by Kate, January 2, 2022

Hi, guys! I'm Kate, and I'm here to proudly explain (or perhaps defend) my right to criticize shows and indulge in a masochistic journey of watching things I hate. 

If you hate it so much, why are you even watching it? 
Heard that question on many occasions. Countless times I've asked it to my reflection, that stared at me on the black screen of my laptop, after finishing especially bad episodes of a drama. Why am I doing this to myself? This article will try to explain it all. 

Merriam-Webster dictionary[1] defines hate-watch as "to watch and take pleasure in laughing at or criticizing (a disliked television show, movie, etc.)". Everyone's favorite source of information, beloved Wikipedia[2], defines it as "the activity of watching a television show (or a film) while simultaneously hating its content or subject". 

Hate-watching[3] is often linked with anti-fan behavior, where participants enjoy and take pleasure in the absurdities, failings and negative or annoying characteristics of a show/movie or the characters themselves. Hate-watchers, instead of focusing on the positive aspects of a shows/movies, direct their attention to the program's shortcomings, which increases their enjoyments of consuming the media. 

So what is hate-watching? Criticizing, looking for the flaws, pointing out the mistakes and things that are our own pet peeves. Feeling pleasure from torturing yourself with the entertainment that you just do not see much value in.
Quoting Joli Jensen's (media studies professor at the University of Tulsa) take on it[4]:

"You’re getting pleasure from trying to figure out why it’s not giving you pleasure".

Do you really hate-watch? As I was preparing and researching for this article, a realization hit me – many people confuse hate-watching with other activities, that do not fit into the same category. 

It's important to distinguish between these three phrases – hate-watching, hope watching, and guilty pleasure. Starting from the definition, what exactly is a guilty pleasure? Merriam-Webster dictionary[5] defines it as "something pleasurable that induces a usually minor feeling of guilt". The guilt is usually associated with the acknowledgement of the person, that the media they are consuming has its flaws, and yet we still enjoy its content. 

While doing the deep dive google research on the topic, in article by Alan Sepinwall[6], I came across the term "hope watching", which is defined by the author as " sticking with it (the show) out of the belief, founded or not, that there is a good show hiding inside the bad one – and that you want to be there at the moment when the good version finds its way out of the bad".

To put it simply if you are enjoying the show, you are hoping you will enjoy it at some point or you are associating positive emotions with the show, its plot and characters you are most likely not hate-watching. That said, there is no hard line between just watching and hate-watching. How many aspects of it you must dislike for it to count as hate-watching? There is no answer for this question. One of the shows I hate-watched with a passion was Bloody Romance. It's fair to say my MDL-icon perfectly represented me after each episode ended. Yet, I was not blind to few positive elements this drama presented: great acting, stunning soundtrack and beautiful cinematography. 

For me, hate-watching is not blindly hating every aspect of the drama without giving it a second thought. Often, my hate-watch "tendencies" show up when I overanalyze the show the more of my brain I use while watching, the worse it gets. That said, even with the productions I hate-watch, I try to look for positive things elements I enjoy and can also talk about. Realistically speaking, there are no shows that have zero redeeming qualities. 

There are as many answers as people who participate in this activity. For me, in most cases I watch out of sheer curiosity how bad can it truly get? The moment I think a drama has hit rock bottom, it surprises me with a new twist or a poorly written plot development. 

I also enjoy coming up with "solutions" to the issues I see in the shows. How would I rewrite that plotline? How else, this specific scene could be shot to better deliver the message? What kind of changes could improve the show? I like to think of myself as a creative person, hence hate-watching serves as a perfect outlet for creative endeavours

Some shows I hate-watched with the thought of writing a critical review, especially if I saw many flaws that other users overlooked. It's good to have one or two reviews pointing out the negative aspects of the drama if someone feels like it might discourage them from checking the show altogether, they can simply not read it, while others might have the opportunity to find out if it will truly be worth their time. Of course, I'm not going to pretend I am completely objective in what I write no one is. We all have our own pet peeves and things we dislike more than the others. It affects our opinions and can be seen in what we write. 

Hate watching is enjoying the process of watching, not the content of what we watch.
That said, it's important to point out I never start a show with hopes I will hate it. More often than not, the productions I hate-watch are also the ones I either enjoyed at the beginning, or had any type of expectations going into. I'm also addicted to dropping dramas (more on this topic in my article Stages of Dropping Dramas) so for me, to hate-watch a show, it has to have a unique quality it frustrates me enough, it becomes amusing, but it never crosses the line of ruining my mood even after I am done with an episode. 
“Yet, why do I continue to watch this terrible movie? Because hate watching is important. It allows us to truly understand what makes movies terrible and better appreciate the ones we love.” [7]

