It's said that way back in 1972 a distraught liberal journalist complained that she couldn't see how Richard Nixon could possibly have won the last election in a landslide, since none of her friends voted for him. This story is almost certainly a dirty, dirty lie, but it's a good hypothetical demonstration of how isolated we can be in our tastes. We know enough about an item or product to realize that it's a national punchline, and even enough to make jokes about it ourselves, while never meeting a single person who actually likes the damn thing.
The danger here is clear: If we allow ourselves to hate uncritically, we might turn into people who just parrot jokes back and forth to each other without actually knowing what we're talking about, like Nickelback fans making jokes about actual music. I decided to help end this terrible isolation, and investigate four of America's most hated things. First on my list was ...
#4. Axe Body Spray
Often known as "douchebag Febreze," Axe body spray is so unpopular that when it caused a safety scare at a Brooklyn high school it was gleefully reported by approximately all the news outlets. This widespread Axe-hate also gives us hundreds of jokes like this:
Why Do We Hate It?
It's not just that people tend to spray on too much of the stuff. After all, some people douse themselves in too much perfume or Old Spice aftershave, and the complaints about those aren't nearly as widespread. A better culprit for the reasoning behind our hate is this:
That is, of course, an example of Axe's long-running terrible "Axe Effect" advertising campaign, which is apparently aimed at young men who think the reason they can't attract members of the opposite sex is that they're not dousing themselves enough in artificial scent, rather than maybe their personality or the fact that they haven't entered puberty. Even when the ads are not getting into "grossly demeaning to both sexes" territory, they're ridiculous: Women aren't zombie-like creatures whose attraction to you can be flipped like a switch just because you smell like artificial spices mixed with flop-sweat. And even if they were, what are the odds that every woman you attract during your Axe-wearing day will be perfect models? Wouldn't you also attract that toothless lady who lives in the Rite Aid parking lot and smells like methane?
Matthew Cachia/iStock/Getty Images
The bedbugs on that blanket are just little nightly love letters.
So Why Is It Still So Popular?
Despite all this vitriol, Axe still claims 70 percent of the body-spray market and has proven so popular among adolescent boys that some high schools have banned it. And it's all thanks to those same dumb ads we roll our eyes at: Axe's media spots are actually heavily financed, carefully researched, and constantly updated, with researchers visiting college towns to attend keg parties and take notes on potential market trends. They've even been amending their ads recently to reflect the younger generation's emphasis on gender equality. Plus, while most brands have traditionally hidden their "women will climb your flagpole if you use our product" message behind delicate innuendo, Axe was among the first to come out and pummel the non-complex adolescent brain with the message in plain boob-text.
And maybe that word, "adolescent," is key to explaining not just the success of Axe body spray but also our strangely deep hatred of it: We hate on Axe so much because we recognize ourselves in these commercials. All of us, male or female, have at one point been naive, young, or stupid enough to fall for consumerism's cruel lies and buy products that we hoped would make us more likable. We've all secretly wished that we could find a magic wand to make us acceptable and popular, without doing any of the hard work of "improving our personalities" or "trying to be good people" or "bathing enough." Now we project the shame of this self-recognition onto the poor, young, acne-ridden dupes who still buy body spray with the expectation of being drowned in a sweaty pool of hot women. We've all got a little bit of Axe-douche in us, and we know it.
#3. Internet Explorer
It was only in 2014 that Chrome overtook Internet Explorer as the most popular browser among Internet users, and even then it barely edged it out, with a 31.8 percent share to IE's 30.9 percent (but perhaps that downward trend was partially behind Microsoft's decision to develop something different). Still, nearly one in three computer users in this country are clicking on that big blue "e" to start their web-browsing adventures. But you wouldn't know it by looking at all the jokes:
Via Hugo Gameiro
Why Do We Hate It?
For most of its history, Internet Explorer has been the slowest of the browsers, both in terms of how long it takes to load a site and in terms of how slow it was to innovate at absolutely anything (it didn't even offer tabbed browsing until 2006). Even though the browser has apparently gotten better recently, it still seems like an inferior choice. But then how can we explain the one in three people Internet Explorer still grasps in its slow-loading blue claws? Is one in three people your grandmother? Even if that number was made up entirely of people over 85 who don't know how to change a browser, you'd think that a grandchild could kindly do the switch for them when he or she came over to remove the 57 Ask.com toolbars they'd accidentally installed.
Hill Street Studios/Blend Images/Getty Images
"DeviantArt loads much more quickly now. Thank you."
So Why Is It Still So Popular?
It was only after several hours of deep thought and browsing anthropomorphic Internet Explorer stick-figure cartoons that it occurred to me: Despite the promises of Rule 34, no one has written browser-on-browser porn yet. Then, something much more relevant to this article occurred to me: Many users remain stuck on IE because some people just don't use the Internet that much. These people have computers that came with IE already installed, and they keep that browser on their computers because they only use it once a day to check the morning ... crop reports, or something. I don't know; I am unfamiliar with how these people live. But because they're taking only five minutes a week to check comparative lumber prices or whatever, the slowness and lack of features don't bother them enough to upgrade.
Understandably, we hate and fear such people, because at this point we're barely the same species, but they don't care: They're too busy ... bird-watching, I guess. Or maybe making those wooden chainsaw sculptures. I'll ask one next time I go outside.