My problem with Haters Back Off

Haters Back Off! is an original Netflix series created by Colleen Ballinger, along with her brother, Chris Ballinger. The show follows the life of Miranda Sings, a character originally created by Colleen on YouTube to mock bullies she went to school with. This opportunity allows Ballinger to give her audience backstory on her character and create a life for her, but I just wish it delivered more on its promise: a comedy.

I’ve seen every episode of the series and I am familiar with the Miranda Sings character on YouTube. I will say that some of the aspects of the show are very interesting: the fact that Miranda’s sister is a phenomenal painter and runs the family, although she is the youngest. I think that the dynamic of the extremely calm teen against a crazy family contrasts well makes the show more funny.

Fundamentally, I suppose, the show could still be classified as a comedy. The scrips contain jokes using the rule of three (one of the most common forms), characters say funny lines, no major tragedies occur (death of the main/ an important character) and some of the situations when thought about logically are funny. However, I found that in the second season, while the show was technically comedic, some of the dramatic elements overshadowed the comedy and left me wanting more funny.

I am not saying that comedy cannot be serious. In fact, some of my favorite episodes of comedies are the ones where the writers weave spectacular jokes and one-liners with more serious and heartfelt plot lines. That balance to me is epitome of comedic mastery. This show just airs too much on the drama side.

But the thing that made me the most uncomfortable was the scene in the finale with Miranda and her Dad. I understand their intent: To solidify the true nature of Miranda’s father, who was only interested in her for her potential net worth. But they did it in a way that I thought was too dramatic and too heartbreaking for a comedy, especially as one of the final scenes. He screamed at her and called her worthless, useless, and other names a parent should never call their child. If this were real life, Miranda could have developed depression, anxiety, or something very serious from that encounter with her father that I felt the writers overlooked.

I think that another intent of this scene was to show the reunion of the rest of Miranda’s family and tie those loose ends. The very next scene is Miranda’s mother, uncle, and sister, stepping in to save Miranda from the words of her father, which is meant to symbolize their support and care for her. While I think the idea was good, it should have been shown through a scene less traumatizing, especially in a sit-com.

The last point I want to make about this scene in the audience. Ballinger has millions of followers on YouTube, and it is no secret that the majority of them are teens and possible younger. It is natural to assume that these teens would be the primary audience for her show. Dramatic scenes in comedies stick out and typically carry the most weight with the audience, and with that in mind, I do not think that a scene with a father verbally abusing his daughter was the best thing to stick with a teenager. It is not the point of the show, but it very easily become that with a teenage audience. If I’m being honest, I think the show would have been better off without that character. They could have stirred the pot in a much less heartbreaking way.


A Quitter’s Game

When I was four years old, I started taking piano lessons. I remember going to class every Tuesday and immediately placing my fingers on top of the piano ready to play. My technique was terrible–my fingers were flat and I blatantly ignored fingering requirements –but I didn’t care. I just loved making music and playing the piano. But, a few years later, something changed. My upright piano slowly collected more dust, and the music throughout the house was music I was dancing to and not creating. I stopped practicing and started blaming homework so often that one day when I went to my lesson, my teacher asked, “Were you able to get any practicing in, or were you swamped again?” It was clear that my heart was not in it, and my passion was gone. So, I quit.
The decision to quit was not an easy one. I knew that I was miserable, and I wanted so badly to not practice again, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I guess that part of the reason was the fact that I did not want to feel like the past ten years of lessons had gone to waste, but the majority of the reason had to do with my perception of quitting and letting something go.
I have grown up with the idea that quitting was wrong, bad, and never the answer. If you decide to let something go in our society, you are automatically labeled as a quitter. While this is a technically accurate label, it comes with such skewed connotations such as ones that imply weakness, failure, or laziness. In our society, when you quit something, people assume that you didn’t try hard enough. They assume that you gave up and took the easy way out. But this time, letting piano go was tremendously harder than staying and pretending to love it would have been.
This is nothing against piano. I’m so grateful that I have formal training because I still like to play it from time to time. It wasn’t one of those situations where I knew that everything positive I was expressing about piano was a show. I still liked it–just not enough to continue formally committing to it. And that right there was one of those most difficult things to recognize.
It would have been so easy to sit back and go through the motions of practicing and showing up to lessons to convince myself that this wasnt over. It would have been so easy to try to balance an increasing homework load with dance and piano and pretend that I could handle it. But it was incredibly difficult to recognize the fact that something you have invested time and practice into for 10 years is not something you want to do anymore. It was painful to tell my teacher that this would be my last piano class.
We as a society need to amend our definition of quitting. In my case, quitting did not make me weak or incapable, it made me more honest with myself and involved in activities I truly loved doing. Letting something go is not always the easiest option because it forces you to recognize that you are different than the image you had in your head. Quitting can be a symbol of growth and maturity and not always of incompetence. Rather than desperately clinging to the past, it is more effective sometimes to just let it go.

