Of all the innovations the internet has been responsible for, the celebrity hate site is arguably not the most impressive.
A piece in the Guardian profiles those entrepreneurial souls who've chosen to devote their energy to such enterprises as ihatebono.com, antimadonna.dark-host.com, Facebook's I Hate Coldplay So Much It Makes Me Want To Cry Group and Sarahjessicaparkerlookslikeahorse.com. For the most part, the site creators say the projects started as jokes, and uniformly deny an 'obsession' with the objects of their vitriol. A few have reasonably compelling sociological arguments for their sites' existence. Says the founder of the Bono site:
Its purpose is to poke fun at someone who gets more irrelevant as time goes on. I like classic, old-school U2, but somewhere along the line it became a cult of personality that Bono seemed a bit too happy to indulge in. I write the site myself and I get my stories by Googling a few Bono-related phrases; it's not hard to find him sounding like a pompous ass. I'm not obsessed by him but clearly something about Bono's brand of twattiness captures me," he admits.
Adds the woman who runs the web's most popular anti-Twilight forum,
Our purpose isn't as a 'hate shrine'. We're simply a critique site that enjoys discussing Twilight just as much as any other fangirl would, except on a more intelligent level. We don't sully our time by discussing how much we want to jump the film's star, Robert Pattinson.
Well, fine, but if you wanted to foster intelligent dialogue, you really didn't need to call the web site "twlightsucks.com." And, for that matter, it's pretty hard to defend an anti-SJP site whose sole criticism seems to be based on the actress's appearance. However much you justify the forums as a means of venting or a joke that earnest people can't appreciate, it's hard to forget that they can easily become repositories of misogyny, hate and real ugliness, and even the site founders admit that the vitriol of some of their readers takes them aback. At the end of the day, however lighthearted the motivation, you're running something fueled entirely by negativity. Parker is, along with Madonna, George W. Bush and Rachel Zoe, one of the most popular "hate site" targets. ("Myself" is, depressingly, #1.) Now, for every one of these hate sites, a Google search reveals at least as many fan-sites devoted to a subject's virtues, so no one's suggesting that this phenomenon is going to spell the end of anyone's career: we've all given vent to irritation with celebrities from time to time, and I admit to having visited rachaelraysucks.com more than once on a bad day. Lord knows starting a site isn't much of a commitment - but it's depressing to think of people posting to them everyday, fueling a culture where insult is tantamount to discussion and a moment's ugliness can live forever in cyberspace.
I think the whole phenomenon is nicely summed up by the moderator of that former guilty pleasure, Rachael Ray Sucks. She's recently closed the site down, writing,
I've become a much happier person now that I no longer dwell on someone who irritates the shit out of me. Life is too short to be so negative and mean-spirited. Besides, in this crappy economy, the last thing on my mind is Rachael Ray.
Before your heart gets too warm, though, remember this: she's put the domain name up for sale.
Search Engine And Destroy [Guardian]