Haters Gonna Hate

Today Weezer released a new album,  their first in four years. For those wondering, the new album is actually pretty good. It’s not a new masterpiece, but it’s unreasonable to expect a band to release nothing but masterpieces. Given the bizarre nature of Weezer albums in the last ten years, I’d say that “good” is commendable. This seems to be the general consensus on the album, including a surprisingly positive review from Pitchfork. In a piece that maps closely to my own feelings, the following passage stuck out to me:

“Because even though Weezer and Pinkerton were never embraced by critics in real time, they sure seem to have been embraced by a lot of people who grew up to be critics, who in turn have relished every opportunity to bash Weezer albums as a way of separating themselves from an embarrassing part of their lives where the perspective of “No One Else” and “Pink Triangle” felt like the truth.”  

This touched on a particular thread of criticism that has driven me crazy about Weezer, or more specifically any online discussion of Weezer. While it is almost universally believed that the first two Weezer albums are masterpieces, the rest of their discography is a lot more varied in its quality. But the common sentiment is to simply throw them all out as terrible, which ignores not just some decent songs on lousy albums, but also some genuinely good albums in and of themselves.

I’m not really trying to write about Weezer, but more about why hating something can’t just be limited to not liking it and leaving it there. In online discourse it’s almost never enough to dislike something. You have to take every opportunity you can to not just celebrate what you enjoy, but to tear down what doesn’t hew to whatever standard you’ve set. It’s not enough to simply not like something. We have to hate them actively.

But that highlights one more disparity between how people actually behave and how they behave on the internet. If someone cornered you and started complaining about the Star Wars prequels, your immediate response would be to wonder why that person cares so much, or why they don’t just ignore it and move on with their life. But online such discourse must come up whenever the Star Wars franchise is mentioned. This is not just tolerated, but is a regular occurrence. In other words, active hatred is something that people don’t really do in real life, or at least something that is not considered normal behavior. This is not the case on countless comments threads and discussion boards.

I confess that my own attitude here is one that prevents me from really being great at writing about some kinds of media. I don’t mind not liking something, but neither do I like assuming something is obviously terrible. I bristle against the idea that I “should” hate certain aspects of popular culture, and so I sometimes feel like I overvalue something and ignore its flaws. It’s an overcorrection to compensate for a broader tendency that drives me crazy: the tendency to refuse to reevaluate our thoughts and opinions on something. It drives me crazy in just about any setting, but since I dabble most on discussion on media and pop culture that’s where I see it. Ironically this makes me just as bad, since it clouds my ability to really discuss the merits of whatever it is. (This isn’t so much a problem with games, since that’s a medium where enjoyment and “fun” are standards that, when met, can gloss over numerous other sins.)

The truth is that hating something allows us to define ourselves a little. It says something about our personalities, which can be difficult in an anonymous setting like the internet. It’s also a way to show our credentials, which is also something that is harder to do in a world where opinions are far more common, and therefore less valuable. But then why would we want to define ourselves by what we like and don’t like in the first place? Making it a point of hating something “on principal” says a lot, but not always what we intend.

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