Why can’t audiences get enough of Sharknado

There’s a popular meme making its way around social media these days. It’s an encouraging sort that reminds people not to keep quiet, even if they think their idea will never work because, “someone once sat in a pitch meeting and said, ‘tornados full of sharks’.”

And that’s it. The meme works because no one can understand the success of the Sharknado franchise. Yes, franchise. There have been several of these movies now. Millions can’t understand why. The confusion is so universal it’s literally become a meme for ridiculous or silly. And, yet, the movies also have millions of fans.

Count one of the movie’s stars as just as confused as the ersatz audience. Ian Ziering, formerly of Beverly Hills 90210, has re-emerged as king of B-movie camp with Sharknado, and though he is thankful for the, now substantial, paycheck, he can’t quite figure out what makes the movies so successful.

“As a viewer, I appreciate it because it’s fun, it’s escapism, it’s pure entertainment. But how do you explain it? I don’t know… Major motion picture studios spend hundreds of millions of dollars trying to capture some of whatever it is that makes our little ‘Sharknado’ movie globally popular. It’s kind of like the secret sauce: No one really knows for sure. I wish I knew, I would be making my own movie…” Ziering said.

But, when you think about it, and you understand American movie fans, what’s not to like? It’s Ziering and Tara Reid battling flying sharks with a chainsaw. That’s good, binge-watching fun right there. Now that the fifth installment of the franchise is out on streaming video, fans can curl up on the couch, check their brain at the door and prepare to be entertained.

It helps that the formula for Sharknado – whatever it might be, exactly – contains a healthy dose of self-awareness. This is not a bad movie trying desperately to be good. It’s camp, pure and unfiltered silliness with a healthy dose of pop-culture winks at the audience.

Take cameos for example. Like the Stan Lee peeks in Marvel movies, Sharknado has played coy with audiences by dropping stars in the movies and seeing if viewers can find them all. Veterans of the series include Kelly Osbourne, Ne-Yo and George RR Martin.

In this installment, Ziering’s globe-trotting Fin Shepard has graduated to the ranks of “Sharknado Expert,” whatever that means. And he’s called on by the leaders of the world to stop the in-flight uber-predators. For those interested in playing celebrity bingo, look for Olivia Newton-John, Bret Michaels, Clay Aiken, Charo, and Yanet Garcia.

And, while the cast knows the audience isn’t taking any of this very seriously, they say they take their jobs very seriously indeed. Here’s Ziering on making Sharknado believable for the audience, “We’re saying things that are so ridiculous that sometimes you really want to laugh really hard… But you have to take all of this really seriously because in the context of this movie these are very serious scenarios.”

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