For those of you who don’t know the background to new Netflix series Haters Back Off, the character that the show revolves around, Miranda Sings (created and played by Colleen Ballinger), was originally a fictional Youtube personality. Since its conception in 2008, the character’s YouTube channel has attracted over 7 million subscribers, making Miranda Sings one of the most popular characters on the video platform.
Ballinger created the character as a parody of girls she studied acting and voice with. Miranda Sings is vain, self-centred and believes whole heartedly that she is a beautiful and talented singer, dancer and actor destined for fame. She is completely naïve to the fact that she has no talent and is detestable. She sees herself as an internet celebrity and is infantilised to the point that she makes constant spelling and grammatical errors in her writing and speech.
Haters Back Off is interestingly the first scripted series created by a YouTube personality. In the show, we see Miranda’s origins as she uploads her first ever Youtube video with the help of her strange uncle Jim (Steve Little). From there, they work through a number of ‘steps’ so Miranda can continue on her rise to ‘fame.’
We are also introduced to the teenager’s hypochondriac mother Bethany (The US Office fans will be delighted to see Angela Kinsey on TV again), her normal sister Emily (Francesca Reale) who is frustrated by her family’s antics, and her socially awkward but endearing next door neighbour Patrick (Erik Stocklin), who has a big crush on Miranda.
The show works in the concepts that form its basis. It commentates on social media, the internet, celebrities, and the spoilt and self-centred nature of young Millennials (particularly those who are pandered to by parents and other family members). At the same time, one is forced to question whether the show really takes the character of Miranda and what she says about today’s society in a new direction that the Youtube videos have not yet attempted.
Another question one asks in relation to the series is what exactly the target audience is here. There is a sense that because the Youtube edition of Miranda Sings has a number of young fans, the show is catering to a general audience. It feels a little conservative in this regard and there are few adult 'in jokes' for older audiences.
Then again, perhaps this was a conscious decision on behalf of the producers, for all the main characters of Haters Back Off (aside from Emily) maintain a sense of innocence which, although very much aligned with naivety, is generally endearing. From this perspective, again, the show works, and its quiet town, simple life setting is also invigorated by the music and suburban production design which feel kind of Tim Burton-esque (Edward Scissorhands particularly comes to mind here).
Overall, the series is good fun, entertaining and has some genuinely laugh-out-loud moments. Moreover at just over four hours long (its eight episodes are approximately half an hour long each), it’s far from the most time-consuming series you could indulge in. Here’s hoping the second series, if it gets the green light, will be more border-pushing on its themes.