If we only have three minutes on a subway platform to skim through The Onion, it's basically going to involve checking the headlines, the editorial cartoon and The Tolerability Index, an infographic of this week's pop culture travesties, as compiled by Amelie Gillette, aka "The Hater." Gillette has a terrific ability to serve as a cultural thermometer—both catching absurd things we might have missed (that Mary Jo Buttofuoco's new book was called "Getting It Through My Thick Skull") or calling out unfamiliar targets that go unchecked (say, Funny or Die videos). She more than earns her Hater nickname with the barbs dished in the Index, but yet also reveals a real soft spot for the absurdity of it all on The Onion AV Club's blog and in her weekly column, Pop Culture Love Letters.
When we first asked her for an interview, she wrote back that she would agree to do it due to her motto, "Anything Werner Herzog can do, I can do too (except a credible German accent)." She set the cultural bar high and yet we still wound up discussing such topics as what we didn't catch in My So-Called Life as teens that we catch now, and if it's all right to watch Tyler Perry movies ironically.
How did you end up in New York? I went to NYU. Did you write for the paper there? Yeah, I did a few things for Washington Square News. I wrote a thing about a girl who wanted to be the next Britney Spears. She was a friend of a friend. She was really serious about it though.
Did she get plastic surgery? She was more like "a person living a dream," one of those kind of stories. We're drawn to them. Everyone is. Because we need that magic in our lives.
So then you just stuck around after NYU? Yeah, I freelanced for a while, for Blender and Time Out. And I taught English in Italy for a while, which is a great, bougy thing to do. Or I'm like my parents' version of a bougy.
Like Under the Tuscan Sun I'm exactly like Diane Lane. Then when I came back, I got my job at The Onion, my first job that wasn't freelancing.
Do you have any regrets about choosing the name "The Hater"? Do people often get the wrong idea from it? I think having that name it's fairly obviously tongue-in-cheek. If you read it, you would know. But shockingly some people who read it don't seem to know. To me that's funny though. I don't like when people email me and tell me I'm "hating on the wrong thing" or "why are you hating on this?" I'm not really hate-hating on it. I don't have a pathological fixation on these things. It's an expression. But I feel like I back up my reasons for not liking things. I like that name.
It's an identity. It becomes the Miss Anka of our generation. That's how I've always thought of myself, like Miss Anka. No, I don't think that it misrepresents me.
Do you have any favorite spots around town? Anywhere you go to write? There's a place in Park Slope called Roots Cafe and I like to write there. The inside of it has astroturf and futuristic metal tables that are built into the wall. It sort of resembles and adult version of Gymboree. And they have free wi-fi.
Like Discovery Zone? That doesn't seem like a good combination: kids and free wi-fi. When I was growing up in Louisiana, there was a place in this terrible suburb Kenner called Fun Factory, which was sort of like Discovery Zone. It was ball pits and big foam building blocks and castles and tunnels. And I remember in high school, my friends and I thought that an awesome business would be opening one of those for grown-ups. But then we just thought it would be kind of gross because people would go there and make out and have sex on it. Cause that's what grown-ups do when you leave them alone.
If this is the age of the name squish—A-Rod, K-Fed, whatever—what language trend do you think will come next? Besides portmanteaus, like "sexting"? Mandals, staycation, funemployment—those sorts of butcheries. I wish more German words would come out. Schadenfreuden. Those sorts of words. Maybe I'll just start working in more gesunheits and lederhosens.
What about just "neiiiiiiiin"? Like the number? Ha, no. Like "no" in German. The number, sure. "Niiiiiiine!" Where can we go with this? I thought you were just advocating that people say numbers to mean other things. Like "man, that's a two." Number slang. "That guy's a five." But I don't know what it exactly means yet. We don't want it to mean just looks. But German's fun. It just sounds like a sneeze.
What's your favorite "only in New York" story? How do you know if it's only happened in New York? Do people ask that a lot?
Oh, sometimes. It seems harder when you've lived her for a while versus people who just come through town. And then people here will just end up remembering, "Oh yeah, there was a guy who took a shit on my subway." Well that would only happen if there was a) a guy in another place and b) a subway.
