In Defense of “Hate-Watching” TV Shows

jake from scandal

You know those TV shows you can’t stand? The ones that have annoying characters, terrible plot lines, and bad acting? The ones that, despite your anger and frustration, you keep watching every single week? You can’t stop binge-watching them on Netflix even though you feel like you should be watching some critically acclaimed show like Breaking Bad or House of Cards? If you’ve ever said to yourself, “Well, that’s the LAST time I’m watching this show,” but still tuned in next week, you might be a hate-watcher. If you’ve ever angrily watched the time tick down on the “Next Episode Playing in 15 Seconds” screen on Netflix and did nothing to stop it, you might be a hate-watcher.

I’m a self-confessed hate-watcher. I hate-watch Scandal, Pretty Little Liars, How I Met Your Mother, The Following and any and all HGTV shows. I’m not generally a negative or angry person and I love television, but there’s something entertaining, satisfying, and addicting about watching a show that you just downright hate.

What exactly is hate-watching? According to the Oxford Dictionary, it is “Watching a television program for the sake of the enjoyment one derives from mocking or criticizing it.” Good old Urban Dictionary gets a little more specific, saying “Hate-watching is distinct from a guilty pleasure, wherein you like something despite its obvious badness. A hate-watched show is one the viewer genuinely despises but cannot stop watching.”

Pretty self-explanatory, right? Well, when it comes down to it, hate-watching is an imprecise term. I’m sure every person has a different definition for it. I think it’s mostly because we all feel different when we’re in the midst of it.

I know what you’re going to say. Life’s too short to watch a show you hate. It’s the Golden Age of Television, go watch something good like Mad Men. Who has time to watch a show they hate? What’s the point? Are you a masochist or something? Why are you doing this to yourself?

Here’s why I will defend hate-watching to anyone who thinks it’s a waste of time:

1. Hate-watching lets you yell and complain in a non-destructive way

I like yelling and complaining! Hate-watching gives me a socially acceptable way to release all of my pent-up rage and fury. Sometimes it’s therapeutic to focus all of your anger at a fictional character. It’s also harmless. Jake from Scandal doesn’t know that I hate him, nor does he care. I can silently curse him, roll my eyes when he starts talking about “Standing in the sun” with Olivia, and yell at him whenever he appears on the screen, but there’s no harm done. It’s also a great stress reliever. From what I’ve seen in movies, standing on the top of a hill and screaming into the wind is a great way to let go of pain and anger. Why can’t sitting on my couch and yelling at my screen have the same effect? When Robert and Heather choose House #3 on House Hunters even though the commute is 45 minutes and the kids will have to change schools, I don’t have to worry about their feelings when I vocally disagree with their choice. When it comes down to it, we all love complaining from time to time. Hate-watching gives you a way to do just that, without hurting anyone’s feelings.

2. Hate-watching is a family affair

I hate-watch Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta like it’s my job. I don’t like watching people get dressed up in giant white ball gowns, while the peanut gallery, usually consisting of an overprotective brother, says things like, “It needs to be more modest!” I’m not getting married anytime soon, either, so it’s not like I’m in the market for a mermaid wedding dress with a sweetheart neckline. But I watch it because it always seems to be on TV and my mom, sister, and yes, my dad, love to hate-watch it as much as I do. Sometimes we actively seek it out just so we can hate on it together. I can’t even count how many times we’ve said “Girl, that dress is actually see-through! It’s see-through!” or “Are you serious? Monte’s gonna say ‘jack her up’ again!” in a single sitting. It’s fun to hate-watch with your family because there’s zero judgement. You can let your hate-flag fly. Also, hate-watching Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta is usually the only time we can collectively agree on anything.

3. Hate-watching unites people

Twitter is a hate-watcher’s most useful tool. It’s not really about spreading the hate so much as trying to find other people to share in your same hatred. Remember when you used to get together with your friends to watch “so-bad-it’s-good” movies for the sole purpose of trashing it? Live-tweeting a show you hate-watch is sort of the same thing. Hate-watching builds camaraderie, shared experiences, and a sense of unity. It’s no secret that mutual hatred brings people together. Whenever I see someone live-tweeting Scandal and saying something like “Fitz is a terrible president” or “I hate you Jake shut your stupid face #scandal” I can’t click the retweet button fast enough. I feel understood and validated (and yes, admittedly a little immature): I’m not the only one who hates this show. Sometimes I follow people on Twitter just because we hate the same TV shows. It feels fun and rebellious to hate something with another person. That’s why gossiping is so fun. Hate-watching is like gossiping but without the whole “talking about someone behind their back” thing. Blaine from Glee (hands up if you hate-watched Glee!) put it best: “The only time we’re really in sync is when we’re hate-watching Treme together.”

4. Hate-watching is fun

Being snarky and witty and funny with a bunch of your friends is just plain fun. In fact, I’m pretty sure that competing with others for who can come up with the best insults and making everyone around you laugh releases endorphins. Even making snide comments in your head as you’re lying in bed in the dark, watching Snow White cry on Once Upon a Time for the millionth time, hot laptop on your stomach, in the dead of the night, alone is fun. Because hey, I don’t just try to be funny for other people. I do it for myself, too!

Here’s the truth: hate-watchers don’t really watch shows just to get angry, annoyed, or upset. Hate-watchers find a way to turn their aversion to a show into something positive and fun. It’s complicated.

Image source: ABC / Nicole Wilder


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