Disney nailed it with Moana

Moana is Disney’s most recent hit. The story is about a girl who turns her head to all opposition to run to what she felt was calling her in order to save her homeland.  She later realizes that the call she was feeling was coming from within herself.

I think that everyone should watch this movie. It was inspiring to me, even as a high schooler. Maybe this is the English nerd in me talking but the symbolism in the movie was so perfectly planned to resonate with older people, and the story was expressive enough for the message to resonate with children, even if they just understood the literal meaning. The message itself was a powerful one: When you listen to your heart, you can open yourself to your unknown potential.

As teenagers I think we get so wrapped up in things like school, extra-curriculars, relationships, friendships and college, that we forget what it’s like to chase something we’re passionate about. We smirk when we think about going with your gut or listening to your heart because doing something just to try it and see where it takes us just seems too pointless. But I think that if we took some time to think about this story, we could be surprised at how much we can learn:

The movie was about a girl who wanted to  venture far out into the ocean for no reason, other than the fact that she felt like it was calling her to save her island. She was perfectly fine where she was but she wasn’t satisfied until she went as far out as she wanted to go. Once that happened, she faced obstacles and opposition from her family but ended up doing something great by fighting the obstacles and opposition. Nothing told her to go out to sea except her heart. And when she listened to it, she was able to save a whole island. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t think with your head, but remember to listen to your heart as well. What you accomplish might surprise you.

Tragedy or comedy?

We just finished reading Macbeth in English, and it made me think back to reading Romeo and Juliet last year. One of the major issues we discussed in that play was whether it was a tragedy or comedy. What is interesting to me is how one piece of writing can be rightfully argued as two genres that are about as opposite as they can be. There are plenty of essays with compelling evidence for either side even today, hundreds of years later.

We prepared for this essay with sheet that listed the elements of comedy and the elements of tragedy so we could analyze the play using those to help us make our decision. I remember having a very tough time choosing because both seemed right when I was actively searching for each element.

I do want to clarify one thing: comedy doesn’t always mean laughing until you can’t breathe, especially not in Shakespeare’s time. When people argue this play as a comedy, they are not saying that it’s comparable to modern sit-coms or comedic plays of this generation. They are analyzing the play from a technical point of view. In a tragedy, something specific usually happens to the main character, and in a comedy, something different usually happens. So even if you didn’t find Romeo and Juliet a knee slapper, you can still argue it as a comedy.

With all of that being said I think it’s really interesting how a shift in perspective can turn something from a tragedy into a comedy or vice versa. If you look at the same story from a different angle, your whole perception of it can change. With some more analyzing and my love of sit-coms, I have found that this principle holds true with a lot of comedy shows today. If you take the most basic summary of the show, and say it, it can go either way. What makes these shows funny are oftentimes the delivery of the lines and the fact that the readers know it’s a comedy. Even the shows that have jokes in their scripts and are clearly funny could be argued either way at its most basic level:

Master of None– This is a Netflix comedy created by Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang. Oftentimes, the humor in this show is created by situational humor, rather than jokes in the script. The show does cover a lot of heavy material such as racism in the media, but the reason that people find it funny and not more like a drama is because they know it’s a comedy so the look for and pay more attention to the comedic elements rather than the serious ones. With a few tweaks in production, this is one of those shows that could easily be a drama (at least the first half of the season) because the subject matter is pretty heavy and you probably would not find very many jokes if you read the script–it’s all about the way the script was delivered.

The next shows I am going to talk about don’t follow that format, but I still think it’s interesting how the one-sentence idea of the show can be read different ways, even though it is not directly related to my point about Shakespeare. Just read:

Speechless–An ABC comedy created by Scott Silveri. This is about a boy who has a mental disorder that costs him the ability to speak. The show focuses on how he lives his life without speaking, and how his family tries to help him.

The Office (American version)–An NBC comedy adapted for American TV by Greg Daniels (originally on BBC created by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant). This is essentially about a boss at a paper company who desperately wants to befriend his employees and fit in with everyone at his office. Once he leaves the show, it becomes about employees living their lives at a paper company.

The Mindy Project–A formerly FOX and currently Hulu comedy created by Mindy Kaling. This show is about an Ob/Gyn who is single and desperately trying to settle down, find love, and get married.

This probably isn’t profound at all–just something that is hitting me right now. But if you read what each show is about, it does not sound like a comedy. Speechless and The Mindy Project sound like dramas, and The Office sounds sad and kind of boring (which is so hard for me to write because it is my favorite show of all time). But they are all hilarious. The Office and The Mindy Project has scripts that will make you laugh out loud because of the amount of jokes in them, and Speechless has funny scripts but a lot of what makes it funny is the stage direction and the delivery of the lines.

