Netflix original Haters Back Off! opens boldly and unapologetically with popular YouTube personality Miranda Sings (played by Colleen Ballinger) doing what she does horribly–singing. Admittedly, it wasn’t love at first sight–or perhaps, love at first listen. But I stuck through, and I’m glad I did. On its surface, the series chronicles Miranda’s rise to internet stardom with the help of her “manager”–and uncle–Jim. However, as the story continues to unfold, we see there’s more than initially meets the eye. Miranda lives in a small and dysfunctional household with her uncle, mother, and sister. Miranda and her uncle share a strange relationship, with him obsessively dedicated to seeing her achieve fame–despite her lack of any real talent. Her mother, Tiffany, also plays into her delusions of grandeur, and acts as more of a complacent yes-woman to her daughter than an actual parent. Emily, Miranda’s sister, is the sole voice of reason amidst the chaos–the black sheep of the family through her normalcy.
This is a show about more than mindless laughs. Beneath the ridiculous scenarios and caricatured performances, there’s a surprising amount of depth and heart. It not only serves as a social commentary on the phenomenon of internet stars, and the rise of wannabes, but it also dares to tackle the darker aspects of life. Mental illness is a subject introduced from the very first episode, when we see Miranda’s mother pretending to be in pain from fibromyalgia to gain sympathy–a trait of Munchausen syndrome. In addition, their house is shown to be in a state of crowded disarray, and may reflect symptoms of mild hoarding. Even Miranda herself clearly has a long list of issues–narcissism, lack of self-awareness, as well as the mistreatment and manipulation of those around her. Understandably, the character’s lack of redeeming qualities can make the series hard to sit through at times, although she gains (some) depth as it progresses. Perhaps to balance Miranda’s generally unlikable character, we have arguably one of the more palatable characters in the show, Patrick. Patrick is inexplicably enamoured with Miranda and his selfless devotion to her is incredibly sweet–although sometimes sickly so.
The show itself is well done, and appears to have a decent budget backing it. The acting is great, especially that of Colleen Ballinger as Miranda Sings, which is unsurprising since she herself created the character. I initially found the protagonist, Miranda, unbearable- from her grating voice, to her nearly sociopathic self-centeredness. But as I progressed through the series, I admired her confidence as well as her ability to consistently stay true to herself regardless of judgement or ridicule. She walks out into the world with what looks to be 50 layers of bright red lipstick and sings–in her terrible and iconic voice–“Here I am, world! Take me or leave me!”
What really won me over with this series was its offbeat nature. It isn’t a show that’s been done a million times before. It’s also one of the few series that’s achieved a harmonic balance between comedy and drama, with genuine emotion and relatability juxtaposed against its ridiculous and over-the-top humor (Which admittedly can sometimes cross the line from ridiculous to downright stupid). As someone who tremendously enjoys quirky, awkward, and cringe-y humor, (think Napoleon Dynamite) this show was right up my alley. However, some viewers may understandably find it to be a bit “much.” While the majority of these instances stem from Miranda herself, you can expect bouts of second-hand embarrassment from virtually every character on the show–save, perhaps, for Emily. In this regard, Haters Back Off! is an apt title, as viewers will likely either love it or hate it.
I felt the series shined most towards the end, when it increasingly implemented dark tones and explored the inner battles of the characters. A good example of this is when Miranda turns to a crowd of laughing spectators–at her expense–and yells, in a moment of real emotional hurt, “Why is it so funny to think someone could love me?” I’m sure we can all, at some point or another, sympathize with unrequited love and feelings of inadequacy. Over the course of this series I laughed, I teared up, I cringed, and I cheered. It’s rare to find a show that can put its viewers on such an emotional roller coaster. Avoiding spoilers, the ending was surprisingly somber and I thought it was the perfect way to wrap up the first season. Hopefully there will be more seasons to follow. Love it or hate it, this is a well-written and acted series bundled up into a delightfully quirky (albeit sometimes cringe-y) package. I greatly encourage anyone with the patience to sit through the initial warm-up period to give the series a watch.
Meet Allison. When she's not contemplating life or daydreaming of far-off places, you can find her sketching weird faces, listening to indie/alt rock, gaming, and drinking copious amounts of kombucha tea. At the end of the day, all she wants is to live a happy and fulfilling life, and to contribute positively to the world around her.