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November 28, 2014

TV 101: Why I hate the haters

by Jay Black, posted Aug 2nd 2007 11:40AM
This is the face I make whenever someone talks trash about the Simpsons.Try this experiment: mention The Simpsons anywhere and see how long it takes for someone to say, "Oh, right, The Simpsons, yeah, they were good for the first ten seasons, but after that, they just got SO UNFUNNY! I don't know why people watch anymore!"

Since Fox decided to release a Simpsons movie (apparently under the radar -- I mean if you're going to release a movie, you should at least market it! you know?), I've been hearing that sentiment approximately once every thirty-four seconds. It annoys me every time I hear it, but it wasn't until today that I realized exactly why this was so.

It's because the people expressing it are confusing their ignorant negativity for intelligent commentary.

The internet exists for two reasons: communication and porn.

I love both of these things, but since this is a family blog, I can really only talk about the former. To learn more about the latter, type in a random noun into Google and you'll be guaranteed that one of the first ten hits will be a fetish site built around that noun.

As to the idea of the internet increasing our communication, so far it's been a mixed bag. Sure we get to hear everybody's opinions about every conceivable thing without the editorial barriers built into the traditional media, but it only takes a few seconds of reading everybody's opinion that we discover that hey, wow, those editorial barriers were there for a reason!

Having spent the last eight months as a blogger on TV Squad (New Zealand's fourth most popular television blog), I've been able to conduct a field study of internet commentators in their natural habitat. I've broken them down into four distinct species:

1) The Genuinely Helpful Contributor (estimated 50% of the population) These are the normal every day people that express their opinions sanely and organically. If they disagree with something you say, they usually do so politely. Sites like TV Squad are built around these people.

2) The Internet Troll (estimated 20% of the population) Remember that kid that rode a moped to school, had a mullet, and used to torture squirrels? Well, he just bought a computer. And guess what? He realized that he can say and do things anonymously! Also, like my mother, he loves to use words like "idiot" and "loser". It's people like this that give any graduate student in psychology an easy paper on the effect anonymity has on social etiquette.

3) The Bat-Shit Crazy Lunatic (estimated 5% of the population) These are the people that respond to the American Idol threads with things like "Hey my sister can sing. You should have her on your show." The TV Squad tip line is filled with comments like this. They write to us as if we were TV. I don't mean that they think we're network executives or something, I mean that they kind of imagine "TV" as a Matrix-like web of shows and that TV Squad is the intelligent mouthpiece for the whole enterprise (like that thing that showed up at the end of Matrix Revolutions). It comforts me to no end that these people have a vote that counts just as much as mine during the next election.

4) The CRITIC (estimated 25% of the population) The inspiration for this column. They're the ones that take every opportunity to tell you why something you like is bad and why something you've never heard of is so much better. They seem to know more about pop culture than you do, but with no joy at all. They treat their addiction to television or movies or comic books like it was an affliction rather than a healthy diversion. They are, as my good friend Jay-Z might say, hate-ahs.

(Note: there is a fifth flavor of commenter that I left out of my breakdown -- the super creepy obsessed male commenter who thinks if he makes enough jokes or gives enough subtle compliments then the female that he's after will fall in love with him. I didn't discuss them because as a male myself, I very rarely receive any kind of creepy attention -- though I'm open for it ladies! For a fuller definition of this type of commenter, see Brigitte's TV Squad Daily comments section on any day of the week).

I've been searching for a reason why there is so much hate for beloved things floating around the internet. Why is it that whenever somebody brings up a particular pop-culture institution, there is a flood of response at the ready to tell you why that thing you love is really so awful?

Here's my theory: the CRITIC needs to justify his existence in this world by looking and acting intelligent. Since actually being intelligent is hard to do (seriously, try reading some Leonhard Euler -- even pronouncing his name is beyond me!) the easiest path is to just criticize everything and hope that nobody realizes that the angry internet emperor isn't wearing any clothes.

Negativity masquerades as intelligence because it implies that the speaker of that negativity sees something that the average person doesn't.

