If you’re making a go of a career in the creative arts, common sense would suggest that you’ve got to be pretty sure of yourself. Feedback is important, obviously, because we all like to be told we’re doing the right thing, but feedback will only go as far as to reinforce what you already think of your abilities. If you don’t think you’re good at what you do – if you don’t look at your finished prose, or song, or painting and think ‘That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.’ – no amount of positive feedback will convince you otherwise. The problem with artists is that they’re frequently underwhelmed by their own talent. The fleeting, fragile, that’ll-do-pig moments are but sweet shards of light cast guiltily into the murk of self-loathing. Every artist, you see, is his own mother-in-law.
I don’t trust my own abilities any more than I trust Enda Kenny’s, which is a state of affairs not wholly conducive to financial success. My belief in my abilities is a brittle sort of belief, and for every porcine congratulation there’s a hundred and twelve self-flagellation sessions, where I re-read and see clumsy phrases and similes I can’t remember the relevance of and obtuse interpretations of issues I really couldn’t give less of a fuck about. Really, that’s the mathematical ratio. 1:112.
This is why I cannot watch The Room.
And Oh, Buddha, I love The Room. I love everything about it. I love its earnest awfulness. I love how it’s essentially a straight-faced assassination of every sense that keeps you functional: visual, aural . . . common. To call The Room a terrible film is to do it a disservice, for you could spend a lifetime with the cleverest satirists on the planet trying to make the world’s worst movie, and never come close to anything as brain-combustingly appalling.
The Room is the vanity project of a shady character called Tommy Wiseau. No one knows where he came from, and no one knows how he managed to pull together enough money to make The Room. He went through something like four crews and endured numerous cast changes because most of the people he hired to make his movie exploded on contact with the script. The plot, which I don’t feel bad about calling a plot because it too is a legitimate space to grow vegetables, revolves around Wiseau’s Johnny, an All-American Armenian Albanian alien, who is lead up the garden path by his inexplicably evil future-wife Lisa and his emotionally, socially, and developmentally conflicted best friend Mark.
There is little point in going into further detail, because there aren’t sufficient words in the English language to express how transcendentally heinous this film is. Wiseau – actor, writer, director, producer – has the self-awareness every conscience-laden adult envies, which is to say, none at all. Whether it’s through snaking his pasty buttocks at the camera in a sex scene which couldn’t be any longer if it were stuck in an existential loop, directing his actors with the clear vision of a cataract-riddled potato, or awkwardly delivering lines that could only have been written by Google Translate, you can be sure that Tommy Wiseau genuinely has no idea of how fucking terrible he is. You’d almost feel bad for him, if you weren’t so sure that such sentiment would dribble off him like spittle off laminate. Tommy Wiseau is atrocious, but Tommy Wiseau will never, ever know about it.
The Room is 99 minutes of jaw-dropping horror, and we’ll never see its like again. It is almost absurdly fun to watch, despite the fact that you can’t allow yourself to laugh in case you miss the next abomination hurdling your way. But once the ordeal is over, once you’ve stopped choking on your own fist and finished wiping the tears of sociopathic mirth from your eyes, you’re left with the dawning, yawning, terrible reality that Tommy Wiseau made this dreadful mess from beginning to end – from the initial, unholy kernel that spawned the monster – without ever realising how apocalyptically incompetent he is.
Tommy Wiseau is to talent what waterboarding is to the hospitality industry. I know, with the same inborn conviction that reminds me when to breathe, that Tommy Wiseau possesses non-talent so pure, he may well have been conceived of ineptitude and spun together by mystical, supernatural shitness. It is difficult to find the words to describe just how bad Tommy Wiseau is. You have to get religious about him. Science can’t explain him. His mere existence proves that there is a god, because you couldn’t make him up. Tommy Wiseau is the Anti-Talent.
And he doesn’t know it. The Room is an irony-free zone.
This is why it’s so fucking toxic. I watch The Room, and it takes me days to recover from it; as a writer, every word I get past my fingertips is, all of a sudden, weighted with Wiseau, infected by him. What if . . . Oh dear God, what if I’m as shit as Tommy Wiseau and no one’s told me? What if I end up creating something as godawful as The Room, and no one is kind enough to euthanize it before it grows wings and savages me? And I think, Hey, calm down, you’re not as bad as Tommy Wiseau. You couldn’t be. You string words together and people pay you money for them. But it’s no good. When I read back what I’ve written, it comes out in Tommy Wiseau’s death-drawl. The page is full of malapropisms, chasms of logic, changeling phrases I hesitate to smother because I can’t recall how they got onto the page in the first place.
It’s Wiseauitis. Watching The Room is, to me, akin to taking an entire forest floor of hallucinogenic fungi: I need to clear my diary for a week afterwards. It’s not the only creative fucksplosion that can do this to me – I get a similar reaction after reading ‘The Eye Of Argon’, or watching Cracked lists of amateur music videos on YouTube – but its effects are definitely the most extreme.
The first time I saw The Room, I fell hopelessly in love with it. One of the ways I chose to express this love was to create a desktop wallpaper for myself, based on this immortal snapshot.
I had to take it down after a couple of days. The Wiseauitis wouldn’t abate with the wallpaper there, feeding it, every time I turned my laptop on. That wallpaper couldn’t exist on the same technological platform as my writing. Just having it there made me feel so uncomfortable, so helpless, that it might well have been a segue from a Gaspar Noé film.
The love for The Room is still there. It’s a sick love, though. It’s a love I need to deny. Being a writer is so very fraught with danger at the best of times. To invoke Tommy Wiseau is to play with fire.