Hear the writers discuss this subject on the Secret Cave Podcast!
Some of us may not discuss it, but we all do it; to some extent. Hatewatching is an odd phenomena that seems to be an offshoot of general rubbernecking. More than the human thrill of seeing a metaphorical train-wreck, a good hatewatch can be delicious in its provocation. After all, anger and hatred are powerful emotions. If you consider emotions of similar strength to be one of the main thrusts of art, as I do, then it’s certainly a viable avenue to explore. As sentient beings, it’s natural for us to want to discover our feelings. This manifests itself in numerous ways. The hatewatch is merely one of the quieter avenues of expression, and it can be fascinating how it evolves.
YouTube has only made it more prevalent. Its constant influx of dubious creatives and their grating personalities makes it difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. By sheer accident you could find yourself stumbling on the PewDiePies and Ray William Johnsons of the world. When you do, something can snap and it won’t be long before you’re willingly clicking on their videos. The fact that you despise their arse output is irrelevant at that point, becoming the very reason why you add to their view count. Yet, we’ll keep clicking – hoping that they’re as irritating as ever. How else could you taste that succulent annoyance? It’s self-sustaining too, when they worm their way into your “recommended viewing” – all without a single algorithm to detect that you hate them.
Something incredibly interesting can happen when you start hatewatching. It’s amazing how easy it is to actually start liking the person, or thing, you initially found so distasteful. A genuine dedication and fandom can very quickly grow from hatewatch roots, sometimes of a depth altogether unexpected. I’ll give you an example from my own experience. At first, I saw utterly no humour in the idiotic insights of Karl Pilkington. For a long time I thought him nothing but a boring buffoon, bolstered by the chortling of a bloated bully in Ricky Gervais. As can be garnered from my (relatively) recent analysis of their XFM radio shows, that’s not an opinion that would be set in stone.
After a while of hearing their exchanges, it dawned on me. Suddenly, I laughed. In that moment it all became clear, and I got it. Another short diatribe later and i’m laughing again. Five years down the line, I’ve heard everything they’ve ever done and don’t see an end to willingly repeating it anywhere in sight. What started as sincere and certain hatred blossomed into deep adoration. It’s not even confined to single personalities, such as when I started enjoying Angry Joe, Rhett & Link or Gordon Ramsay. One of the most stark twists in opinion, for me, happened outside of personality; within the detached confines of music.
Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds, in its original release, is an absolute bloody masterpiece. It’s managed to endure as a true classic, in spite of its extreme cheesiness. I suspect that this has something to do with hatelistening. It’s hard to take the compositions within seriously upon your very first listens. Indeed, when my brother and I first started playing it regularly it was purely to mock it. For a long time we would laugh at its contrived synth wankery and overbearing camp. Those days seem long gone now. In retrospect I can’t see the album as anything other than a top-quality essential, but that all came from once seeing nothing of worth in it. I actually thought it so devoid of said worth that it was laughable – an opinion itself laughable in hindsight.
Some things will never endear you. What about when Lucas Cruikshank (aka Fred) was the most popular YouTube channel? It’s extremely unlikely that anybody’s rage toward him would bubble into love. This is where the phenomena starts to have a clear influence on something’s popularity. It’s unbelievable to think he’d ever achieve those heights without a bit of a leg up from hatewatching. A huge proportion of his viewership were surely bile-spitting maniacs. From this alone he was able to launch a career that would culminate in a wide cinematic release and television series. When looking back, nobody really thinks fondly of Fred. Hatewatching that doesn’t pay off with a change of opinion quickly becomes tiresome. As such, it wasn’t long before people had enough and let him fall down the ranks into a more appropriate obscurity.
He’s doing pretty well now on his own channel, away from Fred, but hatewatching probably had a profound influence on his success. While he’s an extreme account, it has to play a part in the endurance of any output. I’ve listened to, watched or read the work of peers merely to sneer on numerous occasions, each time adding to their reach in some, admittedly small, way. In many cases, the viewer/listenership that will come with this is a negligible background noise. Fred and Ray William Johnson may be exceptions, but in most cases the ripples won’t be so pronounced. It’s always there though, bubbling under the surface. It’s close to impossible to ever log how many views on a YouTube video are, in fact, hatewatches. That can add an intriguing grey area to somebody’s popularity well worth considering.
Expressing and delving into these more “negative” emotions is possibly very healthy too. You can benefit from it by letting off steam, inspiring your own pursuits or learning from perceived mistakes. That much is fairly obvious. What may not have been richly considered before is just how helpful hatewatching may be to the various artistic mediums we enjoy. Since we rarely discuss our hatewatching habits, it may just be the silent taste-maker. It’s, at the very least, a secret ingredient to add spice to the fandom. Some of our own readers may be double-agents for hate themselves. You’re always welcome in the Secret Cave as long as you don’t start throwing shit at the walls…