Ever notice how much more hatred something gets as its popularity grows? And how if it gets really popular, it seems like everyone in the world turns against it, which sort of makes no sense at all? Why the hell does that happen? Luckily for you, I saw an episode of Jake and the Fatman on the retro channel, so I'm pretty confident that I can put some clues together and crack this tasty nut, and we can all feast on the meaty goodness I find within. Come, grab some nuts with me!
Example 1: Nickelback
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Tell me your Nickelback jokes. Did you know that Nickelback was voted the second-worst band of the '90s by Rolling Stone? It came in right behind Creed, a band that literally crawled out of a toilet and into a studio (according to this guy I know). Other magazines have voted the Canadian crud crooners the worst band of all time. For years now (getting close to 20, in fact, if you can believe it), people have called these guys the worst. And yet how many bands ever last 20 years? Plus have five platinum-selling albums?
Nickelback is, without a doubt, the most popular hated band in the world. No band can claim as many non-fans while still being this popular. It boggles the mind. If literally everyone in the world is to be believed, no one has really listened to a Nickelback song except on the radio by accident as they scrambled to change the channel. And yet they sold 12 million singles off their second album, and 9 million ringtones. Who the fuck are those people? Who made that album triple platinum?
So we have to accept that not only is Nickelback a well-liked band, they're incredibly well-liked. They're hugely popular -- they're one of the biggest acts in the world, on par with Coldplay, U2, Madonna, and Beyonce. Their 2009 tour pulled in over $100 million. That's a lot of money for being awful.
Example 2: McDonald's
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People talk about McDonald's the way I assume everyone talked about Lenny from Of Mice and Men when he wasn't around. It's a thing that exists, but in a way you find shameful and mildly repulsive. That's how people talk about it. Jim Gaffigan has a great bit about how people react to the idea of McDonald's, as though if you suggested eating there, you may as well suggest having dessert in the rotten, exposed bowels of a roadkill possum. Also, McDonald's has an annual revenue of nearly $30 billion. That's more than twice the GDP of Iceland.
Clearly, the world loves McDonald's. Maybe you hate McDonald's, but I honestly don't believe you hate it. I believe, maybe, you don't want to eat there for health reasons, but you probably love the way their shit tastes. Taste that shit. It's delicious. McDonald's fries are just really fucking good. And I know Big Macs could kill me, but I also know that they probably won't, and that's all the reason I need to eat those delicious goddamn burgers. And I am not alone, because I don't have $30 billion a year to spend on Big Macs, so obviously other people are eating there, too.
Example 3: The Kardashians
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Remember when Kim Kardashian's ass broke the internet? Yeah, no. Someone should have let Paper magazine, the periodical for all your wallpapering needs, know that there are so many asses already on the Internet, and they're doing way more exotic things than Kim's greased-up heinie did. But that aside, that asinine ass moment caused one hell of a ruckus, as people all over Hell's half acre started to go on and on (again) about how shitty or useless or slutty or pathetic or ugly or lame Kim Kardashian is. Why? That's how the Kardashians affect people.
In Kim's defense, having an ass doesn't make her a slut, because most of us seem to have asses, and we're getting by alright. If the picture was of her with her ass jammed pull of bananas and butt plugs as it gasped and puckered like an insatiable sarlacc, then maybe the slut label would have more merit. And I'm also just going to toss this out there: that's a pretty awesome ass. Like, I get angry looking at that ass, because Kanye West is clearly a dick face and he gets to draw faces on that ass or put nickels in it for fun or whatever, and I feel left out. I'd do literally everything with Kim Kardashian's ass. And the rest of her. This is becoming way more sexist than I'd planned.
As for the Kardashians themselves, they've had a stupid popular show on TV for a decade now (Stupid can be used in both ways. Just because I'm defending them doesn't mean I don't think their sucky show doesn't suck. It fucking sucks). In fact, Keeping Up with the Kardashians routinely pulls in three to four million viewers an episode, and that's like three times what Mulaney pulls in. Mulaney!
Example 4: Twilight
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The Twilight films have grossed over $3 billion worldwide to date, while the books have sold 120 million copies in 38 languages. Can you even name 38 languages? There are people who speak languages you weren't even aware of who know just how idiotic the romance between Bertrice-Khan and Nougat was (Note: I don't remember the names of the characters, and didn't think looking it up would improve this section of the article).
Now, online you'll find no end of people making fun of Twilight for its terrible writing, terrible characters, terrible acting, terrible story, and terrible romance. There's even the "still a better love story than Twilight" meme to make further mockery of the douchiness of the franchise. And yet that all stands in stark contrast to the fact that 120 million copies of a book and $3 billion worth of movie is a shitload of interest in something that is pretty obviously horrible and shit-like.
Example 5: Walmart
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Remember when I said that McDonald's has worldwide revenue of $33 billion? That was a lot, huh? Walmart made $474 billion last year. There are 164 countries in the world that don't have a GDP that high. And you know you can't name a single chain store on Earth that gets made fun of more than Walmart. If Walmart were a person, it'd be an overweight hairy guy with face chlamydia. The customers get made fun of, the quality of the products gets made fun of, the employees get made fun of, and the abhorrent corporate practices of the suits behind it get made fun of. And it's bigger than any other retail outlet in the world.
