Coming off an eight episode binge watch of Netflix’s comedy/drama Haters Back Off, I quickly came to the realization that what works in one format may not actually work in another and it’s a point I have made before about a character very similar to that of Haters lead Miranda Sings.
The premise of the Netflix original series takes insanely popular YouTube star Miranda Sings (Colleen Ballinger) and documents her slow and grinding rise to her current internet stardom with the help of her eerily inappropriate Uncle Jim (Steve Little), her hypochondriac mother Bethany (Angela Kinsey) and her love-sick neighbor Patrick (Erik Stocklin) which is all to the detest of her introverted younger sister Emily (Francesca Reale).
As the eight episodes move along, Miranda, in her quest for undeserved fame using Uncle Jim’s five step plan, showcases a natural talent for narcissistic egotism and not much else as she drags down those around her while trying to claw herself to the top. Even when the tables turn on her and a situation goes awry, Miranda, so wrapped up in the beliefs of her own talent, refuses to see when she’s being kicked to the ground and assumes those against her are jealous of her performing ability.
In the second to last episode, Miranda’s younger sister Emily takes the chance to leave the chaos of home and apply to go to art school. Their mother Bethany, who is struggling with an actual health issue, at first fights it but then allows Emily to take that interview. Armed with her portfolio, Emily attends said art school interview only to discover her works have been ‘Mirandafied’ with pasta and glitter therefore destroying her chance at acceptance.
It’s the ensuing scene (which kicks off the seasons final episode) between a devastated and angry Emily and a cocky Miranda that brings the series one of its most conflicting moments for the viewers – Miranda is convinced she ‘fixed those paintings’ to help Emily get into art school but is shocked when Emily literally tells her that she ruined her work and that Miranda is dumb for thinking she was actually helping. It’s a brutal scene between the chalk and cheese sisters, but one where you feel empowered that Emily is finally taking a stand yet saddened for Miranda who is copping that verbal beating from her sister even when she thought she was doing good.
Once it is over, you step back and begin to question why are we even feeling sad for Miranda and should we be feeling empathy for a character that showed not a single shroud of human decency to another person? Which of course, harks back to my original point on what works in one format may not actually work in another.
Miranda Sings in YouTube format is hilarious and simply put – genius. The short 5-8 minute clips allow us to pop in and out as Miranda tries international snacks, dances, offers make-up tips, visits other YouTube stars, displays DYI fashion and accessory tips and badly croons her way through hundreds and hundreds of videos that have racked up billions of views. It works because the videos are entertaining, Miranda is an utter odd-ball, we don’t have to become too invested in her at that moment and the time frame of the videos is short enough to avoid us from discovering that Miranda is actually a rather unpleasant character.
Most of that discovery though falls down to the introduction of Miranda’s family, the people she stumbles across in life and how her actions and the way she conducts herself are presented to those people…which had to happen when bringing the character into scripted television.
It’s the same issue I had with a similar character to Miranda Sings, in the form of comedian Chris Lilley’s alter-ego Ja’mie King from Summer Heights High. When offered in smaller doses and accompanied by other unsettling characters to bounce to and from, selfish and delusional Ja’mie was an utter gem but when given her own platform and fleshed out surroundings in the series Ja’mie: Private School Girl, she became an unpleasant and highly unlikable brat that had me wanting her to never have a platform to appear on ever again.
Now this is not to say that Haters is a complete miss. There are some shining moments within the havoc of these eight episodes, most of which come from Miranda’s neighbor and (not so) secret admirer Patrick.
Erik Stocklin’s grossly awkward yet heartwarmingly adorable Patrick manages to step front and center to give Haters a character for us to root for – oddly more so than poor Emily. Even though Miranda comes out of this incredibly unlikable, we get all mushy when Patrick finally gets that special moment with his long time crush because Patrick, while almost as delusional as Miranda, is genuine and connectable for the viewers and thats a huge kudos to Stocklin.
Haters Back Off is currently streaming on Netflix.