Renovating The Room: audience reception and paratextual intervention
Despite being labelled ‘the Citizen Kane of bad films’ upon its release, The Room (2003) and its enigmatic director/writer/star Tommy Wiseau have gained a cult following worldwide. This article examines how reception of The Room and of Wiseau has evolved as a result of paratexts claiming to expose the truth behind the film’s production and the Wiseau persona. While The Room has gained a cult following centred upon participatory cinema screenings, the film’s lifespan has been sustained by para-texts promising to expose the authentic nature of the film and Wiseau. By examining both The Room and the Wiseau persona, the way paratexts have helped ‘renovate’ their images can be observed, giving them a ‘second life’ of devoted cult followers. The Room continues to draw fans in cinemas worldwide; and this success has brought Wiseau the fame he openly courts. The article proposes that the desire of the audience to uncover the authentic Wiseau is an integral part of the cultification of The Room. Ultimately, I contend that the paratexts which have developed around the production and reception of The Room have served to reinforce the film’s cult status, and that the mystery of Wiseau’s ‘true’ persona is central to the ongoing cultification of the film.