Don't Hug Me I'm Scared series (2011-)

Published on 21 April 2024 at 12:03

Art has several recognized mediums, as it is a continuously evolving concept. Through its evolution, however, there tends to be dispute over the ability to describe “good” art, or if such a ranking is meant to exist. The Mona Lisa is the masterpiece of painting by Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci, in which the center of attention calmly stares at the viewer, her beauty present amidst the almost apathetic expression she dons. This painting is a nice complement to the realism present during its period in the Italian Renaissance. While the Mona Lisa painting is beautifully done, the artistic merit of the work comes from its influence from generation to generation, not just the articulate brush strokes and understanding of color theory. In likeness, while not as culturally renowned as Leonardo da Vinci’s work, there are plentiful more “art pieces” worth recognizing for the social implications, symbolism, and motifs present; such as the short web series titled “Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared.”

Now that I'm sure I've grabbed your attention by implying that I connotate this YouTube series with Mona Lisa, it's time to get rolling! I am a fan of all things horror. With that territory, comes being a fan of things quite bizarre in nature. "Don't Hug Me I'm Scared," or simply referred to as DHMIS, was the off-the-wall series that I fixated on throughout middle school. While "Gravity Falls" got me into the concept of film analysis, it's these incredibly artistic yet unorthodox YouTube installments that propelled me further, to the point that I have now made this website. Quirky at first glance, the series offers plenty of room for viewers to interpret as the episodes progress; I will use this post as a medium for me to share my well-researched thoery of my own.

Art is a style of communication, as it relies on the artist’s intentions transferring to any viewer, regardless of cultural, generational, gender, or cognitive differences. “Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared,” often simply referred to as DHMIS, is unique in the sense that the artistic intentions are for the viewer to decide for themselves. Becky Sloan and Joseph Pelling, creators of the British 6-part series, find that the viewer’s interpretation are more important to them than any meaning they could have possibly construed, explaining that “the [fan] theories that are so well thought-through (…) if it’s what you think, then it’s correct for you and for whoever else wants to believe it.” The universal truth apparent in the YouTube series, however, is that it depicts the beauty in the disturbing in lieu of The Mona Lisa’s exploration of the beauty in simplicity.

The episodes are shot like a spoof of many children’s entertainment. They feature friendly puppets being set up to learn different lessons revolving around time, love, technology, and health, experiencing dramatic twists in the plot towards the end that contradict the childlike demeanor established towards the beginning. In the first video of the series, posted nine years ago, the camera opens slowly panning around the whereabouts of an almost cartoonish kitchen, finally focusing on the three main brightly colored, inhuman puppets sitting at a kitchen table. The items and lighting in the room are colored starkly and cheerily, a gentle theme playing in the background as the characters light-handedly talk about what they should do to end their boredom. A notebook appears, wearing wide eyes and a bright smile as she starts to sing a song about creativity, with a jarring switch in tone and ambiance by the end of the song turning the “lesson” into something gory and terrifying. The puppets act unhinged as they dance in circles, the tempo of the song spurring on their recklessness and the dark, garish crafts they start to work on. At the end of the song, the puppets sit back at the table they started at, seeming startled and confused after the tone shifts, and the video ends when the notebook passes out, wearing singing that they should “all agree to never be creative again.”

There is a plethora of “Easter eggs” in the films for fans to seek out, most being nods to moments from previous episodes. However, the most recognizable and seemingly significant Easter egg is the number sequence “1906” that represents the calendar date seen in the background of every DHMIS scene, June 19th. Up until the fourth episode, where one the character’s head explodes, the dates popped up merely as something to look for; but with the death of a main character (none of which are named in the duration of the series – fan refer to them as Red Guy, Green Guy, and Yellow Guy), fans see June 19, 1955 in the back of a longshot during the credits scene. YouTuber “Film Theorist” explains that 1955 was a big year in the film and television sphere, as the second ever British broadcast channel aired in 1955.

Along with the main characters and the "teachers" introduced in each episode, we become more acquaintenced with a quite handsome and friendly lookin' dude named Roy. Roy is my favorite character to track. He is an Easter egg himself for some episodes after being introduced as Yellow Guy's dad, and while he embodies the creepy aura of the show with his appearances, I've always enjoyed the side characters in projects that carry a surprising amount of energy for whatever media they're being featured in.

Roy <3 <3 <3

In my eyes, DHMIS is an illustration and critique on the film and media effects on our society, analyzing the conflict from the lens of both the aggressors and victims alike. The first theme to be examined is the power structure and hierarchy established in the DHMIS universe, which is solidified with the sixth episode, meant as an unsettling conclusion to the series. Throughout the episodes, it is prevalent that each episode’s starring teacher seems to welcome the depravity that takes ahold of the lessons, with reasonable concern to believe that the teachers spurred it on. Teaching through fear, often referred to as fearmongering, is a method of dictational leadership that encourages alarm and concern with little to no presentation of facts and offering of logical solutions, instead using the strong emotional reaction as a persuasion tool to manipulate the actions of the target audience. Fearmongering, and fear propaganda, is prevalent throughout history. It was a common practice particularly before the Industrial Revolution, when Catholicism was the ultimate jurisdiction for reality, which completely absolved the desire for science and math. 

As an overarching theme, this show is a metaphor that represents the different age groups that are vulnerable to the media. Red Guy is the teenager, Green Guy is the elderly, and Yellow Guy is the young child. Roy represents the media itself personified - his name is on everything posted from DHMIS, as if he were a part of the production, and as seen in the 5th episode, his name is on a lot of products, as if sneakily advertising. He is always watching over the puppets and making sure everything is going as planned. The teachers are a part of the shows that brainwash the puppets and the age groups; they make them believe certain things, and make them do things a certain way. The puppets dually represent the parts of the brain that lets the age groups think for themselves. And they have been missing since June 19th.

Before I was an English major, I was a jornalism major, hoping to go into the political science direction. Being a part of the generation that has grown up on social media has made me appreciate the scope of its affects on our brains, so this series seems to embody everything that can be appreciated. Having these different messages being relayed all in the form of what seems to be a children's show is almost like a double entendre, and the artistry behind each production is commendable.

Letter I wrote to an old friend in 2016 after viewing the 5th "Don't Hug Me I'm Scared" episode. Yes, I was quite into it.

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