After years of hype, multiple casting and release date changes, and millions of soggy paperbacks, the film adaptation of E.L James’ Twilight fan fiction is finally arrives in theaters today. And, as expected, it’s about as enjoyable as having your asshole welded shut in front of your entire high school.
That’s fine. Because there’s a place where preposterous, unquantifiably awful filmed entertainment can still bring pleasure to millions by acting as an object of ridicule and scorn. This place is the Hate Watch Hall of Fame. While Fifty Shades of Grey is merely a candidate for inclusion at the moment, five TV shows and 10 movies already call the HOF home.
An all-time hate watch has characteristics beyond poor quality. Pretention is a huge factor. Compost masquerading as art always conjures visceral reactions, particularly when combined with a passionate or borderline-annoying fanbase unwilling to concede their beloved’s flaws (I’ve upped my homeowner’s and life insurance policies just in case the wrong person reads one of my Outlander jokes). Inexplicable critical, awards or audience love goes a long way, too. So do truly ambitious failures. Oh, and let’s not forget directorial or showrunner delusion — the arrogant certainty that a critically panned film or television series isn’t terrible, just misunderstood (waves to Veena Sud).
Your current members are…
Gotham - Season 1
Yeah, already. Gotham’s pilot was so ham-fisted that Muslims couldn’t be in a room with a TV playing the first episode. You could have sliced the script into strips and cooked it for breakfast. The juvenile opener eradicated any promise the Batman prequel contained under a slew of cringeworthy character intros and clichéd storylines. Laughter became the only remaining reason to tune in. Mike Ryan, now at Uproxx, penned weekly posts when he was with Screencrush tagged “LOL Gotham” that demonstrate Gotham’s hate-watchability far better than I ever could.
Girls — Seasons 2-4
Here’s the thing about Girls that most critics won’t acknowledge: the first season provides an enjoyable, mostly realistic window into the lives of clueless but largely well-meaning twenty-somethings. Then Lena Dunham decided to dedicate the next 10 episodes to trolling anyone who ever lobbed a criticism her way, and the show transformed from occasionally grating to full blown loathe viewing. Choosing to ramp up the pointless nudity and turning Hannah and Co. into the very stereotypes Dunham’s haters accused them of being from the jump might have proved harmless if it didn’t result in such terrible television. By season three viewers didn’t so much watch Girls as they waited for the next piece of think-piece fuel to come tumbling out of a character’s mouth.
The Tree of Life
An infant in a Civil War uniform. Lean Pockets. Stone Cold Steve Austin flying to the moon on a magic carpet made of expired goat cheese. A raptor stands in line for an iWatch; they sell out right as it enters the store. Helicopter dick. JFK and Lars Von Trier help an Amish man fix his quantum computer. Exploding gigolos turn the streets of Barcelona blue with blood. What if Alexander the Great had lived to enjoy the KFC Double Down? If you like pina coladas…
The above is what happens when someone writes a post the way Terrence Malick directs films. The Tree of Life is a horse ebook on celluloid. Laugh at it. Rage at it. Just don’t for one minute take it seriously.
Scandal — Seasons 3 & 4
Like Girls, Scandal didn’t become a five-alarm hate watch until early in its third season. Prior toward its brakeless skid into the absurd, the Shonda Rhimes creation was a light, fast-paced, keeps-you-guessing network drama with a strong cast and just the right blend of plot, humor and characterization. Then ABC decided the series’ growing ratings were a result of all the ZOMG #TWISTS and turned the show into a ridiculous, super-serious prime-time soap opera without so much as a pinkie toe left dangling in the real world. Kerry Washington — a fine actress who’s shined in everything from Django Unchained to SNL — delivers lines like a glitchy android infected with malware. Why. Is. She. Asked. To. Over. Enunciate. Every. Sentence? Wannabe gravitas, preposterous love triangles and writing on par with daytime dramas stripped Scandal of its joy and ensured its place in the Hall.
The Newsroom is what happens when a brilliant writer decides to create an entire series built on arrogance and smug self-righteousness. The show’s pointed attacks on ridiculous soundbytes and botched media coverage was refreshing at first; Will McAvoy’s “Why America isn’t the greatest country in the world” rant remains a seminal television moment. But the act wore thin, and quickly. Tom Cruise movies have fewer soapboxes on set. For three seasons, you could practically see Sorkin in the corner of scenes masturbating furiously as his characters hurled invective at strawmen. Even those that agreed with Sorkin’s politics and his choice of targets (I’d put myself in both groups) became exasperated by certain characters’ anti-feminist bent and holier-than-thou take on modern media. Jeff Daniels beating out Bryan Cranston, Jon Hamm and Damien Lewis for the 2013 Most Outstanding Actor Emmy only emboldened the hate-watchers.
