The Psychology Behind: Hate-Watching

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“Hate-watching (v): to watch and take pleasure in laughing at or criticizing (a disliked television show, movie, etc.)”

Have you ever wondered why sometimes you’ll find yourself binge-watching a show that’s so obnoxiously terrible, but you can’t look away? You’ll be watching an episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians or Selling Sunset and thinking: “I hate every single person on this show”. Heck, sometimes you’ll even find yourself watching interviews of celebrity couples you absolutely can’t stand (Ahem – Machine Gun Kelly and Megan Fox – Ahem) and just revel in your hatred for them. Fascinating, isn’t it?

The “hate-watching” genre has gained a lot more traction in the last decade or so, given the rise of accessible television via streaming services and through other content sharing platforms like YouTube. Trashy television; reality shows; cheeky sitcoms and a variety of shows and movies that are tailor-made for hate-watching audiences – what is it about these shows and movies that keep us coming back for more?

Each of us will have our own version of a show worthy of hate-watching. The most recent example that comes to mind is “Emily in Paris” – while the show is mediocre at best, viewers will come back to it. Why? There could be several reasons for this:


As human beings, we are all born with a certain level of curiosity, and there are times where a show will have just the right amount of allure to keep us interested, even though consciously there is an awareness that the content before us is, in fact, not very good. You might have seen the first episode and thought: okay, let’s see where this goes – and by the end of it, you find yourself consumed by the entertainment value of finding fault in the show.


Age of Criticism and Anti-fan culture:

With every yang, there is a yin. While fans might derive pleasure from engaging with it with positivity, anti-fans will revel in finding faults and criticisms. A famous saying comes to mind: “there’s a thin line between love and hate” – love and hate are both extremely powerful, passionate emotions, and as such, they will also bring about a strong physiological response within us. This includes adrenaline, dopamine,and serotonin – hormones that are released when our bodies experience powerful emotions. And who doesn’t want to experience that?


Feeling Superior:

Whether we like to admit this or not, we like feeling superior – and one way for us to do that is by criticizing, and making ourselves believe that we know better.

Hate lights a fire:

It seems counter-intuitive to subject ourselves to hatred as often as we do, but here’s the interesting thing: hatred can make us feel alive in the same way love does. Where there is light, there is darkness. Where there is love, there is also hate. While there is a lot of negativity associated with the emotion, the truth is that it does exist within us, and we unconsciously seek it out in more ways than we care to admit. Why is that though? One simple reason: there’s a lot of energy in hatred – it’s love’s “evil” twin – and it can be just as intoxicating and all-consuming. Think about all the things you feel strongly about. Things you love, things you absolutely cannot stand – and just think about how passionate you feel in both scenarios.

Reflective fascination:

At times we find ourselves watching content that we cannot stand, yet we’re so consumed by the strong feelings that it evokes, that we’re amused and fascinated by it – it can also serve as a point of reflection as to why we feel so angry towards certain media we consume.


It’s so bad, it’s good”:

We often think about how much goes into making a good film, and yet are also times where something is so bad, it draws in its own fan base. One example of this is Rebecca Black’s song “Friday” – now, when the song was released, it was deemed as one of the worst songs in musical history, yet EVERY single personwould know the chorus and would sing along to it if it were to come on. Till this day, it still holds a significant amount of pop culture relevance. In a similar manner, shows andmovies reach a point of being so terribly made that they draw in more curiosity and become a lightning rod for criticism and hate-watching – and you know how the internet loves to pick apart and critique every piece of content out there.

There is a great deal of complexity that surrounds the world of hate-watching, and each person’s drive and motivations will differ, but one thing we can be certain of is that: it is something that we feel drawn to for some reason or another. It may reveal something about us; it may serve as entertainment, or a way for us to feel strong emotions. Whatever the case may be, it’s worth thinking about what your motivations behind hate-watching are. Did any of the reasons above resonate? Are there any more that come to mind for you? We would love to hear what you think!

The above article is written by Shahrukh Shahbaz Malik who is trained in humanistic integrative counselling at CPDD in the UK and currently has her own private practice in Karachi. The views expressed in this article are those of one expert. They do not necessarily represent the views of Mashion, nor do they represent the complete picture of the topic at hand. This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical diagnosis, treatment or therapy.

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