This is the CRITIC's equation: Everybody loves this show, and since most people are stupid, their love must mean that the show is stupid too... if I express my disdain for the show, I am distancing myself from the stupid masses and am therefore smarter than the average person. I can thus explain my lack of a date to the senior prom as not a commentary on my severely lacking personal hygiene but on the Philistine's inability to recognize genius in their midst. I will now go watch obscure BBC comedies and eat Fluff directly out of a jar.

The CRITIC hates it when the average person loves something. You see it all the time when their favorite band releases a breakthrough album and they spend the next four years adjusting their ill-fitting girl-pants and muttering "sellout" with their hipster friends.

I think that's a lot of the reason why most Simpsons haters cite the downturn in Simpsons' quality to be somewhere around the 8th-10th season. It was at that point the show stopped being a subversive hit and started being comfort-food television. It didn't matter whether or not the show was still funny because once it became "beloved", it was no longer an option for the CRITIC to love it anymore.

Now, I can already see the comments flooding in about how, "No, Jay, you moronical dummy, I don't like the show anymore not because I'm one of these so-called internet CRITICS (real original label there by the way, Jay, where do you do your thinking? A Starbucks -- in 1998!?) but because I truly don't think the show is funny anymore!"

Okay, fine, I believe you. Just answer me this: why the virulent hate? Why do you feel the need to express yourself on every single site where the Simpsons are mentioned? Why do you use nineteen exclamation marks? Why do you write in all-caps that "THE SIMPSONS MUST DIE!!! THE SHOW SUCKS NOW!!!!!1111"?

What, exactly, are you adding to the conversation?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying a show should be criticism-proof simply because it's popular. It's just that the CRITIC very rarely has any kind of real criticism to offer. Read what they say online and you'll find that more often than not, their criticisms are less an intelligent deconstruction of a show than a claws-out nerd-attack of it.

When it comes to The Simpsons, the CRITIC tends to simply recycle the same old tropes -- "The show doesn't have heart anymore"; "The show stopped being funny once they made Homer too stupid"; "The show became too self-reverential when writers who were raised on the show started writing for it"; and so on. These kinds of "criticisms" don't expand the knowledge base. As I used to tell my old soccer coach (while crying) good criticism should illuminate, not denigrate.

I'm a huge fan of The Simpsons and will probably continue to be until the show ends sometime in May of 2174. Those of you that disagree are entitled to your opinion. I just wish you thought I was entitled to mine.

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Mason Cowie

Here's my lovely criticism....

1. It makes all kinds of pop culture references that nobody cares about.

2. You can only do so many shows about The Simpsons are going to where ever.

3. Tons of celebrity guests.

4. Most importantly, crappy character development from being used to makes lame jokes.

May 01 2012 at 2:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
chaz

I admit it. I don't think the show is funny anymore.

But I also admit that what bothers me even more about The Simpsons is the same thing that annoys me about Saturday Night Live. The show could be funny or not funny and it wouldn't even matter. Most people will just assume that it is funny simply because they're conditioned to believe that it is.

September 26 2007 at 11:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Thomas

The only thing I have to say about the simpsons movie is quit the mass marketing of it. Personally, all I needed was Homer on a billboard saying simpsons movie coming out so-so time, and I'm on board.

August 08 2007 at 5:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bash

Jay I think usually these people were once fans of the show and would love to get it back to where it was. But most of the time they are like the Comic Book Guy on "The Simpsons". They just hate it now (and probably even said "It was better in the past" in seasons 6 to 10 where they thought that the show would end in about one or two years to only later find out that the following five years were still the best of the best) because they aren't special in liking it anymore. Like people who use Linux just to drop it the instant any larger group of people starts using it too. They market it to everyone and anyone saying that it is so uber great just because they want to show everyone how special they are. And once they aren't anymore they have to find something new to express that - so they pick a more refined version of *nix like Debian or whatnot.

I ranted like crazy about the simpsons after I saw the movie. I thought it would be a laughfest like a couple of episodes from the first ten years were. I thought because they brought back all the former writers it would be better than this. I _know_ you can still laugh all the time even these days while watching the Simpsons on TV, I still think they are funny.