The Killing — Seasons 1 and 2
Dear showrunners who aspire to one day induct their creation into the Hate Watch HOF: develop a murder mystery series where every episode ends with the reddest of herrings. Immediately dismiss that stinking fish at outset of the next episode. Repeat until the finale. Then, when the audience that stuck with your broken, all-tease-no-release series despite its obvious flaws cries foul about a lack of closure, condescendingly explain that you never said you’d reveal the killer because your series is “an anti-cop cop show.” Guaran-fuckin-tee you’ll gain admission on the first ballot.
The Recent Films of M. Night Shyamalan (Lady in the Water, The Happening, The Last Airbender, After Earth)
The man Newsweek once christened “The Next Spielberg” is somehow responsible for four of the most hateable films released this century. Lady In The Water — a ludicrous $70 million middle finger directed squarely toward film critics — was box office ricin. Rather than adapt, Shyamalan doubled down. The combined Tomatometer score for his next three films — The Happening, The Last Airbender, and After Earth — is worse than the dreadfully reviewed Horrible Bosses 2. Shyamalan didn’t just self-destruct after The Village. He poisoned the land for centuries. How hate-watchable are these films? The Happening is an hour and a half of Mark Wahlberg running from trees like he’s rebooting The Two Towers in his backyard. And here’s what the Guardian wrote about After Earth: “[Shyamalan] has given us another film for which the only appropriate expression is stammering, gibbering wonder that anyone can keep making such uncompromisingly terrible movies with such stamina and dedication.” Guess that makes Shyamalan the Hate Watch HOF’s Cal Ripken.
Where the fuck was Kanye West when Jack Nicholson presented Crash with the Best Picture Oscar? Constructed using staggering quantities of self-importance, ridiculous racist stereotypes (white cop is an asshole, the black carjacker who only robs white people), and embarrassingly manipulative storytelling (Homeland Security should place the scene with the shopkeeper and the little girl inside a railgun and fire it straight into the sun), Crash is one of the laziest, most childish movies ever to hit theaters. There is no way to watch this film without getting angry at how stupidly it treats its subject matter and its audience. You could park a planet in the gap between the profound work Crash wanted to be and the trough of month-old buffalo semen it really is. This movie has its own wing in the Hall of Fame after other members refused to share the same area.
The Bachelor/The Bachelorette
Admittedly, these shows understand what they are and fully embrace their hate-watchability. Producers stock the pond with mentally unbalanced fame whores and sub-humans with Rohypnol blood coursing through their veins, place these individuals in situations that would make well-adjusted specimens collapse like an old man trying to cross a frozen pond, then treat the entire affair with a reverence typically associated with a State of the Union speech. A lab full of Kardashians couldn’t craft a better hate watch.
The Star Wars prequels
It’s impossible to accurately convey the disappointment one felt when leaving their first (and likely only) viewing of each Star Wars prequel. Calling the characters one-dimensional is an insult to astrophysics. There are lines in these movies that sound like they were lifted from bargain-bin children’s books. Hayden Christensen turns the most iconic villain in film history into sullen emo teenager who turned to the dark side because his mom wouldn’t let him listen to Velvet Underground anymore. As an attempt to recapture the original trilogy’s magic, the prequels failed miserably. Episodes I through III are full of hate watch scenes, though. Dare you to watch Anakin and Padme flirt in front of that waterfall without laughing like a hyena on nitrous.
If someone tells you their favorite movie is Boondock Saints and they aren’t related to the director or married to one of the stars, you are constitutionally obligated to strike that individual in the throat as hard as humanly possible. Boondock Saints is what would happen if you gave the drunkest person in Massachusetts $10 million, five guns, and a handheld camera. That huge swaths of high-functioning humans consider this incomprehensible, amateurish mess a modern classic reaffirms my long-held theory that Idiocracy is the best documentary of all time.
Up for membership next year: Awards shows, Garden State, the Robert Pattinson 9/11 movie