“A bunch of friends who might not be film experts, but sure do have funny opinions, watch bad movies and rag on them” is a podcasting trope by now, if such a thing can exist. How do you wade through the sea of cinematic chit-chat to find one you know will be good? That’s not actually a question I can answer, since I was lucky enough to stumble into Trash & Treasures sideways, but I can help by assuring you that Trash & Treasures is one worth checking out.
Trash & Treasures is where self-described “three weirdos”, Vrai, Dorothy, and Chris, watch movies and sometimes TV series that have been lost down the back of the pop culture couch. Maybe they’re a product of Disney’s awkward and edgy dark era where the company was low on funds and fighting with Don Bluth, maybe they’re an obscure single-release piece of queer action cinema, maybe they’re… just plain bad. Each episode is devoted to a different piece of media, and the trio discuss the plot, context and history of how this movie came to be and how they came to find it, and which parts of it are terrible and which parts are actually, maybe, kind of good.
While snark abounds, it’s important to note that this podcast isn’t just about stomping all over bad movies that they knew were going to be bad. Some people might find that fun, but to me relentless criticism is just sort of exhausting, which is why I find the legitimate critique and discussion of why certain aspects of these films do and don’t work refreshing. I’ve learned an awful lot from this podcast—if you’re a Disney fan you might enjoy the episodes on The Black Cauldron and The Great Mouse Detective, not just to relive these childhood not-quite-classics (with ample nostalgia and playful snarkiness), but to hear about their historical context, production methods, and some juicy behind-the-scenes Disney gossip from Chris, the show’s resident animation aficionado.
That said, I’ve also learned a lot of production fun facts—to bring up in small talk at parties, obviously—about strange, ridiculous, and terrible movies I hope to never actually see. For instance, did you know that the notorious anime School Days is based on a visual novel with several different routes designed around wooing different love interests? And did you know that when School Days was adapted into an anime, instead of just committing one route to screen, they combined them all, making the main character an uncaring sex fiend and leaving the plot in a treacherous muddle? Did you know it also ends with a murder scene (because that’s the best way to resolve a love triangle clearly) that got censored in such an infamous way it instantly became a meme in both Japan and America? I do, now. I don’t want to say I feel “enlightened” by this episode, but it sure did teach me a lot (if only what not to do when attempting to write a romance story or a likeable protagonist). The Trash & Treasures friends watched this terrible show so I didn’t have to, and for that I am grateful to them.
It’s not all jokes about bad smut, though–without being entirely about analysis from a social justice standpoint, the podcasters each bring a queer and often feminist lens to the table. They regularly call out classist, sexist, homophobic and downright bizarre and gross tropes when they see them, and dig into the shadowy heart of representing mental illness in their episode on Mary and Max. The episode on DEBS—a low-budget action movie about a lady super spy and a lady supervillain falling in love—is fun and funny but also legitimately moving, as the trio all take the time to talk not only about queer tropes but about their personal experiences coming out as queer and seeing themselves in media, both treasured and trashy.
Since a lot of the things they review are awful in one way or another, and sometimes lean towards the “trashy horror show” genre, the podcasters are always very careful and considerate in laying out content warnings in both the episode descriptions and introductions, which is nice. And it’s a little thing, but Vrai often signs off by saying “take care of yourselves”, which is always a sweet thing to hear from a distant recording booth.
It’s not a professional production so much as one made out of love, so the audio quality isn’t always stellar, but bear with it if you can. The group have a fun dynamic, the cinema-snark is steeped in inclusive and issue-savvy humor that has never offended me once, and you get to learn about some bad-good movies you might not have even heard of before—or, you might be inspired to revisit some childhood classics with new context and an analytical eye.
You can find the podcast on SoundCloud, Tumblr, Stitcher, and any app where podcasts are to be found. You can also follow Dorothy on Tumblr and read more of Vrai’s work on Fashionable Tinfoil Accessories.
Read more from Alex at her blog, The Afictionado!