Hate-Watching Isn't Worth It / by Jefferson Geiger

This weekend I watched the Grammys without saying or posting a single cynical statement on social media. Instead, I watched with an open mind and enjoyed it. Given my musical history, I feel like should get an award for that.

As I mentioned in a previous column (“I’m sorry for my white tastes in music” published on Aug. 31), I was a bit of a music snob in my younger years. Whenever people asked what I listened to I would usually say “anything but country and rap.” My eclectic, yet narrow, tastes led me seethe on my couch cushions as I watched the show each year.

How could they award that one artist who is constantly on the radio because they’re obviously a sellout? I’d think. Why didn’t they give it to this one band that’s so awesome only one other person at school has even heard of them?

Getting pissed off when an artist was snub was a habit of me and other musicians. Bon Iver, Eddie Vedder, Jay-Z and other artists have mentioned their disdain for the awards ceremony. They, like me, said the ceremony is irrelevant and out of touch. They, like me, would continue to watch it again and again.

Yet having that attitude isn’t worth it. Sure, you might not be a fan of the entire show. Did I jump for joy and sing along when Keith Urban performed? No. Did the performance negate everything else I enjoyed about the show and made me want to turn off the TV? No.

This isn’t to say that criticism of award shows or other pieces of media isn’t worthwhile. For instance, Beyoncé lost to Adele for “Artist of the Year” and “Album of the Year.” Many people, including Adele, felt that Beyoncé should have won because “Lemonade” was arguably her best work. White artists have beat out artists of color for nine years in a row and the hegemony is a completely valid issue to raise. There’s a difference between spite and critique.

I should also point out that watching bad things can also be fun a la “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” This 80’s show focused on three comedians watching films so awful it’s surprising that the reels weren’t destroyed out of mercy. As the movie plays, their wisecracks and commentary elevate it into something watchable, if not great. Though it may seem like they hate, they actually love it. No one would create a career of 197 episodes over ten seasons if they hated it. The show is over, until it is revived on Netflix soon, but the crew continued the format in RiffTrax.

A more modern example would be Syfy’s “Sharknado” series. Everyone knew it was going to be bad, it was bad, and folks shared quips about how bad it was on the water cooler that is social media. Those types of films aren’t bad-bad. They’re so-bad-they’re-funny-bad. Though, to be honest, the films did start to loose their luster as they kept coming out.

To go in the other direction, an example of truly horrible films would be the “Divergent” series. I watched the first unoriginal dystopia one night out of boredom and curiosity. It was marginally passable so I gave the sequel a shot. I ended up quitting halfway through and I have no desire to finish it or even attempt to watch the third one. In the time it takes me to watch garbage I know I’ll hate I could be watching an award-winning films like “Spotlight.”

I used to mock friends for watching the angst-filled CW show “The Vampire Diaries.” One day I started to hate-watch it but then I realized that the show wasn’t as bad as I was making it out to be. I had preconceived notions that a love triangle involving vampires would be the worst thing on television and I was ready to unleash the barbs, but I was thankfully mistaken.

Keeping an opening mind is important and healthy. You’re never going to look back and think hate-watching was time well spent. No one is going to applaud you for a snarky tweet you made about it.

We live in the era of Peak TV. There’s a wealth of entertainment out there made for all tastes. It would take a lifetime to watch everything on Netflix alone, not to mention all of the other premium cable and streaming services. There are also entire libraries of books, podcasts and an ever-growing backlog of games to play.  Don’t waste your time with something you know you don’t like.

YouTube personality Ze Frank coined the phrase, “Don’t yuck other people’s yum.” He means that you shouldn’t belittle a show or movie to make yourself feel better than those that like it. To use another quote as a crutch, comedian John Hodgman has said on his podcast that “people like what they like.” He uses this as reason why you can’t force your partner to enjoy a piece of media—such as one’s favorite novel—if it doesn’t click for them. If you honestly can’t enjoy something, that’s fine. Just don’t shove your (dis)like of it down their throats.

Time is precious. You deserve better than hate-watching.

This column was originally published in the February 15, 2017 edition of the Valley Courier.