I even remember watching a panel discussion of The Mindy Project because I love the show, and the cast went down the line and talked about their favorite romantic comedies. I found it funny how a cast member would sometimes name a film, and someone else would argue it as a drama, because they focused on different aspects of the movies and looked for different elements of “tragedy” and comedy. The same movie, with a different perspective, can be taken in such different ways, even when we are given more than just the script. Maybe it’s just the writer in me, but I find it fascinating.


The hoax of horoscopes

The stars have aligned–but does it really mean anything?

Horoscopes have been used for decades to determine someone’s personality based on their month. Theoretically, everyone born within the same range of days have similar personality traits and get along with the same types of people. Sure, they’re fun to look at and compare with your friends, but there’s no actually credibility to horoscopes.

A couple years ago, I was obsessed with looking at those horoscope Instagram accounts, and scrolling through each post, hoping that the traits of my star sign would match up with my personality–and on rare occasion they did. But most of the time, the personality traits offered for my sign were either too general to be compared (i.e. sweet), or completely off. For a period of time, I became disappointed when my personality didn’t match the one word description on a single post and I even desperately searched for moments in my life that would allow me to validate myself to make a connection.

As I spent more time on these accounts, however, I realized that there is no real meaning to a horoscope. There are over seven billion people in the world and it’s simply not possible for them to all fall under 12 categories and there is close to no practical distinction between any of the zodiac signs. If you look up a single sign, not only are descriptions inconsistent with one another, they are so general that they could be anything. Every sign has a synonym of smart, emotional, stubborn, sympathetic, and a few others. Once they are all analyzed, every zodiac signs seems to cover all bases of a human being and there is no reason to group ourselves into categories that barely exist.

Clutter isn’t Always a Bad Thing

Author William Zinsser discussed the topic of clutter in his book entitled On Writing Well. Clutter, in writing, refers to the unnecessary addition of words in order to further explain a point. Zinsser gave myriad examples of clutter he hears in his everyday life, from flight attendants cautioning passengers to meteorologists predicting the weather.

There are some points in his chapter that I agree with: The more recent inclusions of the preposition “up” and the fact that redundancy is just that. Redundant. There has been, as Zinnser said, a newfound need to include a the preposition “up” after a verb when it’s not doing anything other than taking up space. Examples that the author gave were phrases like “head up” rather than “head,” or “free up” rather than “free.” I think that the word up is used way too often and I wholeheartedly agree that it could be deleted more often than not. In addition, when people write and speak, they tend to say the same thing twice but with different wording. This is a huge problem that I think applies for multiple genres. In creative writing, the story can be boring and drawn out if there are too many redundancies; in journalism, stories should be as concise as possible to save space in print and to keep readers engaged online.

Although I agree with those two points, there are definitely a few things in the chapter that I disagree with in regards to professionalism, political correctness, and adjectives. Zinsser gave the example of a doctor asking a patient if pain was felt, and claimed that the language they use is ‘pompous’ because they don’t speak in simple, everyday terms. With this, I disagree. The language used in a professional environment should be different and  more finessed than the language used within the household. A doctor talking to his patient like he speaks to his child, for the mere reason of removing clutter, is neither sensible nor professional. In terms of political correctness, I feel like the same ideas apply: The author stated that “Clutter was political correctness gone amuck,” (Zinsser 14). In my opinion, it’s better to  be politically correct and a little redundant than to be perfectly concise without a filter. The author also degraded the use of adjectives by saying that they were unnecessary and contributed to clutter. In my opinion, adjective are vital tools to unique, interesting writing. I do agree with the fact that a list of six adjectives is unnecessary, but to argue that adjectives were a waste of space is to argue that boring writing is the better alternative.

When great ideas turn Cliché

There is nothing more disheartening than being there to witness an amazing story idea turn cliché. I remember the moments when they were first introduced, and the rave they brought with them. I also remember the split realization I had at 2:00 am when I realized that the same idea was no longer original and brilliant. It had fallen into the rusty pile of Cliché:

The shockingly insecure teenage girl. How many times have you heard about the teenage girl that everyone thought was confident and sure of herself but was actually insecure and struggling? If I hadn’t heard this before, I would have thought that this was the most interesting idea, but now I can predict the outline of the entire plot from the description of the main character.

The rebellion of a dystopian society. Matched by Ally Condie: The main character rebels against her dystopian society by falling in love. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: The main character initially rebels against her society by making it impossible for the Hunger Games to have one winner. Divergent by Veronica Roth: This whole series was about the main character rebeling against her society by using her divergence to stay out of her country’s experiments. Don’t get me wrong, these are great books but the amount of times this amazing idea has been used has made it a cliché.

It’s a huge shame to watch great ideas such as these turn cliché, because they used to make readers so excited to read on. Unfortunately, the overuse of the ideas got the better of them and they are now ideas that some people prefer staying away from.