NBC, in its infinite wisdom, has announced that last Thursday’s travesty of a live The Sound of Music performance will now become a thing, in the sense that NBC is going to produce more live musicals. Thank god, it looks like they will do other musicals besides this one. But I can’t tell you that I greatly look forward to, I don’t know, Omarosa kicking up her heels in Oklahoma! at some point in the near future. Of course, I won’t have to watch it myself, but all my friends will, and they will tweet about it, and that will become a thing. That’s what these television events are designed for: hatewatching.
Hatewatching is becoming a legitimate ratings strategy, I know. You could describe most recent Lifetime attempts – the Anna Nicole movie, the Lohan-as-Elizabeth Taylor one, and let’s not even talk about Bonnie and Clyde – as pioneers of the genre. And just as, back in the day, when the Lifetime insta-adaptation of true crime stories became a cultural phenomenon, the networks caught on and gave us dueling Amy Fishers from Drew Barrymore and Alyssa Milano, well, so it will go with the modern hatewatch. Now, they see that the thing is to take a beloved pop culture property and make it awful and watch people talk, on Twitter, about just how stunningly awful it is.
You know, before I was a critic, there was nothing in the world I liked better than a rippingly mean review of a bad movie. (I do not know the precise reason why I singled out film here, but I think film critics were just very disgruntled folk in my youth.) I did not realize, in my halcyon days, that the engine behind the writing of a truly snarktastic review was one’s anger at being forced to sit through some absolute bullshit at the movie theater. It is, perhaps, that I have come to understand the pain of that particular experience which makes hatewatching a less attractive prospect to me.
Put simply: I can enjoy a good communal hatefest, but I need, personally, for it to have the character of speaking truth to power for it to be truly satisfying. I need to think there was some kind of popular consensus that a thing was good, and I need to feel that I am pushing back against it with my snark. But the entire aesthetic point of these ventures is to ruin things. People standing around on Twitter noticing they have been ruined doesn’t feel like speaking even the most minor of truths to power. It’s reacting in exactly the way one is expected to react.
What I am saying is that hatewatching of The Sound of Music variety doesn’t make me feel self-righteous. It makes me feel played. I will only be willing to forgive this playing if the enormous revenues generated by future shitty musicals are poured into, I don’t know, rebooting Enlightened or making giant prestige shows about suffragettes. I know that one has to keep stoking the ratings furnace to keep the lights on. But for Chrissakes, if the schedule of things the network actually wants us to like doesn’t get beefed up as a result of this, I am going to write a very sarcastic screed about it.