haters back off

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YouTube is a fun medium where unheard artists make their own content and publish it to the masses. What usually aren’t fun are film and movie adaptations of YouTube series and characters. Most cases always feel like an overextended internet video: The pacing is always off and the characters are usually bland.

At first, I dreaded watching HATERS BACK OFF. Miranda Sings grows stale for me just seconds after watching any of her YouTube videos. So when the first episode opens (as each of its successors do as well) with a mock rendition of her first ever video, I feared the worst. I did my best to drown out her nasally voice while being introduced to the rest of the characters: her hypochondriac mother named Bethany, her optimistic deadbeat uncle Jim, and her best friend, Patrick, who has an unrequited crush on her.

The series follows Miranda Sings before she encounters her big break. She’s desperate to move forward from performances in her living room and wishes to become a star. Her Uncle Jim, crushed from the failure of his high school color guard career, aims to live vicariously through her by becoming her “manager” and creating a five-step plan for fame, starting with becoming a viral video star.

haters back off spitting image

Spitting image

Source: Screenshot from HATERS BACK OFF

HATERS BACK OFF is goofy and continues to lack any kind of substance until its moment of saving grace. Miranda has a younger sister named Emily. She’s the “normal” one in her family who wishes to become an artist, and the moment we meet her, the show finally becomes grounded. In the dinner scene in the first episode, we reach the conclusion that this is an actual family. Each member has their own qualms and dilemmas and is working to figure everything out. All of a sudden, Miranda isn’t as annoying anymore (I say ‘as’. There’s only so much one can take of Miranda Sings in a singular sitting.).

On YouTube, Miranda Sings is one-dimensional and static. There’s a simplicity to her: She’s naive, self-centered, and a horrendous singer. This is fine, and entertaining on the internet for five minutes at a time. But in order to succeed in television, she needs to grow.  Luckily, in the series, she does so. Miranda becomes a real human being and inhabits a real world. Taking her out of her videos and placing her in this world puts her into context. Miranda Sings is a terrible, selfish, crazy person who has a trouble understanding the feelings of those around her.

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Miranda’s only moment of affection in the whole series

Source: Screenshot from HATERS BACK OFF

The series continues in the manner that one would suspect: wacky situations that only Miranda could get herself into filled with moments that are just too hard to watch, from when Uncle Jim tricks Miranda into believing that an open mic is performance dedicated to her, to when she attempts to take over her church choir. Both provide instances of Miranda making a fool of herself in public, which are commendable attempts at comedy, but with a person as gross as Miranda, they make you want to shut off your laptop and pretend like you didn’t see anything.

However, if you brace yourself, the show can still prove to be some fun. Her best friend, Patrick, is easy to sympathize with thanks to his awkward attempts to win Miranda over, in addition to his collection of her popsicle sticks. There are also Easter eggs for the dedicated YouTube fan; I had to research the mentioning of a “daddy saddle” so that I could determine that it was an homage to a video and not a mention of Miranda’s absent father.

There are also the pleasant surprises of depth and growth in terms of the characters. However, a lot of the development doesn’t occur until the latter half of the episodes. There’s Uncle Jim’s sorrow in regards to his failed life, Emily’s attempts at escaping the craziness of her family, and Bethany’s coming to terms with having kidney disease. Furthermore, there’s a natural cultivation of anguish from Miranda’s self-absorption that ultimately reaches a point of melancholic emotional chaos.

In that sense, creator and star Colleen Ballinger succeeds in bringing her character down to Earth. Fans of Miranda Sings on YouTube may not be used to considering the full life of the character. Miranda is not just funny anymore, she’s tragic. Miranda represents humanity’s never-ending need to be something greater, demonstrating how ego can drive one to push out the ones they care most about. I applaud Ballinger for not playing it safe and for really exploring the depths of what the life of her character truly entails. It’s even more intriguing than the comedy, and by the end of series, the drama shines more than the humor. However, it’s still a slippery slope, as a lot of HATERS BACK OFF’s meaning can be lost in Miranda’s abundance of red lipstick. However, it’s the best Ballinger can do to balance the nature of her character’s ludicrous actions and the occasionally stupid, occasionally depressing reasoning behind them.

haters back off dislike

Miranda calm down, you still have more likes than dislikes

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That being said, my recommendation comes with a warning label. You won’t be able to come close to appreciating this show until you get used to Miranda Sings, or rather, begin to understand her. If you find her funny, you’re in luck. If you think she’s annoying, focus on her situation and her cast of supporting characters. If you feel like tearing your ears off at the first sound of her voice, watch EASY instead. But if you’re willing to give HATERS BACK OFF time and effort, you will be rewarded in ways you will not expect.

Verdict: Recommend

Michelle is a guest contributor for Crossfader Magazine. She self-published a book about fairies when she was eight. It sold two copies.

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