Haters Back Off is a surprisingly well-disguised black comedy that camouflages a poignant parody about the pursuit of fame in the era of social media, with a veneer of low-brow comedy utilizing over-the-top subject matter to deliver its message.
By D.R. Harward, editor-at-large
Back on October 20th for a second season, YouTube sensation, Miranda Sings (Colleen Ballinger), successfully made the leap up to the big leagues in her Netflix original series “Haters Back Off!” a show about the pursuit of fame in a world in which being a celebrity is a legitimate career aspiration.
Series creator, Colleen Ballinger is a living example of the mythical Hollywood dream, her discovery was the modern-day equivalent of a garage-band landing a recording contract after playing at a local high school dance. Beginning in 2008, she created her own music-ish videos from her bedroom in Santa Barbara, California and posted them on YouTube for the amusement of friends and family. Fast forward to August of 2016 and Ballinger is the title character in a Netflix series based on her YouTube persona, the second season of which is scheduled for release in October of 2017.
Haters Back Off has been aptly described as “existing on the same weird block as Napoleon Dynamite,” but instead of tater-tots it’s ice cream pops for the star of the show, Miranda Sings, a character Ballinger created that was based on a caricature of an entitled teenager who is stunningly self deluded about her singing abilities and her prospects of becoming famous.
Miranda singing cover of Meghan Trainor’s Me too.
Ballinger, a gifted singer, made a YouTube video in 2008 in which she lampooned people whom she’d encountered at singing auditions- those that have prima donna attitudes but can’t sing a lick. She rearranged her hair, slapped on some garishly red lipstick, squinted her eyes and began to sing off-key. She posted her parody on YouTube for the amusement of her friends and soon added a few more.
Ballinger began receiving mean-spirited comments about her videos from YouTubers who believed that Miranda was a real person. The comments were the modern-day equivalent to hate mail, many of them imploring Miranda to “give it up” and advising her against singing.
Ballinger was surprised by such a reaction and responded by attenuating those aspects of her character that the viewers seemed to most dislike. Less than a year later, a video she posted called “Free Voice Lesson” went viral; the video has been seen by over 1.3 million viewers to date. Ballinger’s success lies in how she took advantage of the surprisingly passionate comments left by those who believed that the video was an authentic solicitation by a would-be vocal coach.
She began to respond to the commenters by making videos, often in tears and often misreading or mis-understanding the meaning of the comment and then concluding by imploring that her “hater’s back off.” She now has a growing collection of over 500 videos including covers of pop songs, advice videos, original songs and collaborations with other Youtube stars.
Miranda reading comments.
According to YouTube, her Miranda Sings channel currently has over 7.6 million subscribers and over 1.25 billion page views.
Her success caught the attention of Netflix who asked her to develop a series around Miranda and soon she and her brother, Christopher Ballinger, began writing.
Hater’s Back Off season 1 trailer. Courtesy of NetFlix
The Netflix project gave Ballinger the opportunity to flesh out the Miranda character and introduce us to her fictional family; her mom Bethany (Angela Kinsey – The Office), her sister Emily (Francesca Reale) and her uncle Jim (Steve Little).
The cast is rounded out with Miranda’s love interests who are Patrick (Erik Stocklin) her devoted friend who is madly in love with her, and Owen (Dylan Playfair) the blonde hunk who she thinks she loves.
At first glance, the series appears to be run-of-the-mill slapstick comedy fodder, but this gifted ensemble’s performances elevate the nine episodes of the first season into the realm of art. Throughout the tale there are expertly weaved-in moments that are borderline-taboo hilarious. But the genius of this series is; that by the last episode it will almost force you to confront aspects about yourself that most of us try to keep well hidden away.
If you are in the mood to see something different and aren’t afraid of a little self revelation, Hater’s Back Off won’t disappoint. Four and a half out of five stars.
Season 2 of Hater’s Back Off is scheduled to be released on October 20, 2017 on Netflix.