— insufferable, grating, insistently chipper, with those big stupid puppy-dog eyes and that dumb pixie hair, shocked,
, at the fortune and appreciation bestowed on her talented head, so rehearsed in her faux-humility, so rehearsed in her faux-uncertainty (“Thank you very much for this lovely blunt object that I will forevermore use as a weapon against self-doubt,” she barfed at the
, after receiving an award she was assured of winning) — is wonderful.
Anne Hathaway makes for wonderful hate-watching. And when she inevitably wins the Academy Award for best supporting actress Sunday for her role in “
I know how this sounds: curdled, harsh and unnecessary. And yet I am far from alone. A recent headline in Canada's National Post — yes, Canada — read: “Why does everyone hate Anne Hathaway”?
There is a difference: Hating is a personal, ugly act, directed at someone, place or thing; hate-watching is an irrational, compulsive act that mixes satisfaction with disgust and often says as much about the person hate-watching as it does the object of their hate-watching. We hate-do all sorts of stuff now: Hate-drink
I will now take your questions.
A: The term is a modern coinage, given traction by social media, for a behavior otherwise tough to explain: luxuriating in the perverse joy of habitually watching something that generates intense feelings of irritation. That something is usually an ambitious yet misguided TV series. Hate-watching, the act, has been around for years, but “hate-watching,” the phrase, is relatively new; Emily Nussbaum, TV critic for the New Yorker, is generally credited with popularizing the term, which captures an odd contemporary way of managing your recreation time. The phrase gathered steam in the past year, fueled initially by the steep drop in quality of the
You've heard of schadenfreude — pleasure found in the pain of others? This is telefreude.
A: You're in luck: If you are coming late to hate-watching, the Super Bowl of hate-watching is the
Also, hate-watching requires being able to tell someone about your hate-watching — you take part so that you may complain enthusiastically later. Not unlike like having a job. If you find yourself fascinated (ideally, obsessed) by your own reaction to a show you compulsively watch anyway, you are already hate-watching.
A: No, hate-watching a show is not the same as having a guilty pleasure. Traditionally you watch a guilty pleasure with an ounce or pound of shame — and shame carries a degree of cultural snobbery now. We arrived at TV hate-watching via evolution: First, before the remote control, we sneered from a soft couch; then we developed a sense of ironic viewing, the couch potato's prehensile tail (everyone has one and it does nothing constructive); then we embraced our guilty pleasures (around the time of "Melrose Place," probably earlier); now we hate-watch.
If your hate-watching involves guilt, you are not doing it in the proper spirit. To be fair, this can be confusing: The divisions between hate-watchable TV, camp (delivered with a wink) and guilty pleasures (which generally offer no pretense of quality) can seem razor thin.
Reality TV, for instance, is rarely hate-watchable because it lacks brains and ambition. (As Susan Sontag wrote in “Notes on Camp,” her seminal essay on the aesthetics of irony, “when something is bad, it's often because it is too mediocre in its ambition.”) But there is an exception — award shows. For instance, no one watches the Academy Awards expecting the show to be good — hate-watchable TV tends to be speedy and takes chances, two qualities you would never associate with a typical Oscar spectacular. And yet, the self-righteousness, the obliviousness and the unintended self-parody make up for it. Indeed, not unlike “The Killing” on
Please note: A hate-watchable show that grows desperate for attention — "Smash," the defunct "Grey's Anatomy" — poses a strong likelihood of abandoning pretense entirely and becoming a solid guilty pleasure.
A: It is. In fact, hate-watching is a byproduct of a spoiled culture, awash in choices and television that aspires to greatness. You did not have hate-watching when your choices were “The Love Boat” and “Knight Rider.” Sorkin's “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” an early hate-watching touchstone, did not become reviled because it aimed low. Hate-watching happens when a series does not live up to its promise — but with flair, an outline of smarts remaining. It's one of the unsavory things about hate-watching, particularly when voiced on Twitter: Taken the wrong way, it discourages going out on a limb. Unlike a “Harlem Shake” video, where the joy is immediate, or “House of Cards” on
A: A lot of fervent hate-watching begins with a character, not a series. No one hate-watches “
A: Ah, the biggest problem with hate-watching — who has the time? Hate-watching is deeply, understandably suspect. If, after working, paying bills, reading books, seeing movies, eating out, talking to people, answering email, tending to kids, cooking, cleaning, brushing teeth, planning for your future and watching TV without reservation, you still have time to watch TV that makes you mad, you are in love. You watch because you are a human being, and hate-watchable TV shows are troubled family members. An obligation is attached.
Besides, to quote
Which … now that I think of it … not really — at least not by Russell Crowe in “Gladiator” — too somberly mediocre a display of angst to merit Grade-A hate-watching. But Russell Crowe in “Les Miserables”? Singing as the lawman Javert (“I am Javert!/Do not forget my name!”) delivering his low-register baritone with the bravura flatness of a Dakota road trip? A talented guy, pushing himself and way out of his depth?
I dreamed a dream, and, astonishingly, Russell Crowe is set to sing Sunday night. As Javert. At the Oscars. On live TV. Alongside Anne Hathaway. Hope-watch all you want, but I have an idea where this is headed.