Over the last few months my dedication to YouTube has waned slightly and I don’t regularly watch as many videos as I used to. However, over the years I’ve been through a series of obsessions with certain channels before getting bored of them. I guess because, when it comes to these things, I have the attention span similar to the life of a mayfly. One of the people I used to be an avid subscriber of was Miranda Sings. When I first watched the videos created by Colleen Ballinger I thought they were fucking hilarious but, over time, everything was just painfully similar. The character is absurd, sure, but there is only so many videos you can make around the concept before it becomes a bit too familiar. However, I am obsessed with her brother’s vlog channel so I feel like I’ve been hearing about the Miranda Sings Netflix show for absolutely ages. So, when it finally came out on Friday, I decided I should watch it.
Haters Back Off is intended to introduce the world outside of YouTube to Colleen Ballinger’s comedy character, Miranda Sings, whilst also showing her army of fans her life behind the camera. Starting from the moment she posts her first video, the show takes us on her journey towards fame. Miranda follows the five step plan set out by her ambitious Uncle Jim (Steve Little) and is encouraged by her hypochondriac mother Bethany (Angela Kinsey). These are characters that have, thus far, been unseen elements of Sings’ YouTube career but have been discussed at length. The two new elements to her world are her lovelorn neighbour Patrick (Erik Stocklin) and her sensible sister Emily (Francesca Reale). Patrick lets Miranda get away with anything whilst Emily deals with the constant sources of embarrassment that her family deals out without her friends finding out about them.
This show seemed like a no-brainer for Netflix and would clearly bring about a shitload of Miranda fans from YouTube onto the streaming site. However, Miranda doesn’t really transition too well into a longer format. She found fame thanks to her misguided belief that she was an amazing singer yet possessed no real talent. This is the kind of shtick that works in bursts of 3-4 minutes but got kind of grating. Obviously understand that not all protagonists have to be easy to root for but Miranda is so abhorrent that it’s not just hard but almost impossible. It’s the kind of thing that’s funny for a bit but when it’s all you’re facing it just gets boring. In this format you really realise just how much of the Miranda persona is based on negativity.
And I’m not just talking about the character herself but her origin. Every interview Ballinger has given about the birth of her alter ego is based around her derision of the girls who can’t sing yet dare to post videos of themselves to the internet. It’s basically Ballinger, a trained singer, shitting on everyone who isn’t professionally trained yet enjoys trying. It’s always struck me as massively egotistical on Ballinger’s part that she not only judges these people on face value alone but feels that she can use them to further her career. It’s mean. Especially as she, a great singer, isn’t actually using her talent to gain views. Miranda is just Ballinger, hiding behind comedy, to bully countless people who don’t have the natural talent that she is lucky enough to possess.
Haters Back Off just takes this idea further by adding in more character’s for Ballinger and co. to take the piss out of. All of Miranda’s family are quirky yet realistic. It’s an exaggerated version of lower-middle class family life yet intended to poke fun at the people at the heart. Take the single mother who struggles to make ends meet and keep her children happy. She is mocked for her protectiveness and her ability to make medical mountains out of imaginary molehills. It’s not a funny pastiche of life in this environment but the general mocking of those types of people. Ballinger has suggested the series was intended to show the heart and emotion behind the character but all it does is reveal the lack of it in the writing.
There are some funny moments, sure, but for the most part I just felt sad watching this. Sad that Netflix put so much effort into such poor content. Sad that something so mean-spirited could be so popular. Sad that it will definitely get an awful second series. And sad that I’ll be one of the minorities that dare to say anything bad against it. The series follows a rather safe narrative structure but can never quite find the right tone or voice. It has moments of sheer ridiculousness followed by unnecessarily dark storylines. It’s insane. Just like the tone, which seems, for the most part, is written for the existing young fans of the YouTube channel but is augmented by an incredible amount of adult jokes. It’s trying to be all things at once and failing to be that good at any of them.