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A Touch of Cult
by Karma Waltonen

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About two weeks ago, I headed to the great city of Boston for the PCA/ACA convention. The PCA/ACA convention is the annual co-conference of the Popular Culture Association and the American Culture Association. It's a time to meet up with old friends and colleagues, to make new contacts, and to go to a wide variety of panels.

The best panel I attended, besides my own, of course (on SERENITY/FIREFLY), was by Maura Grady, Cassie Hemstrom, and Kathy Anders. These three wonderful women prompted us to discuss the cult film genre.

One of the most interesting aspects of this genre is that no cult film is ever created as one. Instead, films
are made in various genres—it is then the audience reaction that decides whether the film is also a "cult" film. In other words, it takes the creation of a cult to make a cult film.

However, people can argue about what constitutes a cult film—must it be independent? Must it have been commercially unsuccessful at first or not critically acclaimed? Must it ultimately appeal to an audience it was not intended for originally?

There are some movies that we just know are cult films—ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, for example. Maura related a story, however, about how her students in a film class believed PULP FICTION was a cult film. As it was
instantly a commercial and critical success, the rest of us didn't agree with the students, whose evidence included the film being referenced on COMMUNITY.

As we were discussing these issues of genre, the three panelists put the theory into practice by having us all watch CLUE together.

I have many friends who absolutely adore CLUE. I know it's a cult film, but prior to this panel, I'd only seen it once. It came on TV, complete with commercials, and I watched it while doing something else. (I often treat TV as a radio, having it on in the room with me while I cook, sift through student homework, or clean. Very few shows get my
undivided attention. For most shows, it doesn't matter—but with very good shows, my inattention causes problems.) These were not the circumstances under which to fall in love with CLUE, even though I was predisposed to do so.

Watching the film in Boston, in the company of friends and strangers, however, completely changed my perception of the film. Yes, I'm a convert.

Maybe I need to watch THE BIG LEBOWSKI again. I mean, I've seen it once, but I've been assured by some friends that if I devote about fourteen more hours to it, I'll REALLY like it instead of just thinking it was okay.

First, though, I have a CLUE party to put together.

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Comedies with Dr. Karma
Every other Wednesday

Dr. Karma discusses all things comic, from the classics to what may become classics. Laugh with, but not at, her, please.

Other Columns
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Karma Waltonen
Dr. Karma is a silly, nerdy know-it-all, but in a good way. She brings all her overeducation to discuss that which truly matters: comedy. As some famous guy once said: “And if I laugh at any mortal thing, ‘tis that I may not weep.” Or something like that.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Karma Waltonen by clicking here.

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