Review by Tatiana Miranda
Thirty years after the release of the first episode of Barney & Friends comes the two-part documentary I Love You, You Hate Me, which details the rise and fall of the plush purple dinosaur. Originally designed to keep creator Sheryl Leach's young son entertained, Barney's funny voice and saccharine songs quickly became a hit with toddlers everywhere, and the Barney-centered VHS tapes became a PBS show.
As depicted in the documentary, Barney's widespread phenomenon made him a child's favorite friend and an adult's worst nightmare. From modern-day fans of Barney to his past haters, this documentary goes beyond the show's rise to fame. While talking-head-style interviews depict how Barney came to be, the documentary shifts focus to the influence he had on children and adults alike.
How does the embodiment of love and positivity become the source of so much hate and controversy? This question is at the center of I Love You, You Hate Me, even being cleverly depicted in the name, which is a spin on Barney & Friend's classic "I Love You" song. While those who worked on the show talk about it with a sense of fondness, the parents, teens, and young adults that were left out of the show's target demographic reflect on it in contempt.
Psychologists and other childhood icons, including Bill Nye and Steve Burns, the original host of Blue's Clues, try to unravel why Barney faced so much ridicule and hatred. Although the documentary never comes to a concise answer to this question, reasons such as homophobia, nostalgia for more beloved childhood characters, parental jealousy, and culture's dry-cut sense of humor at the time are presented.
No matter the reason, Barney's bullying went beyond the dinosaur himself. Some of the show's original child actors discuss the end of their time on the show and their return to public school, where they were met with name-calling and conspiracy theories. Because of their association with such a hated character, their teenage years were filled with rebellion and bad choices to try to counteract the bullying they received while in school.
Even more so than the stars on the show, Leach's family was negatively impacted by Barney and the public's reaction to his existence. Portrayed as a shocking revelation at the end of the documentary, Leach's son, Patrick, and his actions as an adult come to light. His criminal activity, along with the divorce between his parents, are shown as the consequences of Barney's fame. Whether this is true or not is up for debate since both Patrick and Sheryl don't appear in the documentary.
While I Love You, You Hate Me is not the most cohesive documentary, often jumping from point to point, it gives a comprehensive overview of Barney's creation and the aftereffects. Twelve years after Barney & Friends's demise, this documentary revisits an iconic childhood character and his cultural influence and impact on those associated with the show.
I Love You, You Hate Me is now streaming on Peacock. Both episodes reviewed.