What Makes a Book or Movie Cheesy?

Recently I was trying to describe why I like a particular movie to a friend, and the only adjective that came to mind was “cheesy.” But because of how the word is often used to describe something that is inelegant or garish, I found myself searching for more descriptors to emphasize what I meant.

But I shouldn’t have to find other adjectives. I reject the pejorative use of “cheesy” because I find, for instance, the romance genre’s commitment to “cheese” endearing. And perhaps I’m preaching to the choir, but I want to articulate my working definition of what makes a book or film “cheesy.”

“I reject the pejorative use of ‘cheesy’ because I see the romance genre’s commitment to ‘cheese’ endearing.”

For me, “cheesiness” and “campiness” or “camp” have something in common. Camp revels in its own rejection of high brow understandings of what is good and worthy. It is aware of its relative tastelessness.

Similarly, cheesy content waves off the world’s cynicism and encourages readers and viewers to do the same. I know when I’m consuming a cheesy movie or book when I have to pause or put it down after a lot of emotion has just been enthusiastically and sincerely revealed.

“cheesy content waves off the world’s cynicism and encourages readers and viewers do the same”

I’ve seen many people online in the last few years talk about romance being their haven, their escape. A place where happiness is guaranteed in a world where anything from climate change to bigotry make the future uncertain. It’s a harbour that invites you to safely indulgence.

There’s no cool observation or practical analysis. Instead, cheesy wants you to nod when Jerry Maguire says, “You complete me.” It isn’t surprised when you grin while Akeem sings a love song through the streets in Coming To America. And it doesn’t expect you to hold it together when Kat reads her heart-wrenching poem in front of her classmates and the guy she loves in 10 Things I Hate About You.

In all these instances, the sincerity is palpable and satisfying (as opposed to off-putting and awkward) because the work to set up and develop feelings and characters has been done. Therefore, any expression of deep emotion is deserved and it has no other choice but to be loud, exaggerated, cheesy. ❤

Let me know what your favourite cheesy romance book or movie is in the comments below or on Twitter.

 

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