At the height of Emily in Paris season 1 fever, when people were buying camera-shaped phone cases and debating whether the city in the show’s title was pronounced “Paris” or “Paree,” I saw a tweet that offended me to my very core: “Yeah, I hate-watched that show.” The tweeter went on to discuss a plot point…from the finale. Respectfully, just no. You can’t claim to despise something but then have an in-depth opinion on its last 10 minutes.
Now, I’ll admit I’ve fallen into this trap too—I used to talk about my Love Island obsession by prefacing it with, “It’s so trashy, but….” And we all have that friend who claims they can’t stand Grey’s Anatomy but can passionately debate whether the show is better or worse after McDreamy’s death. (It’s better. He sucked.) Most of us probably also throw in the term “guilty pleasure.”
But let’s just step back and examine the types of entertainment we feel the need to publicly loathe or justify. Like, say, reality shows that women often love (hi, The Bachelor). Or period pieces that focus on sex and female pleasure (hello, Bridgerton). Or honestly, a ton of other series that star or are centered around women. Think about it: No one ever feels the need to say they hate-watch Succession, a soapy drama mostly about rich white dudes.
“Female-centric entertainment tends to get less respect, so someone who enjoys it will often feel the need to criticize it more vocally in front of others,” explains Barna Donovan, PhD, who researches fandom of pop culture. “But people who enjoy a Fast & Furious movie, a masculine form of entertainment, won’t be forced to justify their fandom or disown their pleasure.”
So it’s not that we actually hate—or even love-hate—our “hate-watch” shows, it’s that we feel pressured to say we do. And that creates a landscape in which people think they’re better than certain entertainment because it’s meant for a viewer who is “less sophisticated.”
Hear me now: No one is “above” any kind of show. The entire point of pop culture is that it’s supposed to be for everyone to enjoy. And we should damn well be able to admit to loving what we choose to binge. Especially if we’re streaming it from a camera-case-covered phone.
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