend that Harrison Ford accept his age on screen and play someone whose kid is 47. And yeah, I know we’ve got the ghoulish specter these days of elderly guys like Ford fathering young children on 28-year-old girls, but it just makes me laugh when I see it in movies. Can you imagine Helen Mirren starring in a movie where she has a son who’s 28? That would never happen. But in Hollywood terms, Harrison Ford isn’t elderly, he’s “middle-aged.”
So anyway, back to Tara Reid and her 19-year-old daughter.
Look, I’m not going to bag on Tara Reid here. I know she’s chosen a lifestyle that has aged her prematurely, and not in a very graceful way, but enough people have said things about that. I don’t need to add to it. But Tara Reid is 37 years old. I just turned 37 last week. We’re the same age. When I picture Tara Reid in my mind, it’s the pretty, sexy girl with great skin who was in American Pie and Josie and the Pussycats. It’s just what I’ll always remember her for, and what I always used to love her in. Guys, I used to really like Tara Reid. I used to see movies just because she was in them. I will always be able to look at Tara Reid and see glimpses of the girl I used to have a massive crush on.
But you know what? When I picture myself, I picture myself from when I was 19, weighed over 200 pounds less than I do now and was actually able to run. Why would I trash Tara Reid for not looking like she did in her twenties? Grow up.
But that significantly weirded me out, seeing Tara Reid — even a “hard life” version of Tara Reid — sitting on a staircase with her arms around what was supposed to be her 19-year-old daughter. Like I said, I just didn’t expect it, partially because I’m still imagining a 24-year-old Tara Reid in my head, and partially because it’s just such a twist from what you usually expect in one of these movies, where Tom Cruise is always so desperate for the audience to believe he’s still 32 that his kids are always still carrying backpacks. But there she was, Tara Reid, with a young adult child.
And then I realized what made me feel so weird about the damn thing. It wasn’t that it looked uncomfortably weird. It’s that it looked comfortably right. Because, after all, I could have a 19-year-old daughter. If I had had a child when I was 18, that child would be 19. It’s the same age difference between me and my own mother. And that’s when it hit me: holy shit, I’m 37 freaking years old. I’m almost 40. Jeez, man: my half-sister just turned 18 a few months ago, graduated high school, and is getting ready to go away to college. I could have a child going through the same thing right now.
So the two reactions to that were, 1. What the hell have I done with my life? and 2. I couldn’t handle that kind of responsibility at all.
And that, my friends, is how Sharknado made me confront the fact that I’m probably halfway through my life, I’m only getting older, and I’ll never be responsible enough to be a father.
Thanks, Sharknado. You somehow became even less fun than you already weren’t.
Aaron R. Davis lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean with his eyes shut tight and his fingers in his ears. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.