“Hype”: How, why and when it effects consumption of pop culture.

roflbotIn the era of TV on DVD, On Demand, Netflix, *coughdownloadingcough*, etc., you can catch up on a show at pretty much any point. Someone recommends a series to you, and the whole thing is at your fingertips.

It used to be that maybe a handful of people in your life would recommend a TV show, or a movie, or a book or a band to you. But if you’re following 900 people on Twitter, there’s a good chance that forty people are saying Girls or Homeland (or The Carrie Diaries, I guess, depending on who you’re following) is their new favorite show and YOU GUYS EVERYONE SHOULD WATCH IT NOW. Social media and the rest of the Internet has increased our circles of influencers and amplified their voices exponentially. And so you run into the problem of hype.

I ran into the hype problem with Homeland a few months ago. It seemed as though all of Twitter was raving about the show. It was winning awards. My friends and readers were urging me to watch. I finally did. And… I thought it was OK. Why didn’t I like it as much as everyone said I would? Because I had two full seasons to catch up on and, a) Season One didn’t live up to the intense hype that had built up in my particular world and b) Season Two was a major letdown for pretty much everyone, therefore intensifying the disappointment I felt when the show didn’t live up to the positive chatter surrounding it.

Now I see this happening with Girls. I recently re-watched much of season one with a friend, and I tried to temper his expectations as much as possible. I knew that the way I related and reacted to the show likely wouldn’t be the way he would, so I tried to play it cool. When I talk about Girls, I pinpoint the moment I fell in love with the show – a tactic that has worked on me in the past. When a friend introduced me to Happy Endings, he knew “Dave of the Dead” (Penny becomes a hipster) would be the episode to sell me on the show. A Twitter pal told me to hang in there with Cougar Town until the Thanksgiving episode, because that’s when the show finds its voice – she was right. I think it’s a well-known fact now that the first season of Parks and Recreation isn’t anywhere near the caliber of the rest of the series.

With Girls, most people will tell you the moment comes at the end of the third episode, when Hannah and Marnie dance to a Robyn song in their apartment. Hell, it’s even the song they played when Lena Dunham won all those Golden Globes. But now that the show has won awards and built a small, loyal fan base, new viewers say the show doesn’t live up to hype surrounding it.

Girls is, without a doubt, not for everyone. It tells a pretty specific story, it’s uncomfortable and makes you cringe as much (if not more often) as it makes you laugh. The characters can be incredibly unlikable. If you were to poll ten Girls viewers about their least favorite characters, I think almost every name would be mentioned by at least one person. It is absolutely possible that you might think the show just kind of sucks. When people love a show, they often can’t believe you don’t like it too – they’ll say “Well wait til you get to the cabin episode” or “You’ll really come around when you see The Crackcident.” But sometimes a show just ain’t your thang, and luckily no one has a gun to your head while you’re watching it. Another result of the culture of social media is pressure to feel in on the conversation all the time. If “everyone” is watching a show, you feel left out of the cultural zeitgeist and, if you’re anything like me, that just won’t do. But at some point, you need to be able to say “This was obviously not meant for me” and call it quits. (Hi, Boardwalk Empire! Hope you’re doing well!)

So how much should hype play a factor in your opinion of a show? If possible, not at all. My new goal is to keep my expectations lowered when diving into a show that everyone loves. If I’d taken what people were saying about Homeland with a larger grain of salt, I probably would have enjoyed the series more. When someone asks me about Homeland now, I say it’s absolutely worth watching if you have the time and interest – but I have a pretty long list of other shows I like more. Mad Men, The Wire, Breaking Bad and Sherlock to name a few. I’m no longer going to let “it didn’t live up to the hype” be a reason that I don’t like something.

It’s easier to consume pop culture if you judge it solely on its merits and not in direct relation to what everyone else told you about it. Otherwise, you’ll be setting yourself up for disappointment every time.

