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Arts | Media

August 26, 2008

When Amelies Attack

The Onion A.V. Club's Hater, Amelie Gillette, tells Gelf about the worst pop culture has to offer.

Matthew Patin

While Amelie Gillette's column/blog for The Onion's A.V. Club is entitled The Hater, her commentary isn't entirely bilious ruminations on the decline of Western Civilization. Sarcasm is to the A.V. Club what satire is to The Onion, and Gillette dishes it out plentifully as she opines on "nausea-inducing things that no one wants to care about, but everyone does anyway." Here's a quick taste of her Pop Culture Love Letters:

Dear Billy Bush: "What's it like to be a varnished marionette with a brain chip emblazoned only with the word 'duh' and covering the Olympics?"
Dear Tyra Banks: "Being impersonated by [you] for a weird photo shoot in a fashion magazine falls somewhere in between an honorary degree from the University Of Phoenix (Online), and receiving a random empty compliment from a panhandling street person."

"I just consume a lot of pop culture and entertainment, and I keep a running list of terrible things I see/hear/smell."—Amelie Gillette

Can't you just feel the love? We can. So much so that we decided to ask Gillette about her complicated relationship with pop culture, politicians as pop stars, and her famous Tolerability Index, in which she conveniently maps out what's to love and loathe in any given week. After our exhaustive research indicated that she once worked in the Personals section of The Onion, we decided to ask her about that as well, but in fact she didn't. (Thanks, Google. Thanks for nothing.) Luckily for us, she toyed with the idea anyway. [You can hear Gillette, along with Sasha Frere-Jones and Robert Galinsky, talk about her work at Gelf's free Non-Motivational Speaker Series on Thursday, August 28 in New York's Lower East Side].

Gelf Magazine: How did you land your job as The Hater?

Amelie Gillette: I was a contributor to the site and the paper around the time the A.V. Club blog started, and I posted a lot there. Eventually, my editor noticed a charming tone (general mockery and exasperation) and a common theme (pop culture) to all of my pieces there, and so he decided to give me my own column on the site. And then a print column in the paper. And then a copy of The Last Kiss soundtrack, which I thought was weird yet appropriate.

GM: Why "The Hater" for the title? And could it be said that our relationship with pop culture is, in fact, a love/hate one?

AG: We brainstormed, aka "spitballed," aka "emailed around," a lot of ideas for the title of the column. In the end we chose The Hater because it was better than The Ambivalist. I can't speak for everyone, but my relationship to pop culture is definitely a love/hate, a hate/hate, and a love/love one, depending on what part of pop culture you're talking about. Occasionally, it's even a zzzz/zzzz one.

GM: You started your career in the Personals section of The Onion. There must be something endearing about moderating meticulously, cautiously crafted love-messages-in-a-bottle all day long. What did your experience teach you about love, lust, and the human condition?

AG: I don't know who told you that I started off as the Personals editor, but I wish it were true. In fact, guess what? It's true. I just made it true. I used to moderate the profiles of people who were hoping that their clever likes and dislikes would finally attract The One on a professional level. I was never the Listings Editor for the local section of Onion AV Club in New York, which is a far less fun-sounding position than Personals Editor. Anyway, I learned that the human condition is constantly looking for hookups.

GM: If The Hater were to have an Onion personal, how would it address these tough questions:
a) Fill in the blank: ____is sexy; ____is sexier.
b) In my bedroom, one will find…
c) Activities I'd enjoy on a date
d) On a first date, I expect
e) The celebrity I resemble the most [and why?]

AG: a) Former Listings Editor is sexy; Former Personals Editor is sexier.
b) In my bedroom, one will find a card signed by everyone in the Onion Personals department from my last day on the job.
c) Activities I'd enjoy on a date: wine, judging, Uno, talking about my tough day at the Onion Personals office.
d) On a first date, I expect Uno or references to Uno, discussion of the worst Personals we've seen.
e) Celebrity I resemble most: According to old people, Romy Schneider. According to everyone else, the woman in Rushmore. Why? Apparently our features are similar.

GM: How do you calculate the Tolerability Index?

AG: It's a very complex process that involves fractions, more decimal points than you've ever seen in your life, and whether or not Pluto is a planet that week. In truth, I just consume a lot of pop culture and entertainment, and I keep a running list of terrible things I see/hear/smell. On Tuesdays, I sit down and rank some of the things on that list.

GM: If you were to compile a Tolerability Index for the 2008 year up to this point, what are a few subjects that would surely make the Unbearable category?

AG: Madonna. Jennifer Aniston and her tired tabloid narrative (this has been unbearable since at least 2004). Portmanteaus like "spoonula." Movies based on puns, like Fly Me To The Moon.

GM: One commenter on The Hater blog recently noted that you hadn't included anything about the Olympics in the Tolerability Index. Do you ever look back and think, Damn, I should have included X in the index?

AG: Yeah. I do that all the time. The good thing is that I write a new one every week, so I can put X in then. (And by "X" I mean the posters for Spike Lee's 1992 biography of Malcolm X. It's about time someone registered their annoyance with them.)

GM: You blogged about those strange new flip-flops with clusters of Obama or McCain heads. When and how did politics enter the pop-culture domain? I mean, everyone knows now that Obama is totes BFF with Paris Hilton.

AG: Presidential politics have almost always been pop, if for no other reason than to win the presidency you have to appeal to a broad swath of the population. That means knowing what they like, and that's pop. I think we're maybe just noticing it more now because Obama can be on the cover of US Weekly, and sell many, many copies. But People—which is a tabloid, no matter what they think—has always to some degree covered politics. Politicians have always been celebrities. (Don't tell that guy from the New Radicals). How else would they get elected?

Matthew Patin

Matthew Patin is a writer (sometimes) and editor (kind of) in New York City.

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- Arts
- posted on Aug 30, 08
Teh Hata

So, in the great scheme of things, who the eff is she and why should anyone care?

- Arts
- posted on Mar 05, 10
Kirk Cameron Left Me Behind

You, dear sir or madame, are a cuntbot.

Article by Matthew Patin

Matthew Patin is a writer (sometimes) and editor (kind of) in New York City.

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