But especially with the movie now I think that "Homerpalooza" had a better plot than this. It felt off the whole time. I never was one to criticize the TV show for not being realistic enough but please how many cop-outs did they manage to get into this movie? They didn't tackle global warming but chose regular pollution instead. They didn't mock George W. Bush. They put V-22 Ospreys in the movie to get the new-armed-forces-thingie-in-3D awe. They talked about polluting Alaska and all we got to see was a postcard-Alaska with no pollution whatsoever.

The only thing I found witty was the direct, head on attack on Disney. They didn't even make fun of Fox like they do all the time on TV. Or maybe-to-be-presidential-candidate Al Gore (am I the only one who thinks 400 pound Al being the reason for the lift to fail would've been funny?).

One of the biggest laughs the Simpsons tv-series got from me was when Sideshow-Bob stepped on about a dozen garden rakes over a one or two minute period. I literally laughed and was rolling on the floor. My stomach hurt and I was crying. I love Slapstick but it seems the movie had too much of it.

Oh and am I the only one who wonders how those people in Springfield could survive under a glass cover without any new oxygen getting in? Or that they forgot how to use shovels? Oh and that the glass cover must've acted like a greenhouse - you know, with the greenhouse effect, and that they did not suffer from any of the usual problems like HEAT or their own dirty fumes?

They didn't approach any of these angles and usually they do on TV, even in the oh so bad last five to seven years they were still critical. *sigh* I would've loved it if the movie would've been better. For me it's just so-so.

August 04 2007 at 6:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mel

I liked reading this. Whenever anybody has anything negative to say about anything at all, it just gets me sort of down, and I feel a little guilty for being positive about whatever it is they're being negative towards. This is especially true with television, because I'm strangely sensitive about it. I just breaks my spirit whenever I read negative comments. Do they ever really help anything? Does reading a negative comment ever make anyone else happy? I realize I may be optimistic towards the point of annoyance, but I wish that we could all just get along and speak nothing but praise for telelvison, or whatever the topic may be.

August 03 2007 at 6:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
JimS

Everyone has got an opinion. Here's mine. This article was really missing a grouping. The author mentions them but then moves towards throwing them all into a rather large basket "The Critics". But you call them "Haters" in your story as well. Surely you don't really think 25% of the world are haters. Personally I think it's more like 8.4% (after doing some considerable study). So you should have created that grouping as distinctive of a generic 'Critic' group. It's that haters that are really like who you describe after all. Some critics are really nice sometimes. Especially when given cookies and milk.

August 03 2007 at 6:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mike Davis

No, seriously, don't.

August 03 2007 at 9:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ivan

Sure, you ARE entitled to an opinion. However, there really is no doubt that there IS a noticeable decline. I'm going to go through the history of the show, season by season, to give my argument.

SEASON ONE [1989/1990] - The show was a success from day one, there's no doubt about that. Even though it was this first season that is pretty much entirely responsible for the 18 years following, there are some noticeable flaws that pull this season into the bottom half of "The Simpsons"' long history; the characterizations are pretty awful (especially Homer, see the episode "There's No Disgrace Like Home"). The show had very little humour in these days, and the animation was noticeably crude and really off-model (especially the earliest episodes). Still a nice season, but the next eight beat the hell out of it.

SEASON TWO [1990/1991] - A large improvement over the first season, and considered by most fans to be the first classic season. The animation is improved dramatically over the previous season, but there are still imperfections. There is a lot more humour, and the characters are written remarkably well. The voice acting becomes smoother, and Homer slowly evolves into the stupid-yet-loving father. There are many memorable episodes, such as "Lisa's Substitute" and "Three Men and a Comic Book".

SEASON THREE [1991/1992] - The classic era was definitely in full swing by now; this season showcases nearly everything that is lovable about "The Simpsons"; there are a few out-there (but not zany) plots, a few down-to-earth yet laugh-out-loud episodes, as well as some very heartwarming family outings. Highlights include "Bart the Murderer", "Homer at the Bat" and "Dog of Death".