Now go watch all the shows I review. They’re all the best ever, you’re bound to love them.

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About Jill

Pop culture junkie and TV aficionado. I write sharp and snarky TV recaps at www.couchtimewithjill.com
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5 Responses to “Hype”: How, why and when it effects consumption of pop culture.

  1. Dana says:

    Interesting piece Jill. I do think the over hype can put people’s expectations off . I agree with you on Homeland, It’s had some great moments but I don’t think it is ground breaking television of any sort and this season was a mess.

    I think I am a victim of the over hype on Girls. It has some great and very funny moments but I think largely it’s ‘genius’ is in it’s raunchiness, that things aren’t whitewashed at all. I think Lena Dunham has done some great things with this show but I think she is under pressure to push the boundaries even farther and I must admit, maybe it’s my middle age but I find some of the things they talk about too raunchy, to the point where it pulls me out of the storyline.

    Do 20 somethings really have NO boundaries like this? I posed this q on my FB wall but the answers I got were from 45 year olds.

    • Jill says:

      Thanks Dana! I would disagree about Girls, only in that what I consider brilliant about the show isn’t any of the raunchy stuff, but how they manage to write the characters as very flawed and still keep me watching and rooting for them.

      I think any time you try and compare all 20-somethings, you’re not going to get any answers. People talk about it a lot with this show, and with the countless stories that have been written about this generation and whether we’re too ambitious, or can’t leave our parents’ basements, etc. It’s overwhelming to read, as someone who is part of that generation. Everyone is different. I certainly don’t act like the characters on Girls, but I do relate to some of the less boundary-pushing stuff. And I think, if you’re a 20-something hipster in Brooklyn who is trying to be an artist and went to a liberal arts college, etc. then maybe more of this will ring true for you.

  2. Vanessa says:

    I think you’re right, keeping realistic expectations is key. When I started watching Homeland, it was only based off of my manager’s recommendation, and I enjoyed it, but I only read up on the buzz afterwords where people were praising it for being “real” and I was all but…that shocking twist happened on season 2 of the pretty unrealistic “24”, and I think that’s part of the reason why even though I didn’t enjoy season 2 of Homeland as much as Season 1, I still appreciate it as a good spy/thriller type show. Thinking back to the movies that I watched in 2012, it seems the ones I was really pumped to see disappointed me and the two I enjoyed the most were the ones where going in, I had the lowest expectations. I really enjoyed Perks of a Being a Wallflower even though I had never read the book, and the previews for Magic Mike made it look like your average romantic comedy, but it actually ended up having some grit and touching on some timely issues.

    • Jill says:

      I couldn’t agree more about those movies. I always prefer to have low expectations for pop culture – and really, life in general.

  3. Nicole says:

    I jumped on the Homeland bandwagon and haven’t looked back. I can agree that the second season wasn’t nearly as good as the first, but I’m looking forward to season 3 redeeming everything. The problem with Season 2, I felt, is that it needed to set up a story in order to move the plot forward for the third season instead of just laying all of the cards out on the table.

    With Girls, I watch, and I like, but I don’t think it’s awesome. I don’t believe the Hype and I don’t believe it’s really that funny. Maybe it’s because I dislike Hannah as a character – or maybe I don’t get Lena’s humour – but I really think there needs to be more character development with the likes of Jessa and Marnie. We sort of now understand why Marnie is so uptight and insecure without a “path,” but I want to believe that there’s more to Jessa than being a hipster, free-spirit, bimbo. She’s vulnerable and that needs to be explored and understood. I really like her, Lena, please don’t let me be disappointed to learn she’s not as complex as I hope her to be. I think, being a diehard SATC fan, I expect more incite into the friends separate personalities and what holds them altogether. It leaves too many questions unanswered for me and betrays itself too often. For example, would totally nervous Hannah who freaked out about having HPV (something that 90 per cent of sexually active people contract) really be that cool and lassez-faire about doing coke? I don’t buy it, Lena.

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