CW: Disturbing Content
Did that video just freak you out? Maybe you feel disgusted, confused. But maybe you watched it again. Maybe that tune is stuck in your head? Maybe you clicked and found the sequels?
This disturbing, yet oddly addicting series is Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared, a web series created by Becky Sloan and Joseph Pelling. The series is a parody of “educational” children’s programming, and tackles not only creativity, but love, time, information, and healthy eating. Kind of. The series features the three main characters and every episode has a song. They also all devolve the same way, getting weirder and more disturbing as the video goes on.
The first two videos are probably my favorite, as they have an extremely clear message. The later ones devolve into a story of sorts, featuring the three main characters and their strange prison. Let’s look at the first one and unpack it, just in case you missed something. The notebook starts singing about creativity, but the characters don’t get it and think it’s boring. They don’t see it until the notebook holds up a magnifying glass, signifying that they can only see it how the notebook sees it. When one of them tries to be exceptional by painting a clown, the notebook ruins the painting, demanding that he “slow down” and wait for the rest of them. As the activities go on, the notebook makes rules, like how green is not creative. Then, after the series breaks down, the notebook proposes they should never be creative again.
This is exactly some of the problems with children’s art programming. They ask children to be creative, but only allow for one or two types of creativity. They show children exactly how to be creative, actually getting rid of the originality. When a child is a prodigy, media and teachers alike will slow them down, suppressing their creative talents. Children’s art classes also have rules that make the art less creative and more conforming. These are real problems with art classes and television shows.
When I was in elementary school, I prepared for an audition. It was a monologue about a kid standing up to their art teacher and being creative. The next week, I did something “wrong” on my piece for the school art show. I wrote my name on it, in the piece. The teacher said that was wrong and demanded I cover it up. When I told her that she was hurting my creativity, I was scolded and she told me to never say that again. That moment stuck with me as a lesson: I would never become that person. I couldn’t believe that I was scolded for writing my name on a piece of my own art work. I was in fourth grade, hardly ten years old. It hurt, and it made me not like visual art, which was a shame.
When Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared came out, it was a viral sensation. I think this is because people can relate to the idea of art being discouraging. Or maybe they just like the twisted sense of humor. Either way, this series points out a lot of the problems with what we teach our children.
Do yourself a favor and watch these videos, and then give a child a creative outlet. No rules, just play. They’ll thank you for it.