You think that's all it takes? I think that's definitely all it takes. Well, a guy who needs to go to the bathroom. How about gall? It's true. You need gumption; you need moxie. Right, see? That New York spirit is what I'm hearing. If you call it New York spirit, I call it loose terms from the 1930s...Wait, so now I really want to think of a real New York story for you. Well, when I was in college, I was walking from class and this guy in a business suit walked towards me and looked over me, then passed me. But then he came around and passed me again. And as he was passing me again, he says, "Miss, do you like Marilyn Manson?" I was like, "What?" So he repeated it because it bears repeating. I said, "No." And he said, "Well, he likes you." Then he walked away. If I had said yes, what would have happened?
Since you're "The Hater," do you have a New Yorker you least admire? Andy Cohen from Bravo. He's the head of programming there and then he gave himself his own talk show. He's just like a "duhh."
Was there ever something you were culturally resistant to that you found yourself giving into? Sure. This is a really pretentious thing to say. But I went to an arts high school so we had to watch a lot of "great" films as part of the curriculum. A lot of those movies I loved at the time, but some of them I couldn't stand. For instance, Fellini's 8 1/2, I hated that. Now I really enjoy it.
That is really pretentious. I know. I wish I had a lowbrow answer. Maybe The Big Bang Theory?
What are you a huge nerd about? Well I'm really into My-So Called Life. I wrote recaps of the episodes for the TV section of our website.
Do you have any favorite nuggets from "The Wisdom of Angela Chase"? I've always been partial to: "There's something about Sunday night that really makes you want to kill yourself." And also, "People always say you should be yourself, like yourself is this definite thing, like a toaster or something." She is so teen-wise.
Who's your favorite My So-Called Life character—besides Juliana Hatfield, of course? Oh my God, homeless angel...no. I like Rayanne, I think everyone likes Rayanne. I like Ricky, but Ricky can be a little sappy sometimes. Brian Krakow. You know what's funny when I watched the episodes all at once for the write-ups, I'd pick up stuff that I didn't get watching it episodically week-to-week as a teenager. Like I didn't see how much he completely loved Angela. And as a 14-year-old girl, I did not know that. I got that he liked her. But I didn't get the level. And that's like the entire point of the show.
Ugh, that drives me crazy! You were just furthering the problems of the Brian Krakows of the world. You just didn't "see it." And she doesn't see it.
Do you strictly write for the AV Club or is there any crossover to the main section?Is there any divide between the two sides of the paper? I contribute headlines. I just started doing that this year. No, there isn't really any divide. Other than explaining to people that you don't write comedy for The Onion.
Do you ever get irony guilt? I don't know what irony guilt really means.
Say when you enjoy something sort of tongue-in-cheekly and then you encounter someone who really likes it and you feel bad—like the Gin Blossoms maybe. Well I have an ironic appreciation for Tyler Perry movies. I go and watch them, but they're terrible movies. They're not good films in the sense that they say anything different or that they accomplish anything. They're poorly written. The characters are all over the place. They'll have a serious drama and then there'll be a Madea interlude. And also they have terrible messages. There's one, Diary of a Mad Black Woman, where her husband is cheating on her and then he gets into an accident where he gets paralyzed. So she has to take care of him, but she still hates him. And he's in a wheelchair and she'll just hit him. Or she'll run a bath for him and he'll sink into the tub and she won't help him up. No one knows that she is basically holding this man hostage because he cheated on her. So eventually he forgives her for this. By the end of it, it's this redemptive story about this woman, who did these terrible things to this guy who didn't deserve it in any way because he cheated on her. So the message of this movie is that you can be a criminally terrible person; but in the end, you can find happiness because you go to church or because she releases her anger. That's not a good message. So I go to see them because they're awful.
But it's not the Number One movie in America because everyone wants to appreciate how awful it is. No, people love these movies. People shout back at the screen and laugh at these jokes that are so horrible and mean. But I don't feel guilty about that. I have my reasons for going and they have theirs. Some people saw it because they really like that big, muscly guy who's always taking off his shirt.
Do you think that it could ever "8 1/2" with you? Tyler Perry? No. But would I feel weird if I was taking to someone who genuinely enjoyed his movies? I think there's a German word that describes this. I think it's lederhosen.