Miranda Sings, the YouTube sensation who makes a living parodying the Vlogger generation, has just struck gold with a Netflix series. Move over Zoella
In a first that will no doubt provoke bafflement and anger in lots of people over the age of 16, Netflix has released a TV series centred around a YouTuber. Not a reality series, but a scripted, sitcom-type affair consisting of eight half-hour episodes. The series is entitled Haters Back Off, after the catchphrase uttered by its star, Miranda Sings, in response to the people who pour scorn in the comments below the videos she posts of herself doing not very much and singing not very well to an audience of millions.
But Miranda Sings is not your average YouTuber in the Zoella/Alfie Deyes vein. Rather, she is a fictional character created by one Colleen Ballinger. In 2008, Colleen was a vocal student at Azusa Pacific University in California. She had started to notice that some of her peers could not sing at all, but believed that they could. They also believed that if they carried on uploading videos of themselves singing, they would eventually become famous.
Colleen didn’t think that anybody could get famous from YouTube. ‘So I created the Miranda character based on some of the girls I went to school with,’ she told California’s Lobero Theatre, ‘mixed with some of the girls who I didn’t know but who I saw singing on YouTube.’ Colleen’s parody videos were initially made with the sole intention of amusing her friends. But one of the videos, entitled ‘Free Voice Lesson’, took off and, all of a sudden, everything she did was being viewed tens of thousands of times. ‘It was really just supposed to be an inside joke,’ she told entertaintment website Call Me Adam . ‘I was horrified at the thought of the girls I was making fun of seeing the videos and knowing I was imitating them.’
‘With the first set of Miranda videos, I would thank “all my fans”, jokingly. But now it’s not really a joke’ Colleen Ballinger
Thanks to her inspiration’s lack of self-awareness, none of them did. Soon tens of thousands became hundreds of thousands, and Colleen was quitting her job at Disneyland to take ‘Miranda’ on the road, as a kind of stand-up comedy routine. Jerry Seinfeld saw one of the videos (via his 13-year-old daughter) and got in touch. Colleen found this surreal, to say the least.She had grown up watching Seinfeld and claims to have never missed an episode.
She went on The Tonight Show. She wrote a book as Miranda, ‘Selp-Helf’. She even met her future husband after he saw one of her videos and went along to one of the shows. Incredibly, Colleen’s videos making fun of YouTube sensations had changed her life and made her a YouTube sensation. It’s an irony not lost on her. ‘It’s completely ironic,’ she told Bob Bullen of the Chicago Theatre Addict, who also writes for The Huffington Post. ‘With the first set of Miranda videos, I would thank “all my fans”, jokingly. But now it’s not really a joke.’
The secret of Miranda, just like all great comedy characters, is that unless you’ve been told it’s a parody, you’re not quite sure at first. In fact, Colleen says that for a long time people were coming up to her after the shows encouraging her to keep on singing and following her dream. They were also walking out because of how obnoxious she was being. The same will be true of those coming to her Netflix show without any prior knowledge of her character.
Written by Colleen with her brother, Chris Ballinger, and with the help of writing duo Perry M Rein and Gigi McCreery (previous credits include Friends and Wizards Of Waverly Place), Haters Back Off is presented as a documentary charting the life and rise to the ridicule of Miranda.
It is going to be huge, partially because Miranda already has a huge online audience (her YouTube channel has had more than a billion views), but also because it is perfectly timed to appeal to people beyond that audience; namely, the older generation who now know who Zoella and Alfie are and know what a Vlogger is (even though no one really says Vlogger any more), but still think that the whole idea of them is ridiculous. They will relish a series that takes aim at these people and sets out to make fun of them. Essentially, Haters Back Off is a show for the haters themselves.
In fact, there’s a good chance Miranda will do for YouTube sensations what David Brent did for office middle-managers. And that is most definitely a good thing.
Other targets of ridicule
Up until 1984, it was perfectly acceptable for giant rock bands to wheel life-size Stonehenge monuments on stage, throw tantrums about the tiniest things and generally behave like spoilt children. Then Spinal Tap was released and suddenly they all looked like prize idiots.
The Charlie Brooker- and Chris Moyles-written Channel 4 series Nathan Barley suffered poor ratings and was dropped soon after it aired in 2005. Since then, it has come to be seen as a masterful send-up of twiddly-tached, toy-bike-riding east Londoners.
HBO’s Silicon Valley is being hailed by some as the best comedy show on TV at the moment, as it encapsulates how utterly ridiculous life in the most innovative place on earth really is.