Hate-watching, or the art of killing the series we love to abhor

Hate-watching, or the art of killing the series we love to abhor

This variant of “guilty pleasure” consists in becoming addicted to a series that you hate in order to better bring it down on social networks. But beware: behind these funny tweets sometimes hide genuine hateful messages.

Following its launch in May 2016, Marseilles, Netflix’s first French series, which starred Gérard Depardieu as the mayor of Marseille, has become a real phenomenon, but not for the reasons expected by the platform. A rain of ironic messages fell on the Web, lists of the worst replicas of this thriller bloated in the mysteries of municipal power or gifs of its most grotesque scenes. A practice known across the Atlantic as “hate watching”, “watch out of hatred” in VF. The sweet adventures ofEmily in Paris, the apprentice singers of Glee or the Machiavellian teenagers ofElite have, each in their own way, been victims of this joyfully sadomasochistic mode of consumption, which consists of following a series to better knock it out. A variant of “guilty pleasure”, both more vicious and more subtle, since it is not a question of finding a reason to like a program of poor quality, but of becoming addicted to a series that one hates — especially if she takes herself seriously. Ryan Bailey, host of the American podcast So bad it’s good (“so bad that it becomes good”), for example, did not miss a single episode of And just like that, Following Sex and the City launched last December on HBO Max. It was so bad that I couldn’t wait to find out what else the writers were going to come up with — and the worst, or the best, is that you could tell they thought they were doing a great job! I was overwhelmed by being overwhelmed,” he laughs.

This game of massacre does not date from yesterday. People have always liked to pick on artists or programs, which requires following them diligently,” explains Hollis Griffin, professor of communication at the University of Michigan, telling how his own grandmother has been watching the same soaps for sixty years, repeating that they are stupid but that she wouldn’t miss them for the world”. The site Television Without Pity was the first, in 1998, to make such mockery a journalistic practice, happily attacking each new episode of the teenage series. Dawson, before the criticism of New Yorker Emily Nussbaum theorizes the phenomenon in a 2012 article titled “Hate-watching Smash “, where she wondered about the real reasons, unmentionable, for which she continued to watch this passable musical of the chain NBC.

“It’s a way of asserting one’s good taste, one’s cultural superiority by attacking supposedly inferior programs. It is ultimately very snobbish.” Hollis Griffin

The explosion of social networks, where haters of all kinds let off steam, has finished popularizing the hate watching. We watch a series with one eye while, with the other, we crucify it on our smartphone via Twitter or Instagram. If possible as a team, with other Internet users or friends. We find ourselves a target and we activate the ironic mode, says Amandine, a Parisian internet user. Even during the pandemic, from a distance, we carried on the tradition. » Hate-watching is shared, confirms Ryan Bailey. If we watch a series that we hate, it is also, and probably above all, to say it loud and clear. This is precisely what questions the psychiatrist Jean-Victor Blanc, author of the essay Pop and shrink (ed. Plon). For him, the hate watching is above all the translation of a form of modesty in the face of a dominant opinion, which pushes the viewer, made to feel guilty, to claim that he hates a series deemed bad, when he loves watching it for good. ” You don’t spend so much time in front of a work that causes real discomfort. There is pleasure. It’s like those hits that we swear we can’t stand but on which we beat time, forced to recognize that they are heady. he analyzes.

It is not Andrew Fleming who will contradict him. This producer and director ofEmily in Paris, one of the most hated — and watched — shows on the platform, does not believe in the existence of the hate watching. It’s absurd ! Nobody watches hours of programs because they think it sucks, he smiled. Those who do this with our series may find it cool to mess with popular entertainment. » It is a means of asserting its good taste, its cultural superiority by attacking supposedly inferior programs. It’s ultimately very snobbish,” adds Hollis Griffin. On the contrary, Ryan Bailey sees it as a healthy practice, proof of a passionate and whole relationship with the series, which testifies to the development of the critical spirit of the spectators. It is a good thing that the spectators exchange. It shows an emotional reaction that any art form is supposed to provoke, even if it’s to say how bad it ishe enthuses. There are so many great series right now that it’s almost more interesting to discover appalling ones. »

“There is nothing worse than being ignored. If my work is made fun of, it is at least proof that it has caught the attention of viewers.”

But by dint of increasing the number of views of mediocre series, fans of hate watching do they not risk making nullity a goodwill? Some channels like Hallmark or Reelz, in the United States, program highly touted B series, which are a little ridiculous, but there’s too much work and money at stake for anyone to voluntarily make a turnip,” short cut Sarah D. Hunting, co-creator of the Television Without Pity website. This does not prevent certain works, critical and public failures, from becoming successes a posteriori, their poor quality transforming them into cult objects, like kitchissime The Cruise has fun.

The majority of those who engage in hate watching don’t take themselves seriously. But there is a risk, minor, that hides among the laughing tweets genuine hate messages. If you look carefully, you can find racist or sexist attacks, well concealed under the jokes. Emily in Paris, Sex and the City, Girls… we are always more willing to attack women’s works”, points out Hollis Griffin. Meanwhile, playoff teams targeted by this practice rarely complain about it. A “bad buzz” remains advertising. There is nothing worse than being ignored. If my work is made fun of, it’s at least proof that it caught the attention of viewers.” concedes Andrew Fleming. Some series like the zombiesque The Walking Dead, in creative disarray, even took advantage of the relentlessness of their disappointed fans to continue their journey. Some spectators make a point of staying on the Titanic until it is totally submerged,” concludes Ryan Bailey. Even if it means throwing a few glasses of cold water in the face of their authors…

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