I don’t mean stupidly smart – that exists too. I mean stupid but/and smart.
Lately I enjoyed the whole second season of Ash vs Evil Dead and that is an example of stupid smart. One could say it is goofy, dumb, funny and groovy and one would be right. It’s not for everyone but it’s smart in how stupid it makes me for the 30 minutes it runs per episode and takes me on a gory ride of fun. It is however, not stupid in a The Walking Dead kind of way, where it makes me stop watching, it makes me come back for more because it tricks me in this stupid smart way.
The main character played by the best B-movie actor of all time Bruce Campbell – Ash is a main character that surprises you with his unreliability of being stupid, being underestimated and cocky. In the season finale and I am not spoiling much and this is a show that won’t be hurt by spoilers regardless, there is a scene that had me face-palming myself and shake my head smilingly when he punched an old locked up woman in the basement of the cabin of the movies, because he thinks it’s a demon and and it’s funny, because I thought she is clearly not and it’s not right to punch an old woman that is in shackles and afraid right in the face and it’s weird how she doesn’t get insanely outraged or sad about that act (it’s a funny show – believe me and read on). Knowing by that point that this is an oddball of a show with a special, self-aware humour, this in itself, is not surprising and knowing Ash is a overly confident moron, I thought, he is clearly wrong here and even with the woman not acting like I think a person in real life would (because it’s movie/TV magic). I was led to believe she is not a demon and this is not right. The show turns all this on it’s head and spits it back, AND it turns out after Ash gets distracted and unshackles her, because bigger problems seem to arise, it happens: she disappears and IS ACTUALLY A DEMON/DEADITE. I giggled and felt a bit stupid but not tricked in a bad way.
The series surprises. It pulled that exact stunt or similar set-ups a couple of times before. It’s unreliable and goes meta with the viewer being tricked by thinking yes, this is not how a person would react and bring you down to the characters ‘stupidity’ and the over-the-topness of it all adds up to being excited by what is then naturally (or unnaturally) happening. It’s stupid and knows the viewers know and then plays with it and confronts us with a Schrödingers cat situation where anything could happen and we are surprised either way. It’s fun, it’s stupid and it’s smart.
Now compare this to almost every single TWD episode where I facepalm myself for watching characters that are supposed to be real and a show that is not self-aware and devoid of humour (apart from a Laurel and Hardy duo that is now devoid of the more serious guy that the other guy bounces off of) make decisions that make me shake my had not smilingly for stupid decisions from seemingly smart people. Let’s name a few: ‘Let’s split up.’, ‘We do this alone.’, ‘We can/can’t kill this character.’, ‘We don’t need more people.’ and ‘Yes Rick.’.
One show is stupid, aware of that and therefore smart, the other show is stupid, but not aware of that and not smart. I, the viewer am being tricked but once in an exciting and entertaining way and once in a very dumb way (and also to make you tune in after a 1 year break to find out who died!).
Enough of this. Back to philosophy:
I have finished Bioshock: Infinite this week. The game does something very similar, being a sequel to the original Bioshock game and therefore the also great System Shock (2) that also happen to share the same twist. You, the player are aware of a twist coming and then it comes and it is glorious. It’s possibly one of the best endings in a game ever. It’s touching, it’s philosophical and smart.
Let’s end this with the stupidly smart and great person Werner Herzog and this list (read Number 5 if you don’t read whole short articles). Please watch his movies and listen to his German accent or watch a producer being shouted at by the late and equally great but very different Klaus Kinski and be the calm that only Werner can show, even when being shot.