SEASON FOUR [1992/1993] - Regarded by many as the finest season to ever come from the staff. Many episodes can very well be regarded as classics. "Marge vs. the Monorail", "A Streetcar Named Marge", "Last Exit To Springfield", "Duffless" and "Homer the Heretic" are all great examples of how well the staff were able to handle the varying characteristics of Springfield's inhabitants. To sum it all up, Executive Producers Al Jean and Mike Reiss did a damn great job.

SEASON FIVE [1993/1994] - David Mirkin takes over as Executive Producer, and with him comes a brand new set of writers. This season saw the beginning of a few out-there plots that were even more out-there than we had previously seen (although still not enough to really be classified as zany). This season really also started the trend of not just using the family as the main characters, but also exploring the lives of their friends and co-workers. Examples of this includes Marge's high-speed chase when she befriends her neighbour Ruth Powers in "Marge on the Lam", Homer also getting a best friend, Ned Flanders, in the not-so-classic "Homer Loves Flanders" (actually one of the worst of the 'classic' [Seasons 2 to 9] era), Mr. Burns starting a casino in "$pringfield", and Grampa falling in love with Marge's mother in "Lady Bouvier's Lover". The show also hit an outstanding landmark: the 100th episode, with "Sweet Seymour Skinner's Badasssss Song". Well-known episodes from this season include "Cape Feare", "Rosebud" and "Deep Space Homer". Not as good as Season Four, but still classic standards.

SEASON SIX [1994/1995] - With David Mirkin still at the helm, "The Simpsons" returned with a vengeance. Early in the season viewers were introduced to Mike Scully with the episode "Lisa's Rival", which is among the fan favourites. Scully ended up becoming the most despised staff member among fans, and I'll talk about him more later. This season continued with the same trend established the year before: seemingly down-to-earth episodes that still had a hint of out-there...ness (I know it isn't a word, but it's the best I can use to describe this). There were two episodes that were produced by former EP's Al Jean and Mike Reiss; the average "Round Springfield" and the awful "A Star Is Burns"; a crossover with Jean and Reiss' own creation 'The Critic'. This episode is, to me, the worst of the first nine seasons. Although this contains an episode that deserves an "F", as well as a pretty bad clip show (awesomely named "Another Simpsons Clip Show"), there are some truly great episodes such as "Lisa's Rival", "Two Dozen and One Greyhounds", "Lemon of Troy" and the outstanding "Who Shot Mr. Burns? Part One".

SEASON SEVEN [1995/1996] - This is what I believe to be the best season the show produced. David Mirkin left early in the season, and Bi

August 03 2007 at 9:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mark

I never liked the simpsons tv show. You may not agree with me personally, and that's your perogative, but for myself, I feel that the show reinforces concepts that violate traditional family values, such as it being acceptable to treat one's parents as if they are total 'tards (even if they are), instead of respect by the simple virtue of being one's parents.

As I said, you may not agree, and that's your right. But I don't like the show, and that's my reason. And if you find that you feel a need to try to argue with me about it or to somehow show that I am wrong, consider then who is really trying to prove something to whom.

August 03 2007 at 4:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
MosquitoControl

And, for the record, I've made many of those comments around here.

Most have been after I catch a bit of an episode, then read a glowing review here. And just remain baffled. The show has fallen to the safety levels of Life with Jim or According to Jim or whatever it is. Same predictable, unfunny jokes a mile away. Only it now seems to go for Family Guy esque randomness, as if Family Guy was still watchable itself.

The theory I've heard before is one of age creating frame of reference. Find Mel Brooks fans that were around from the start and they likely hate Space Balls. Find those of us that grew up with Mel Brooks already established and we find Space Balls hysterical, because we had no frame of reference. We didn't know the greatness that he had been.

I honestly do not know anyone that still watches The Simpsons outside of people on the internet. In college, when I stopped watching (when Homer and Ned married Vegas strippers I called it quits) people thought I was insane. And overly picky. Most of them followed me when jockeyland aired. Those that stayed fizzled over time.

The show stopped being worth the time and effort. It has nothing to do with popularity, unless the popularity influenced the writing. Popular shows can still be great, and The Simpsons were best during their popularity peak, when every idiot had an Eat My Shorts t-shirt.

August 02 2007 at 7:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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