Love to hate it, hate to watch it: many viewers are divided on what makes a TV show worth a binge. Some say it is a complex plot line with diverse and fully developed characters, while others prefer humor that is both evocative yet unbiased and benevolent. However, if you ask me, the answer would be none of the above.
The secret to a binge-worthy show is not how many people love it, but how many people hate it. In entertainment, any publicity is good publicity, even scathing reviews and viral TikToks about how much the show really, truly sucks.
A few weeks ago while I was aimlessly scrolling through TikTok, I stumbled upon a random account expressing their scorn for the new HBO series, “Velma.” The TikTok indicated that the show was “indeed trash like Twitter said,” and I was immediately hooked. With my curiosity sufficiently piqued, I set out to form an opinion on the show myself.
The series, which intended to be a reworked version of Scooby Doo, released episodes from Jan. 12 to Feb. 9. In the first episode, Velma (Mindy Kaling) asserts that the assembling of the original Scooby Doo gang was spearheaded not by Fred (Glenn Howerton), but by her. However, the show does little to explain the manner and motivation behind the forming of the famous group. Instead, it’s a misguided teen drama that deals with a small-town serial killer, a kidnapped mother, horrendous stereotypes and even worse attempts at gallows humor. While the season’s finale successfully tied up the loose ends of the plot, I was left unsatisfied. The references to the iconic TV franchise are scarce and the initial intent for the show seems to have been lost somewhere between the sapphic love affair between Velma and Daphne (Constance Wu) and the unrelenting misogyny.
The chaos and confusion caused by the animated series, however, are the exact reasons people are watching “Velma,” a completely unorganized, uninspiring and almost unwatchable series. The premise of providing a progressive, woman-of-color as a protagonist is in complete contradiction to the overall humor and atmosphere of the show. In many episodes, within mere minutes, the jokes were offensive to men, women, non-binary people, feminists, sexists and everyone in between. For example, Velma explains, “I spit truth without a filter, like every comedian before hashtag ‘MeToo.’” In fact, the show’s intended audience is somehow even harder to pinpoint than the political stance of the main character.
Despite my many qualms with the show, I watched every episode. My dedication to the series felt much like rubber-necking: watching the car burst into flames, wanting to cringe and move on but oddly unable to avert my eyes. I am no stranger to this urge, and neither are the majority of today’s viewers. This phenomenon has been accurately dubbed “hate-watching”.” When a show is so bad that people on all social media platforms bring criticism to the public eye, viewership soars. After all, everyone loves something to hate.
Candidly, “Velma” is not the only show I have been influenced to hate-watch. “Emily In Paris,” the Netflix show about an American marketing consultant (Lily Collins) in Paris who manages to fail in both her job and her love life, is another series I have watched out of spite. All three seasons. Honestly, there’s much to hate about the show. For example, the deplorable character development, or lack thereof; the love triangle trope, to which I am an avid hater; and, the most actively criticized: the fashion. My least favorite look was her bright purple and green corset dress paired with what seemed to be a giant purple shower loofah draped around her shoulders. Although, a close second was her plaid pink, green and yellow blazer across a striped black and white t-shirt. TikToks flooded my feed for weeks after the show’s release, with content from all of the devoted watchers and haters. The show, which aired in Oct. 2020, was received relatively well by American viewers but denounced by the French audience for its negative stereotyping of Parisians. The negativity toward the show soon spread like wildfire, and viewership increased out of curiosity. I began watching the show because I wanted to be in on the joke — just as I did with “Velma.”
The frustration I feel when watching shows like “Velma” is addicting. The yearning to jump through the screen and yell obscenities at the characters, the producers or the writers is truly intoxicating. I believe it is a uniquely human desire to watch a show, not out of interest or based on rave reviews, but to completely tear it apart. To watch a show that doesn’t challenge you to find new perspectives, reveal some untold story or even keep up with a plot, is simply relaxing and enjoyable. Society is almost never fully in agreement, but shows like these oftentimes bring together wide swaths of people to partake in good old-fashioned trash-talking. The Emmys can take the jaw-dropping series with brilliant scripts and top-notch actors, but I will settle for a bad show and a good hate-watch.
Catherine Goodman is from Savannah, GA. She is majoring in English and minoring in classical civilizations. Outside of the wheel, Goodman is the President of Women’s Club Basketball and a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma. She loves listening to music, attending concerts, reformer pilates and reality TV!