Every year, some of the finest artistic achievements of the year are celebrated at the Academy Awards, the Grammys, and the Emmys. But what about the entertaining movies that don’t get their due? What about the songs that make for great karaoke selections but will never land on a critic’s ten-best list, or the TV shows that we watch and enjoy but rarely discuss? Come explore the pop-culture staples that we take for granted with Vulture’s No Respect Week, where we’ll dive deep into the pockets of pop culture that rarely receive any fanfare or awards attention, yet still reliably entertain us.
Our music critic Jody Rosen kicked off the four-day series yesterday with his essay on and list of the 150 best “schlock rock” songs. As you read through those two pieces, you’ll understand No Respect Week in a nutshell: These are the tunes that you can’t help but sing along to, even though you never pay them much mind. Today, Jesse David Fox wrote about how bad Adam Sandler movies can be surprisingly effective at eliciting emotional responses. Later today and this week, we’ll explore the action flicks that solidly deliver without reinventing the form, the animated shows that deserve more scrutiny, the big careers that are successful because they give people exactly what they want. Entire industries are built on these things — in fact, nearly every genre or medium is made up mostly of solid-but-unexceptional work — but we rarely give them a second thought, too entranced by buzzy bombs or heralded hits to look much closer at the great big middle.
Don’t expect to find your favorite guilty pleasures here, though: The pop culture we’re tackling with No Respect Week is best enjoyed unironically. This isn’t the stuff you’re into because it’s knowingly campy or laughably bad, like Sharknado or Rebecca Black’s “Friday.” Instead, it’s like saying you always liked That ’70s Show: Millions will nod in agreement, but a perfectly agreeable sitcom is never going to inspire the discussion and fanatic internet interest generated by Breaking Bad and The Wire. Still, you’re not at all embarrassed to admit you enjoyed these things, and with time, you may even grow to appreciate them.
So let’s take a moment to shine a spotlight on pop culture’s unsung heroes, the shows and films and songs that may be called middlebrow, yet do what they do with great gusto. Whether or not you think they deserve a little respect, you’ll certainly have more for their makers after learning just what it takes to nail that crowd-pleasing formula.