Any time a Walmart comes into a town, people piss and moan about how it steals jobs and puts mom and pop stores out of work. Then they notice that a lot of people get jobs, even If they aren't great quality, and that Walmart charges 50 percent less than those crooks Mom and Pop, plus they have way more stuff. And a $5 DVD bin. You can't help but love Walmart once it's there, because it makes everything easier and cheaper for you. Plus, maybe you can take a picture of some lady shopping in her stained nightgown and send it to the People of Walmart blog.
Theory 1: Embarrassed Lies
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I kind of liked Nickelback when they first showed up. That sound was very popular in the '90s, that indistinguishable "is this Creed?" music that sort of evolved from Pearl Jam with a bit of a country feel to it. I started to dislike it when I really began to ask "is this Creed?" all the time, because I just didn't know. Your band should sound like your band, not every band.
The fact that the whole Creedleback sound was so popular speaks volumes as to why the band took off so well. It was the thing. And when it became not the thing, people didn't want to be on the wrong thing, so they said they didn't like that band anymore. But they kept getting bigger and, as with Justin Bieber, this sourceless hatred grew because it was so prevalent, so everywhere, how could you not? But secretly you didn't.
You want to hate McDonald's because a Big Mac is a fatty McFatburger made from toxic cows raised in plowed-under rainforests and prepared by underpaid single mothers in a crime-riddled part of town at the behest of thoughtless billionaires who don't care if you die of a coronary tomorrow. Of course you hate McDonald's. But holy shit, son -- a Big Mac is just so tasty. Just never tell anyone you think that. And of course the Kardashians are vacuous, talentless wastes of space and you would never watch their show, but just between you and me, Kim Kardashian is fucking smoking hot, and I bet she knows as much about quantum mechanics as I do. Why am I holding her to some standard that suggests she should be a genius or a saint or a multilingual chemist to be worthy of being on TV? I don't like her show, so I don't watch it, but I have nothing against her.
My theory, therefore, is that we lie. We are embarrassed to like these things because we perceive them to be unlikable by everyone else, and in an effort to preserve ourselves from mockery or derision, we join the crowd and just pretend. If everyone hates all of these things, no one needs to account for their popularity because, by definition, they are clearly unpopular.
Theory 2: Hipster Posing
Hipster posing is ever so slightly different than embarrassed lies, and I'll explain that subtle difference here. You lie out of embarrassment to protect yourself. You hipster pose to try to be cool. Even though you're blatantly trying to eschew what is cool. And how do we know Nickelback is cool? Because they're one of the most popular bands in the world, that's how. But the hipster brain doesn't work that way.
The hipster brain sees popularity as toxic. It's selling out, because a hipster thinks good musicians should be hobos who eat bugs and that Twilight can't be a good book because people have heard of it. And because the hipster is so venomous and judgmental and such a pain in the ass to be around, others start modelling their behavior after their's, to avoid any kind of interaction that would force them into a conversation with an actual hipster. You claim to not shop at Walmart because you don't give a shit about the reasons why this hipster asshole doesn't shop there, because his shitty reasons are based on crap he read in a locally-printed zine that uses fibers recycled from ruminant dung and hemp ink.
In point of fact, the hipster only dislikes popular things because they are popular, with no value judgment beyond that. It's contrariness for the sake of contrariness, as though that made one unique or special in some way, when in fact it kind of does the opposite. Which brings us to ...
Theory 3: Fear of Individuality
Hipsters are unique in the same way Oreos are unique. No other cookie looks just like an Oreo, except for the one billion other Oreos the company made last year. We, as a society, very much espouse this idea of individuality, while at the same time trying to guarantee you're only an individual in the same way as everyone else. A fine example of this are Juggalos, or emo kids, or goth kids, or scene kids, or anyone with "kids" after their name. If they're all unique, why do they all look the same, act the same, and like the same stuff? Because they just want to be different enough. Not different.
Part of being different means not going with the easy targets. The biggest band, the biggest restaurant, the biggest store -- you can't enjoy those things. That's what the squares are into, man! So ironically, you decide to be an individual by rejecting individuality and joining with the masses who say they hate that shit, even though, as we see, it's a big ol' stanky lie. You like that shit plenty, you just keep it on the d-low.
Theory 4: Genuine Shame
This is the thinking man's answer to the popularity vs hatred conundrum. Real, honest shame. You are ashamed that you like these things. Not because you're afraid of how others in your social group might perceive you, just because of how you perceive yourself for liking them. And don't feel bad if that's true; it's entirely valid. You can seriously feel that the members of Nickelback are terrible songwriters and still find yourself singing along to one of their shitty hits. I listen to Nicki Minaj sometimes, and she writes songs with the grace of a monkey that jammed a pencil in its ass and fell onto a sketch pad.
I know that Walmart is an abhorrent corporation that treats its employees like shit, but yeah, I like $5 DVDs too, so I shop there. I feel bad that I don't respect Kim Kardashian at all -- the woman married one of the biggest douchebags in the world -- but I did like seeing her ass. I know McDonald's isn't good for me at all and, well, I think Twilight sucks, but I can imagine someone liking it for base, shameful reasons. Maybe some dirty old lady really wanted to bone that tragic werewolf boy with the dumb line delivery. That sounds reasonable, right?
For more from Felix, check out 7 Things That Will Never Happen Again Thanks to Technology. And then check out 39 Innocent Gestures That Will Make People Overseas Hate You.
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