Back away from Haters Back Off

Netflix introduced its newest original content this past month, and it is far from binge-worthy. It’s exciting to see this transition from long-form entertainment only being available on our TVs to its being accessible with the click of a button through Netflix, but Haters Back Off is not the show to be pioneering this transition.

Haters Back Off, a show created by popular YouTuber Colleen Ballinger, follows the life of Ballinger’s alter-ego “Miranda” of “Miranda Sings.” Miranda is an internet success on YouTube because of the eight-to-ten minute videos of Miranda discussing pop culture and reacting to internet sensations. She first rose to prominence with her “How to Sing” tutorial that was comically, and purposefully, awful. Ballinger as Miranda does collaborations, participating in “tag videos” with other YouTubers and also “vlogs.” Vlogging is the practice of “video logging” one’s day. Ballinger has her entire life on the internet, whether as Miranda in “Miranda Sings” or as herself.

Haters Back Off becomes problematic because eight to ten minutes is all anyone can stand of Miranda, not the 24 minutes each full Netflix episode offers. Second, the YouTube videos are Miranda in the world of reality, but in Haters Back Off she is the center of the plotline and every character around her is designed to complement Miranda. This ruins the “fish out of water” and other themes that have become the trademark for “Miranda Sings.” We no longer have a foil character that we can compare Miranda to and therefore highlight her awkward and comical qualities.

The show aims to critique our fame-obsessed society but fails to be taken seriously as a cultural commentary because of how unrealistic and cartoonish the characters are. In order for a show to incite reflection, there needs to be a connection made with the audience, but these characters are all too outlandish to be relatable. The only character that can be related to is Emily, Miranda’s “normal” sister who thinks her whole family is crazy.

While Haters Back Off represents the format shift media is taking, moving from the big screen to the smallest screen of all, the computer, it isn’t a promising start for the movement. YouTube works because you are getting small doses of whatever you watch; the videos are short and sweet. People come back for more because they never get full. Watching a YouTube character in a TV show episode format is like having more food pumped into after you’ve already had a full Thanksgiving dinner.

Image: Colleen Ballinger in character as Miranda. Image source: Houston Press.

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