Spoilers For “Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared”
I’d highly suggest watching the videos in order, but I’ll also be posting the videos down below for reference purposes.
In this list, I’ll be ranking them by how much I personally enjoy each episode. This is my personal opinion. I’ll also be sharing general observations and what I personally got out of each episode.
#6 – Don’t Hug me I’m Scared
Review: I put the first one in this position mainly because it feels the most out of place in the whole series. This was way before “Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared” set out to be an actual series. There was undoubtedly serious advances in quality in later episodes. The episode is a good video all on its own (in fact, all of them are good videos), but when sized up with the others, it certainly seems lackluster.
- The newspaper in the video is titled “The Right Wing”. Considering what we know of the series later down the line, I’d say that the creators have some left-wing bias.
- At the very end of the credits, a man who I believe to be the voice of Red Guy laughs and says “horrible sound”, referring to the noise that plays during the credits.
My Biggest Takeaway: The basic theme of this episode exists in all the other ones: there are underlying sinister meanings to what is taught to us. Of course, as the main characters begin to practice creativity, the notebook teacher shows them that they aren’t being creative the “right way”.
#5 – Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared 3
Review: They made some unnecessarily disgusting choices with the visuals with this one. The raw chicken, finished picnic, and the bug at the end are less disturbing than they are just gross. There are a LOT of distractions and the whole episode ends up seemingly unfocused. Other than that, the song is catchy and the theme is easy to follow.
- They misspell “harmony” in that part in the song (harmunee).
- You never see the torso part of the unicorn guy.
- Some people that show up to worship Michael are Red Guy, Duck Guy, Clock Teacher, Notebook Teacher, and Roy.
My Biggest Takeaway: The lesson being taught by the teacher is trying to solidly define an incredibly abstract concept. It parallels the norms of romantic relationships defined by religion. Those also defines love as: “a man and a woman, but you can only love one person, and you have to get married.”
#4 – Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared 2 – TIME
Review: Fairly solid song. Not the catchiest throughout the series. Visuals are appealing, but the fish don’t really make sense to me. It’s a decent episode and the more I’ve watched it, the more I’ve appreciated it.
- Yellow Guy is on a wanted poster in the “olden days”.
- A wagon wheel, stone carving of the roman numeral IV, Pharaoh Head, and Boot turn into a CD, smart phone, video game console controller, and a roller skate.
- Swastika on Duck Guy’s chalkboard.
My Biggest Takeaway: This episode questions the way we define time and history. When they visit “The Olden Days”, it’s a very distorted telling of history. The Clock Teacher teaches the concept using a lot of vague comments. When the characters start asking legitimately good questions about time, he answers with, “Time is important, and I am a clock.” Even more than that, when the Duck guy tries to find an answer to these questions, the teacher interrupts and shuts it down.
#3 Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared 5
Review: Personally, I really like this song. It’s much more quotable than the previous episodes on this list. The scene at the end is especially chilling as you realize what it’s implying.
- There’s a carton of “Health Juice” on the kitchen counter at the beginning.
- The Steak Teacher prods Duck Guy with a fork very aggressively and is in general acting strangely around him.
- In the Simple Health Shape, gel and corn are in the same category, as are milk and cigarettes.
My Biggest Takeaway: This episode is a blatant criticism of the food industry. The teachers are seemingly arbitrarily picking which foods are healthy and which aren’t. This is true in real life too, but instead of choosing foods at random the real food industry gives us information to help sell certain types of food products. The “Simple Health Shape” parallels the Food Pyramid:
“…the information embodied in [The USDA Food Guide Pyramid] was based on shaky scientific evidence, and it was seldom updated to reflect major advances in our understanding of the connection between diet and health.”
#2 Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared 6
Review: Very nicely done episode. It creates a feeling of conclusion, but at the same time raises so many more questions. This episode has the best cinematic visuals of the whole series.
- In the photo album, there’s a picture of Duck Guy at the beach, all three characters at a birthday party, Roy in a very disturbing photo, an admission ticket, and Red Guy in a graduation photo.
My Biggest Takeaway: I see Red Guy’s transformation in this episode as such: alienated adult worker, to artist, to working for big media, to finally becoming an independent creator. From the beginning of Red Guy’s appearance, we see him feeling completely out of place in the “real world”. When he tries to break out of the monotonous life of a corporate labourer, he gets chastised for it. In an attempt to express himself, he even puts himself in the vulnerable position of trying to entertain people. He’s recognized for his talent only by Roy, who promptly gives him an invitation into the world he once resided in, but on the other side of it. Red Guy sees the harm that the media (Roy’s Show) does to his friend. He wishes to alleviate his pain by using the machine, creating his own teachers to possibly make Yellow Guy feel better (we see that he’s creating his own teachers because the File is present.) Unfortunately, because he’s using Roy’s machine, it doesn’t work. The system is inherently harmful, and trying to fix problems from the inside only lead to more suffering. Thus, Red Guy unplugs and starts over from scratch, becoming an independant artist.
#1 Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared 4
Review: My personal favourite. It’s got a fair amount of clever humour. It’s got my favourite design for a teacher from the series.
- When the computer teacher says “…and then I’ll tell you the time.”, Duck Guy goes, “Time?” in reference to the second episode.
- The options for blood type on the computer are 1. COLD 2. BLOOD and 3. GAS.
- The “Don’t touch me” sequence seems to have used two separate takes edited together. The computer puppet subtly changes seamlessly. A yellowy-green liquid appears coming out of his eyes and around his mouth.
- The Globe Teacher is present during the digital sequence. In fact, he appears at least 4 times throughout the episode.
My Biggest Takeaway: The disillusionment of Red Guy. We get to see him finally realizing the limitations of the teachers as sources of knowledge. The computer reminds me of children’s television shows like Dora The Explorer and Blue’s Clues. At the beginning of the episode, they have a question: “What is the biggest thing in the world?” When Red Guy tries to ask the computer the question, the computer interrupts and instead continues to brag about how smart and clever he is. When Red Guy states that they already have a computer, the teacher responds as if he hadn’t really been listening to what he said. During the questionnaire, the computer asks a series of questions that he doesn’t really seem to want the answers to. Also, when Red Guy asks the computer what they can do inside the digital world, the computer takes a bit to answer and Red Guy gets annoyed at how long it takes him (mimicking real-life children’s television). Finally, the most obvious clue at Red Guy’s disillusionment is the very ending where he’s the only one not completely inside the computer.
Series Conclusion: I see the series as being a warning about the underlying messages in media. Each episode showcases a different topic which has been exploited to sell products and a particular way to think. Slavoj Žižek explains the phenomena of hidden “ideology” within marketing/media:
“When we are shown scenes of starving children in Africa, with a call for us to do something to help them, the underlying ideological message is something like: “Don’t think, don’t politicize, forget about the true causes of their poverty, just act, contribute money, so that you will not have to think!”
― Slavoj Žižek
The idea is that everything in the current system has an underlying, somewhat cynical “real” message to it.
Here are some videos I watched after finishing the series that I recommend: