Isabela Merced as Anya Corazon, Sydney Sweeney as Julia Carpenter, and Dakota Johnson as Cassie Webb in Madame Web

How ‘Madame Web’ Became the Trash Cinema of the Year

The bad news about Madame Web is that it’s a significant dumpster fire. However, the good news is that it might be the best dumpster fire of 2024.

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Ever since the latest installment in Sony’s struggling Spider-Man Universe premiered, viewers have been investing in the concept of a film being so bad it’s good. The movie follows Cassie Webb (Dakota Johnson), a young woman who discovers she has clairvoyant abilities. Her abilities lead her to three young women, who are all connected in some way. Hence, Webb finds herself tasked with understanding their connection and why Ezekiel Sims (Tahar Rahim) wants to kill them.

After the terrible response to Morbius and the mixed reception of the two Venom movies, expectations for Madame Web weren’t high, especially when Sony released what looked like a fan-made trailer for the movie. Even though the expectations were already very low, the movie failed to meet even those. Despite a cast of solid female leads and the appeal of the Spider-Man family, the movie is nothing short of a disaster. Between its cheesy dialogue, nonsensical plot, underdeveloped characters, and bizarre Pepsi-Cola advertising, it’s giving Morbius a run for its money as the worst superhero film in recent years.

However, what if the film could use how bad it is to its advantage?

Audiences want to experience how painful Madame Web is

Sydney Sweeney as Julia Carpenter in the Madame Web trailer
(Sony Pictures)

When almost every review, news article, and social media post about Madame Web is centered on how bad it is, one would think that would be a turnoff for audiences. However, the movie seems close to obtaining the status of trash cinema, as online users express excitement at seeing the disaster themselves.

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee has an entire class dedicated to teaching students what “trash cinema” is. According to the course’s professor Jocelyn Szczepaniak-Gillece, trash cinema differs from a regular bad movie because it pushes “the boundaries of good taste” and revels “in taboos.”

Yahoo Entertainment’s David Mack spoke to Szczepaniak-Gillence about why Madame Web is sparking viewers’ interest. “I think a trainwreck like Madame Web is appealing because there’s so much investment in terms of capital and star power, and there’s great fun in seeing that fall apart,” she told the outlet.

The idea that trash cinema can be historical and worth watching in its own way generates curiosity every time a movie gets abysmal reviews. Additionally, one thing the movie has going for is that it was made with the intention of being good. Madame Web did want to be something different as a female-led film tackling several wild comic book arcs, but it wasn’t explicitly meant to shock or turn audiences away. Those making the film genuinely thought they were making a good movie, which Szczepaniak-Gillence says sparks audiences’ interest to see how things went so terribly wrong.

Those who want to see Madame Web because of its bad reviews need not be embarrassed. As Yahoo Entertainment reported, studies have shown that moviegoers who seek out bad movies and trash cinema tend to be more “culturally curious than other moviegoers.” After all, it takes an open mind to read Madame Web’s reviews and decide to give a try anyway.

Then there’s also the matter of FOMO (fear of missing out). The thing is, a lot of people seem to be having a really good time trashing Madame Web. Everyone seems to relish its badness and the opportunity to make the most out of it with hilarious memes and colorful reviews. We see all these conversations and find ourselves thinking, “You know what? I really want to hate Madame Web, too.”

So, of course, the movie is now drawing viewers who specifically want to see it because it’s terrible.

Madame Web has been struggling at the box office, especially given its $100 million-plus budget. It certainly would be interesting to see its box office performance start to rise as people hurry to see the trainwreck. What’s interesting is that Morbius also got a lot of hype, with viewers making memes and launching a Morbius 2 campaign. However, even when the film was re-released in theaters, viewers flatly refused to watch it once push came to shove. If Madame Web can do what Morbius couldn’t, getting public discourse and views, it might prove it’s something more than a typical bad movie.

Madame Web may not be Showgirls-level trash cinema, but it might just be trashy enough to get all the “culturally curious” audiences to the theaters.

(featured image: Sony Pictures)


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Author
Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is an SEO writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, YA literature, celebrity news, and coming-of-age films. She has over two years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.