Movie program are great, right? They require minimal planning, you get to hang out and watch a movie, teens are happy…it’s the best.
Except when your teens won’t stop talking the whole time, and you have to be one of those dreaded Shushing Librarians, and you barely get to watch the movie at all. This was my experience every time I tried to show a movie at the library. My teens kept requesting movie programs, but then they’d spend the whole time talking and making fun of the movie they had asked me to show them.
When I was finally at my wit’s end, I asked my Teen Advisory Group for suggestions. Those lovely and clever teens had an idea: What if the whole point of the program was to make fun of the movie?! Brilliant! Thus, my monthly “Snark Attack” program was born.
Every month we channel the folks at MST3K by watching something terrible and yelling about how silly it is the whole time. And trust me, there’s no shortage of bad movies out there that are perfect for this program. Teens give me suggestions from YouTubers like JonTron, I scour the library’s donation room, search for cheap movies on Amazon, and look up lists online. Children’s movies work well, as do older movies with more dated sensibilities. The possibilities are truly endless.
When I do outreach and tell teens about Snark Attack, they often ask me what kinds of things we watch. I tell them that basically, if the title or cover of a movie makes you involuntarily cringe, it’s perfect for Snark Attack. Some of the “gems” we’ve forced ourselves to sit through include the following:
This program is consistently my most well-attended each month. I regularly have 10-15 teens at each session, which is awesome considering my other programs average around 6-8. The hardest part is getting teens to stay for the entirety of the movie. These movies are so stinking awful that, usually around the halfway mark, I’ll start getting questioned about how much longer we have left. I’ve decided to start awarding little prizes to anyone with the fortitude to stomach a full film.
If I have high attendance and things are a bit chaotic, sometimes I’ll ask the teens to look out for specific things while watching. For example, when we watched Sleepover, I asked them to watch out for cliches and tropes while I kept a running count. We noted over 150!
Another way to make a Snark Attack program more structured is to use MuVChat, a software program that allows patrons to text or use the MuVChat app to project comments about a movie onto the screen. I have not personally tried this, but I’ve talked with other librarians who have used it successfully. Comments are filtered using an algorithm designed to block foul language, or alternatively, you can opt to screen the comments yourself.
Have you ever hosted a program like this? I’d love to hear about what you did and how it went! Please share!
Jessica Hilbun Schwartz is a Teen Services Librarian in Louisville, CO. She's a native Coloradoan, but because she received both an MLS in Library Science and an MA in Children's Literature from Simmons College in Boston, MA she'll always have a soft spot for Bostonians and their glorious accents. Jessica is actively involved with ALA and YALSA and is currently serving on the 2018 Best Fiction for Young Adult selection committee. When she's not at the library, Jessica can usually be found reading picture books aloud to her very patient husband, baking shortbread, trying to learn French, or cuddling under a blanket with a good book.