Pop Psychology: Why We Love To Hate Nickelback

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nickelbackPhoto: Courtesy of WMG.
There are only a few, safer ways to get a cheap laugh than to make a joke at the expense of Canadian band Nickelback, right? But, even a gentle barb directed towards Jennifer Lawrence could backfire terribly and earn you the ire of her legions of online fans. Why is this, exactly? "Because people hate Nickelback and love their J-Law," you say. This is correct, but how do we decide who we love, hate, and — of course, love to hate? Mashable provides a pop psychology analysis.

Mashable notes that Nickelback, from a strictly commercial viewpoint, are actually insanely successful (breakout hit "How You Remind Me" has been spun over a billion times since 2002). But, critics have always despised their paint-by-numbers rock, and soon music listeners joined in on the hate. Mashable consulted with KnowYourMeme.com to trace the very first anti-Nickelback meme back to 2004, when they scored an unflattering entry on Urban Dictionary. From there, it snowballed. Canadian columnist James Fell thinks the Nickelback hate probably originated from a collective lightbulb moment when everyone, online and off, started to realize that the band might not be that good. "The videos, memes and articles that mock the group surfaced on the web just as critics and social commenters began to question the band's originality — a perfect recipe, given the lack of targets at the time, for a new online joke to emerge," as Mashable's Eric Larson put it.

Almost a decade later, Fell still feels passionately opposed to the band. "[Kroeger] could find a cure for cancer and I'd still hate their music," he says (wow, intense!), before admitting: "I still have friends that love them. Love them. Those people do exist."

With that exceptionalist logic, there must be someone out there who doesn't like Jennifer Lawrence, right? Though, being smart, funny, self-aware, and cute — anyone with a beating heart will find it hard to hate. (And, it's worth noting that she seems genuine — the human element that the same Internet public thinks Anne Hathaway is missing.)

Once she took her GIF-worthy Oscar spill (and totally owned it), Lawrence became an endearing Tumblr hero overnight. And, again, things snowballed. The Internet exploded with love for JLawr — and she knew it. "She knows about this. She ends up subconsciously (or unconsciously — who knows?) open to be a little goofier in public. It feeds off each other," writer Kelsea Stahler said to Mashable.

This is how our celebrity heroes and foes are engineered. But, what should we make of the eternal novelty known as…Nicolas Cage? Since 2005, he's been the subject of countless zany memes, with "Nicolas Cage Loses His Shit" proving a particularly popular YouTube clip. Best of all is a very intense Reddit subpage, /r/OneTrueGod, in which fans ironically worship Cage. It has 57,000 subscribers.

OneTrueGod founder Austin Friedman says it started as a flattering joke, but quickly became an unexpected phenomenon. He chalks the flourishing Cage meme world up to the charisma of the actor himself.

"He's magnetic to people. He's eccentric, but he does it in such an honest way," he said. So people respond in equally zany measure. They're poking fun—but it's done with love. For what it's worth, Cage himself doesn't seem to mind, telling The Guardian: "The Internet has developed this thing about me – and I'm not even a computer guy, you know? I don't know why it is happening…I'm now of the mindset that, when in Rome, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em."

Spoken like the One True God.