Unanenmity: Hating the Little Things, Together

Slate's Culture Blog
May 16 2013 5:21 PM

Unanenmity: Hating the Little Things, Together

Nothing washes popcorn down like hatred

Photo by Joe Corrigan/Getty Images for Universal Music

Something wonderful, terrible, and then wonderful again happened this weekend. I was sitting in a packed theater waiting to see The Great Gatsby. The lights dimmed, the music cranked up, the world smelled of butter and salt. Roll previews! In one trailer, a pair of astronauts tended serenely to repairs on a space station as Arvo Part’s Spiegel im Spiegel twinkled in the background. The details—the explorers’ weightlessness, the luminous view of earth—made the scene just unreal enough to seem real.  

Katy Waldman Katy Waldman

Katy Waldman is a Slate staff writer. 

It was magical. But then an explosion ripped into the space station, separating the woman astronaut from whatever was keeping her tethered. “What do I do? What do I do?” she gasped as she drifted away, a sad galactic marshmallow bound for doom. “Grab a hold, grab anything,” her panicked companion urged. (Was he George Clooney?) We heard her heartbeat thudding. Then, boom: another shot of the explosion. More shots of the woman astronaut (Sandra Bullock?) scrambling for a grip. 


The screen cut to black. A single word appeared: GRAVITY. But the trailer wasn’t done with us yet. We still had to suffer through an image of maybe-Bullock growing smaller and smaller in the icy void, a futile whisper on her lips: “Does anybody… copy?” I have never come so close to passing out in a movie theater.

This post, though, is not about the obvious sadism of Gravity director Alfonso Cuarón. It is about what happened in the aftermath of that sadism. The entire audience seemed to rise up in rebellion. People snorted, rolled their eyes, and muttered things like “nope” and “are you kidding?” A surge of fellow-feeling swept through the room, prompted by disbelief and indignation at a spectacle so obviously determined to shave years off our lives.

I want a word for this phenomenon, this joyful solidarity that arises from collective hate-watching. My colleague John Swansburg suggests unanenmity. Think of college friends streaming reruns of The Bachelorette or liberal families coming together to view the Republican National Convention (does anyone else do that?). Recall the spontaneous bond you feel with the woman at the gym who is grimacing at the same Carrot Top commercial you are. My guess is that some combination of the Gravity trailer’s terrifying premise, melodramatic execution, and incongruously “Hollywood” casting (Doug Ross and Miss Congeniality in space?) triggered it this weekend. I wish there were more bad previews, so that I could experience unanenmity more often. 

Because isn’t it amazing that two film stars in fake-peril could bring so many strangers together? Not in the sentimental magic-of-the-movies sense, but in the (more appropriate for our jaded age) I-can’t-believe-I-was-just-subjected-to-this-can-you sense. Sometimes we need to be reminded that we hold things in common, like a burning distaste for watching another human being lost to interplanetary nothingness.

Paradoxically, as Bullock’s astronaut floated farther and farther away from life and social connection, our moviegoing ties were annealing in a forge of hatred. It’s not that hatred is a good thing. But when we can hate the little things, together—that is a very good thing.



Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Photos of the Crowds That Took Over NYC for the People’s Climate March

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

I Wrote a Novel Envisioning a Nigerian Space Program. Then I Learned Nigeria Actually Has One.

A Futurama Writer on How the Vietnam War Shaped the Series

  News & Politics
Sept. 21 2014 11:34 PM People’s Climate March in Photos Hundreds of thousands of marchers took to the streets of NYC in the largest climate rally in history.
Business Insider
Sept. 22 2014 9:39 AM Adrian Peterson Has a Terrible Contract, and Cutting Him Would Save the Vikings a Lot of Money
The Eye
Sept. 22 2014 9:12 AM What Is This Singaporean Road Sign Trying to Tell Us?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 8:08 AM Slate Voice: “Why Is So Much Honey Clover Honey?” Mike Vuolo shares the story of your honey.
Sept. 21 2014 9:00 PM Attractive People Being Funny While Doing Amusing and Sometimes Romantic Things Don’t dismiss it. Friends was a truly great show.
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 7:47 AM Predicting the Future for the U.S. Government The strange but satisfying work of creating the National Intelligence Council’s Global Trends report.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 22 2014 5:30 AM MAVEN Arrives at Mars
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.