En Garde: The Great Hate-Watching Debate

In this installment of En Garde, two staff members debate why you should or shouldn’t hate watch.

Pro Hate-watching

I spent several tortured years watching Glee, constantly stressing over its direction. I loved the first season but hated stupid plot decisions like Mr. Schuester’s wife faking a pregnancy. When it started going downhill in season two, I stopped enjoying it. In fact, I dreaded the latest episode. Would the show’s creators actually allow Finn and Rachel to get married right out of high school? Was the show actually endorsing the idea? It wasn’t fun for me. I so badly wanted the show to make the right decisions. Break up the high school couples for good. Stop introducing characters from The Glee Project who only wasted screen time. Devote an entire episode to Darren Criss’ face.

Alas, these things never happened. I didn’t like caring so much about the show, losing precious minutes of my life desperately wanting it to improve. So, I gave up and started hate-watching.

Once I gave up my emotional attachment to Glee, I discovered that hate-watching is so much sweeter. No longer did I hope that Kurt and Blaine would stay apart for the third time. I would just cackle with contempt as Blaine made wedding plans. No longer did I dream Unique would get more screen time over Ryder and Marley—the two blandest characters in the history of television. Instead, I took pleasure in mocking every moment they were on screen. I hated them gleefully, not with investment, not somehow thinking that maybe next week they would get more interesting.

Turning on a show I know I’m going to hate every week takes away some of my stress. Real life stress is bad enough. Each week I’m reminded of a paper I have to write or interview I have to conduct. I have to worry about my bills and how much I’m spending and how little time I have to work out. But I don’t have to worry about television I hate.

When I open Hulu, I know that the next terrible episode of Glee will be waiting for me. The shows I love fill me with dread—will they stumble and break my heart? The shows I hate? They never disappoint. In an unstable world, that’s consistency I really appreciate.

Gabs

Con Hate-watching
kardashian christmas

I don’t hate-watch, and I don’t think anyone else should either. I watch a lot of objectively bad television: 19 Kids and Counting, Keeping up with the Kardashians, and Real Housewives are all in my Netflix queue. Many people that admit to watching this type of so-bad-it’s-good TV will qualify the statement by saying they hate-watch it. Frankly, I don’t understand why so many people who say they hate-watch a show spend time doing something that they genuinely dislike. If you commit to watching a show every week or spend hours bingeing it on Netflix, be honest with yourself –  you don’t hate that show. You like it.

I’ll step up and admit it: I genuinely enjoy watching reality television. The impulse to say that you “hate-watch” a television show instead of just “watch” something stems from embarrassment, because the mainstream view is that there’s something wrong with it. But being a nerd is all about unabashedly liking things that the mainstream may not understand. Even if a show you hate-watch is not stereotypically nerdy or has little intellectual value, it’s okay to give yourself a pass for liking it. You don’t have to surround yourself with intellectual content all the time to be a smart and thoughtful person. Watching the Kardashians and graduating with honors are not mutually exclusive.

There’s also an element of condescension to the concept of hate-watching that makes me feel squicky. If you say that you hate-watch the show Supernatural, for example, there’s an implication that there’s something wrong with the people who simply watch because they like it. Bragging about hating something that others genuinely enjoy doesn’t make you sound like the smartest person in the room. It makes you sound like a jerk. Just accept that everyone has different tastes, and some people’s tastes may predispose them to enjoy Supernatural or reality television. Everyone should be able to watch what they like without having to qualify why they like it.

Erin

Images via Fox and E!.