The topic of hate-watching is quite complex, as it has no official and strict rules about when and how to engage in this activity. As I mentioned before, each person will have their unique view on this phenomenon, and with that in mind, I decided to gather some opinions on the topic from two groups of people those who do hate-watch, and those who never tried it before. 
I'd like to thank everyone who partook in that mini-survey. Your opinions were greatly appreciated. 
Hate-watchersNon hate-watchers
How would you define hate-watching?
Even among hate-watchers, the answers did differ quite a bit. From: starting the show knowing you will hate it; through: being driven by the curiosity of how bad the show can get; to: enjoying the process of ranting about the drama. What the majority of answers had in common was the acknowledgement that the drama you are hate-watching does not meet your standards of good quality content you only hate-watch dramas you truly perceive as bad.
Compared to hate-watchers' answers, the answers from the non hate-watchers varied a bit more. Except from the typical "watching something you hate and see no value in", some users linked emotional reaction of anger to the process. Quite a number of people pointed out the right and enjoyment that comes from criticizing and ranting about the show. Finishing dramas out of fear of missing out was named as one of the reasons too. 
"Hate-watching for me is proceeding to watch a certain drama till the end, despite the storyline or plot actually not being good enough for me to enjoy the drama."
Why do you (people) hate-watch?
As I said before there are as many reasons as people who do hate-watch. Not dropping any shows, or writing articles about dramas, which forces you to hate-watch some. Curiosity why a show has such a bad reaction from the audience. For the enjoyment that comes from criticizing a show and engaging in discussion with people who love it. Hate-watching can be also viewed as a stress reliever, since sometimes it's simply fun to rant. 
Quite a number of users stated hate-watching might be done just for fun of it or to satisfy curiosity and see, how bad it will get. Some people associated it with more negative meanings from "hate" energy being high and needing an outlet to an innate desire to be judgmental. Some went truly practical hate-watching till the end to be able to express their opinion without being accused of not seeing the whole show. 
Do you see any positive aspects of hate-watching?
"Judging characters and their stupid actions, laughing at the predictable plot ...being angry at times's fun to experience different emotions ..."
Experiencing a whole range of intense emotions for sure is one of the positive aspects you never feel more alive than when you experience the frustration of watching a show you dislike. Interestingly, stressing out while watching a show you hate can help you distress long-term. 
What's more, it allows us to warn other users about the drama's negative aspects, in the sea of positive reviews. It's also a great practice for your creative thinking wondering how you would fix the issues in writing or directing if you had a chance. 

Hate-watching could also be viewed as a tool to strengthen your relationship with friends either by joking around about stuff you both dislike, or finding a way of discussing it when your opinions don't match. 

From the perspective of non hate-watchers, some of the positive aspects of this activity are: regaining balance and diminishing destructive tendencies  that could be expressed towards real people; hate-watching with friends can create an interactive and enjoyable atmosphere; to make oneself feel better as a "pick-me-up"* action; it could be a way to vent out someone's frustrations; posts from hate-watchers give other users ability to be confronted with different perspectives and views. 
That said, one of my favorite answers was: "You get to flex out your critical-thinking skills." there is something behind it, as one of the parts of hate-watching is actually sharing your views and experience with others. 

*A pick-me-up is something that you have or do when you are tired or depressed in order to make you feel better

Do you see any negative aspects of hate-watching?
Waste of time was the primary negative aspect of hate-watching with the variety of different content from different countries, it's better to use your time on shows you like. 
What's more, by hate-watching and sharing our experience on social media, we give more attention to the dramas we deemed to be bad. This way, one can promote a show that could not be worth that additional attention. 

Hate-watching can have a negative effect on someone's mood. If the person liked the show at first, or had some kind of positive expectations towards it, but ended up disliking it, the frustration and disappointment might be too strong.

The answer given the most in this group was also "waste of time"  with the limited time we all have for watching dramas, there is no reason to waste it on things we don't even enjoy. Hate-watching can also make the watcher be in a bad mood and have a negative effect on their mental health.
Habitual hate-watching can lead to always noticing bad aspects of all the shows first, before seeing all the positives. In more extreme cases, it might reinforce negativity of one's thoughts, that can later come out in their real life.
People sharing their dislikes for a drama on feeds and in comment section can scare off people who might have enjoyed the show otherwise.
"Stress, angst and too many lost hours that could be used watching something better."

I hope I was able to show you that hate-watching is not as bad as it might seem. People who engage in it are not some over the top bitter haters that have nothing better to do in life. Some of us just like to distress from time to time, some find amusement in ranting about mediocre plots or characters that just do not fit our taste. At times, we are simply curious where the show is going. From my perspective, as long as the rants and criticism hate-watchers express target the content and creation, and not the people and creators themselves, it's not a problem, and it should not be viewed as toxic or strictly negative activity.

"Above all, hate-watching allows us to better know ourselves, and explore what it is we personally despise in film, what tropes and character types really get under our skin. It makes us better-informed viewers."[7]

How about you guys?

What is your experience?

What do you think about hate-watching? Have you ever hate-watched a show? If you didn't, do you think you might in the future? Do you think hate-watching can have any positive effects on people who engage in it? Can it have a larger impact on the community? 

Gifs credit @TheSwoon

Sources: [1], [2], [4], [5], [6], [7]
[3] Cohen, E., L., Knight, E., Mullin, M., Herbst, R., Leach, B., Shelledy, A., Rebich, D. (2021). Loving to Hate the Kardashians: Examining the Interaction of Character Liking and Hate-Watching on the Social Influence of a Reality TV Show. Psychology of Popular Media, 10, 2, 136-148.  

Edited by:  Tine (1st editor)