When you create something, or even do anything with constructive intentions, you want it to be good… right? For example, it surely goes without saying that when I write something here I hope that you, the reader, find it enjoyable, resonant, witty, engaging and ultimately entertaining? Or if I am trying to persuade and convince you of something, I’d hope that you find my argument sound, compelling and constructive? On the face of it, the thought of anyone hoping the opposite for their creation must seem absurd. Yet, I don’t think it’s quite as simple as that.
Putting aside the numerous and often wonderful examples of those who set out to confront, annoy, and unseat us with their creations – they still have aspirations for their work – is there ever a case when one creates with the intent of it being ‘bad’? That is, it fails in whatever aim the artist sets for the work. For some that might be boring, others poorly (or even well) received. I know ‘bad’ is not the right word, just as ‘good’ is not the right term for the successful opposite, but I hope you see what I mean.
Whatever form it comes in, does anyone ever aim for failure? And if they do and they succeed in meeting that subjective measure of failure, have they succeeded in an objective sense too? If the aim is to fail, and you fail, you succeed, thereby negating your failure. A paradox caused by language or philosophy, I’m not sure, but let’s leave all that and meander to the point.
I didn’t start writing this to solve an ongoing philosophical argument, fun as that would be. A good thing too, as anyone half competent in the discipline could rip the above three paragraphs to shreds. No, all this pondering is merely me wondering aloud about a couple of projects I’ve got going at the moment.
The first is this website. At present, it remains largely unwritten – just a few headings, a couple of blog posts and lashings of lipsum. If I’m honest, the initial reason for this was ineptitude (so very sorry if you’re trying to read this Firefox, but let’s face it, you gave up long ago) and a lack of time. But now I wonder if a website documenting its own stuttering conception might be quite a neat thing in itself. A few screen shots here, a few frustrated blog posts there and suddenly the shoddiness of it – the failure element – becomes the success. Do I now have a rubbish website or an interesting experiment?
The thing is though, I eventually hope it will become ‘good’. That is, it will have some content, some colour and it’ll work. in. bloody. Firefox. The second project I’m working on doesn’t have quite such a simple path.
I am, for my sins, a recovering Queen fan – the monolithic rock group, not the head of state. I never had much time for her. I loved them as a teenager – not a cool thing in the mid 90s – and was overjoyed when We Will Rock You the musical, with a script by Ben Elton appeared in the West End. I also love The Young Ones, Saturday Live and Blackadder, three more Elton creations. But the difference in quality between these last three and the script to WWRY is staggering. WWRY is bad, so bad (whichever definition one uses). So bad that the last time I saw it in July 2009, something broke inside me and I decided I’d write my own pop music vehicle musical. And it wouldn’t be so sodding awful as We Will Rock You.
No. It’d be worse. I think. Or maybe better. Here’s where I get stuck. On the one hand, I want to write something which satirises WWRY and all its ilk, that shows up the genre in all its awfulness. The band I picked, Manic Street Preachers, I picked because I know their music better than they do, and I knew that their output – obtuse, verbose and short of love songs – was entirely unsuited to the genre. I wanted it to be cack, to take the piss out of the whole idea.
But in doing so, I’ve got to be clever and creative. I’ve got to twist a set of angry songs aimed at specific targets into a meaningful plot and dialogue. I’ve got to create characters that interest a wider audience as well as meet all the exacting expectations of excitable/lunatic Manics fans. And even though I’m doing it with the intention of making it bad, I don’t want it to be unwatchable (face facts, girl, unreadable). It can’t be just plain awful, but deliberately constructed to look awful.
So back to the failing to fail. I take pride in my work and I want it to be knowing and humorous as well as unquestionably awful. I don’t want to create something ‘so bad it’s good’, but something that’s simultaneously bad and good. Then at least it’ll be bad for a reason, which We Will Rock You isn’t.