Thursday, December 27, 2012

Hate-Watching?


Hate-Watching television is a thing now, apparently. I get all my most important information from Entertainment Weekly, and they say it is. The term was coined by someone in the New York Times, even, so all the more reason to put stock in the idea. Hate-watching is just like it sounds: the idea that we watch shows primarily because they suck. We watch them to dissect why they suck, to have something to tweet and text about. The article I read also name-checked “super-watching” to refer to the idea of watching and immediately commenting on social media. Am I the only one who wonders what happened to just plain old watching?
I must confess I do sometimes miss the days before short-attention span theater: when there were only four channels, and whatever you picked got your full attention. I almost never just watch TV anymore. I usually have my laptop in its destined place—my lap—and I’m working on something while I watch. When I’m not working I have trouble shutting the damn thing, and I end up surfing: Twitter, Tumblr, online shopping. Sometimes I don’t even have a destination. Surfing is probably the wrong word, as surfers are always aimed towards the shore. There’s a destination. We should probably call it online floating. Or maybe dog-paddling.

So I realized that I almost never just watch-watch anything. But do I hate-watch anything? Some shows I’ve stuck with out of inertia. Revenge is a good example. It seems as though it was sort of a good show last year. And now this year, not so much. Madeline Stowe’s Victoria is basically a cartoon character at this point. She’s like a non-puppy wearing Cruella DeVille. And don’t get me started on the whole Initiative situation. Shadowy organizations with vaguely evil names are my very favorite. I’m still not sure I’m hate-watching it though. It’s more like Revenge is a new friend I made last year who turned out to be not quite what I expected, but I still hang out with them sometimes, hoping maybe they’re not quite as crazy as I suspect.

I don’t always hang on forever, though. I’ve stopped watching lots of shows—even shows I once loved, like Supernatural. But, now that I think on it, this blog contains evidence I did in fact hate-watch it for a while before giving up completely. Maybe it’s the ones we once loved that turn to hate. Although I could probably destroy that theory if I ever actually tuned in to watch something like The Wrath of Honey Boo-Boo, or whatever that show’s called.  I feel pretty confident that I would hate it based purely on its own merit. Or as one of the harbingers of the apparently-delayed end of our civilization.

So is there such a thing as hate-reading? I want to say there probably isn’t, because reading requires so much greater a time commitment. I hardly ever hear people kvetching about books they hate online. The most grumbling comes, not surprisingly, when someone’s waded pretty far into a series, and things don’t work out as expected. Or things get kind of boring. I still haven’t read the third Hunger Games book, in spite of my love for the first two, because several friends whose opinions I trust seemed pretty disgruntled by the final chapter of the series. Although, come to think of it, I also bought it in hardcover right before I got my Nook. I suspect I may have become too lazy to hold an actual book. And the march toward the end of days continues.

However you choose to read or watch: hate-watch, super-watch, total fandom immersion—there’s no question that the experience has changed as the world gets smaller and our focus gets narrower. I’m still not sure hate-watching is a thing. After all, it doesn’t really matter how or why you watch. If the set’s turned on, they’ve got you. Think of it this way: poll one hundred random readers. Probably almost none of them will admit to reading the top selling book of 2012 (it’s just what you think it is). Then ask yourself how that book got there at the top of the list, when no one read it. Viola, hate-watching. We can't even admit we read the freaking thing. 
And, thinking about this top title of 2012, cue apocalypse-appropriate music one last time…

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