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TV/Film Dear Evan Hansen: TikTok still hates you

Jan. 6, 2022

If there’s one universal truth, it’s that TikTok teens loves bashing awful movies. They’ve roasted everything from Joey King’s pixie haircut in The Kissing Booth 3 (congrats to Jacob Elordi on his freedom from that Satan-spawned franchise) to the unnecessary and weird Cinderella remake (is there anything James Corden touches that isn’t cursed?). While these movies have gotten considerable hate, nothing compares to the extreme backlash Dear Evan Hansen has faced. 

This movie popped up on my For You page like an unholy jumpscare. I had no idea what it was about, but my fight-or-flight response told me to look away. Why was this 42-year-old man singing in a high school hallway? 

Pretty soon my feed was littered with Dear Evan Hansen hate, and this was before the movie even came out. As the backlash grew bigger, I started to piece together the story from different TikTok users. I learned that this movie was based on the Tony-winning stage musical, and that Ben Platt originated the role of Evan Hansen. His performance on Broadway earned him critical acclaim and a Tony Award at age 23. So if he was praised universally on stage, what went wrong with the film adaptation? Let’s take a look:

The prosthetics and makeup that made Ben Platt look embalmed
The biggest complaint on TikTok has been about Ben Platt’s age and how he looks in the film. He was 27 at the time of filming, but Hollywood casts older 20-somethings as high schoolers all the time (I’m looking at you, Jason Earles from Hannah Montana). This is nothing new. But Dear Evan Hansen’s film crew somehow aged Ben Platt fifteen years with cakey makeup and curls that made him look like Will Ferrell’s middle-aged cousin. None of the other actors playing high schoolers got this kind of treatment—simply because they already looked much younger than Platt. The close-up shots of Platt’s ghoulish face paired with washed-out hospital lighting didn’t help, either. How is this from the same director who made Perks of Being a Wallflower?

Ben’s Platt’s cocky attitude

Ben Platt can sing and he knows it. While confidence can often be admired, Platt has acted like an arrogant asshole in real life. “My defensive response is to want to go onto Twitter and be like, ‘F you, guys. You don’t even know that this wouldn’t exist without me,’” he said about the movie. While it’s true Platt originated the role, he’s completely disregarding the other accomplished stage actors who have played Evan Hansen as well. The film’s cast also responded to the criticism with a sour attitude; they defended Platt and even brought up how old all the actors looked in 1978’s GreaseTikTok was not having it and rightfully fired back: Grease is a campy musical while Dear Evan Hansen strives for realism and relatability. In the end, the actors fought the very audience this film financially depended on, alienating countless people in the process.

The undeniable nepotism

Ben Platt is the son of Marc Platt, who co-produced this film. While we usually love nepotism babies, we don’t love people who are so blatantly wrong for a role. TikTok users have repeatedly brought up this issue, musing that Ben Platt only got this part because of his father. (It should be noted that none of the other actors from the original stage production got to reprise their roles for the film.)

The repulsive story disguised as “inspirational” 

Dear Evan Hansen is unsettling. Evan is a high schooler who has depression and anxiety, and his therapist recommends that he write himself letters detailing why each day will be a good one. Instead, Evan writes about his struggles, and his letter gets into the hands of a fellow student named Connor who later commits suicide with the letter found on him. Connor’s family believes the letter is his suicide note addressed to Evan, and Evan soon finds himself in a tangled web of lies wherein he makes up a friendship to help Connor’s family cope. 

While the film wants us to feel bad for Evan, we can’t deny that he is lying to a grieving family. His blatant dishonesty is harmful, and the film depended on audiences to sympathize and understand this troubled teenager. We’re supposed to believe Evan is too innocent and naive to fully understand his actions and their consequences. However, that all goes out the window because, again, Ben Platt looks like a grown man trying to refinance his mortgage. Evan Hansen does not feel real or believable, and we do not feel sorry for him

All of the cringe-inducing scenes (that have given us golden meme material)

The memes from this movie have been endless, like Ben Platt’s awkward Naruto run. Or his constipated crying face. Or the cheesy PowerPoint transition straight out of Microsoft Office 2010. The internet loves memes, and Dear Evan Hansen feels like one big inside joke between all of us. 

I had the misfortune of seeing Dear Evan Hansen when my friend begged me to go with him. He was aware of all the hate but still wanted to watch it. No amount of buttery popcorn and Skittles could have saved me; it was two hours and seventeen minutes of hell. Everyone on TikTok was right. At no point was I rooting for Evan Hansen. I’ve been told that the stage production portrays him as more of a bad guy and makes him work through his remorse, but that obviously got cut from the movie. Overall, the film is far too forgiving of his character. 

Still, I think it’s important to consider how TikTok has spread this immense hate like wildfire. The movie has a 30% on Rotten Tomatoes, but some of the reviews have been mildly positive. In contrast, I haven’t seen a single good thing said about Dear Evan Hansen on TikTok. The hate is justified, but it also reveals the app’s extreme influence on all of us. People want to be seen; they often want to go viral. TikTok is built on trends, and it’s trendy to hate Evan Hansen. Because the hate is so rampant, people feel confident openly bashing and posting about it, even if it’s just for clout. Many haven’t even seen the film, and a lot of these people probably wouldn’t have thought twice about the movie had it not blown up on TikTok. I never thought we’d all be talking about Ben Platt’s crow’s feet, but the internet connects us in the strangest ways. 

So next time TikTok hates on something, ask yourself if that hate is warranted. (It usually is, but it’s okay to go against the crowd and make decisions for yourself. Unless you like Kylie Swim. In that case, reevaluate your life, please.) People post for views, and a lot may jump on the hate train just because it’s the trendy thing to do. I’m not telling all of you to go watch Dear Evan Hansen, because you really shouldn’t, but remember that TikTok has magnified this hate a million times over. The backlash will subside once the next awful movie comes out, but the mighty force of TikTok will remain.