One of the surest ways to tell that a movie you’re watching is a steaming pile of goo is whether or not it uses the “slow clap.” You know what I’m talking about–there’s a scene where a character puts his or her butt on the line by making a daring speech. After finishing, there is silence. But then one guy starts clapping slowly, and then another, and then another, until the room is filled with applause. In the book of Hollywood clichés, this may be the gold standard.
There are a surprising number of sites dedicated to the slow clap, and the myriad films that have abused it. Some sites are careful to point out the difference between the slow clap and the sarcastic clap. The sarcastic clap is often used in spy movies. The hero explains the bad guy’s plans to his partner. But then the villain emerges from the shadows, clapping but clearly not impressed, because the hero fell into his trap perfectly.
The slow clap, meanwhile, is what happens at the end of “Revenge of the Nerds” and “Hoosiers.” The clapping is sincere and usually involves a lot of smiles and nodding of heads. On occasion, the person receiving the applause is lifted on to a group’s shoulders as physical proof that he or she truly rules for having the guts to speak the truth.
It may not have been the first movie to do it, but most blogs I came across give credit to the ’80s flick “Lucas.” Tirico Suave calls its climactic scene the “the standard,” the one in which all other slow claps are to be measured.
TV Tropes lists several other films that, for better or for worse, used the technique. “Shakespeare in Love,” “Rudy,” “Strictly Ballroom,” and “Can’t Buy Me Love” all had slow clappers. Some films that used it in a subversive way include “The Producers,” “Little Miss Sunshine,” and the otherwise laborious “Not Another Teen Movie.” Sometimes the slow clap isn’t even a clap, as in the case of “Dead Poet’s Society,” when the students climb atop their desks one by one.
And, believe it or not, filmmakers are still using the slow clap today. This weekend’s “Love Happens” apparently features the groan-inducing cliché. How about some sarcastic applause for the filmmakers?
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