Epilogue: Why “H8R” Gets It Wrong

by Karl J. Paloucek

Like everyone else on our editorial staff, I was asked to submit something about a celebrity whom I hate as part of our comment on the premiere of The CW’s H8R, featuring the ever-ubiquitous Mario Lopez. I’d like to say that I’m so virtuous that I just couldn’t muster anybody that I hated. To some extent, that’s true — I tend to think that life’s a bit too short to throw hate at people I don’t even know. (I barely have enough
time to hate so many of the people I do know …) And then I thought of Sting. And it occurred to me almost immediately what’s wrong with the picture of H8R and its premise.

I’m a music person. And as is the case with a lot of music people, there are some artists who, no matter what the quality of their work may be, drives me bananas. Sting is such an artist for me. There’s no question that the man is talented, as a bass player and instrumentalist in general, as a singer and as a songwriter. He can write a hook that’ll stick in your head for years and have people at dentist offices nationwide humming along. But he also has a pompous reputation. As one third of The Police, he still takes a slagging for an insufferable ego, even from his former bandmates. That’s hearsay, but it’s hard to avoid an impression of pretentiousness from a pop star who not only recorded an album of lute music by John Dowland, but released it — on the esteemed Deutsche Grammophon label, no less. Then there was the well-documented braggadocio of his tantric sex abilities.

Of course, these are cheap shots. And they don’t really give a full picture of either why I can’t stand him nor who he really is as a person. It’s sort of the point of a show like H8R to illustrate that a person should know another person before they declare how much they hate them out loud, on the Internet or wherever.

But this is where the show is entirely wrong, in my view. It’s a noble gesture, if a somewhat disingenuous one, to try to avert people from hating reality TV stars or other public personalities that they don’t know. We see a public version of these people on television, being outrageous and living lifestyles that are out of reach for most of us — and at a time when more Americans are living at or below the poverty level than have for nearly two decades — and we’re driven to dislike, envy, shock and any of the gamut of negative human emotions. We’re provoked, which is what many reality shows are designed to do. We hate the public persona that we see.

But we’re practically being asked to do so. The people behind those public personas often profit handsomely from their fame (or infamy), so it’s not exactly unjust that public wrath and general misunderstanding be part of the package. They’re part and parcel of seeking fame. And they’re probably two of the only real consequences the badly behaved reality stars in particular will suffer for their actions. I’m not necessarily advocating that they should be made to suffer — though it’s admittedly tempting from the perspective of someone who’s had to see their faces and hear their names over and over again for reasons of little importance — but once they’ve made their millions and eventually fade from public fascination (remember that Paris Hilton gal whom everybody used to discuss?), random scorn from the audiences they’ve deliberately built up is possibly the best incentive for removing themselves from the limelight. At least until age and/or iffy plastic surgery advance their presence.

By the way, I actually have no real hate for Sting. Yeah, his music bores me to naptime and in public he comes off as a pompous ass, but I’m willing to bet that if we met and got to discussing music or whatever, we’d probably get along just fine. But until then
that won’t stop me from hating that brand of his.


Photo: ©2011 THE CW NETWORK, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED  Credit: Scott Humbert/The CW