Don’t Hug Me .I’m Scared

DHMIS 3Directed by Becky Sloan and Joseph Pelling, Don’t Hug Me .I’m Scared is a short film series where the only thing you can expect is the unexpected. Making its YouTube debut in 2011, several years elapsed between the release of the first video and its sequels due to lack of funding. Stylized in the vein of contemporary children’s programming, the show employs the mediums of puppetry, animation, costume, and song. There are three primary characters but we never learn their official names: two are puppets – one a green bird and the other a yellow muppet-like fellow – and the third a human-sized individual costumed entirely in red with a mop-like face. For sake of clarity, I will refer to these characters as “Robin”, “Manny”, and “Harry” respectively. (These are the names the YouTube community appears to have agreed upon.)

loveEach show is centered on a particular theme (creativity, time, love, computers, and health, so far) and text magically emerges midair to introduce new concepts. These videos are not your standard educational programming, however. Innocuous at first, things quickly take a turn for the worst as the inanimate objects/animals that began talking to offer seemingly useful advice turn despot, their guidance becoming flawed and insidious.

RedBesides stating that the series aims to “teach the puppets the most important subjects of life” and to “save them from ignorance” in their crowd funding videos, its creators have offered little information in the way of clarification. As such, the YouTube community has taken the matter into its own hands. Broadly speaking, most fans of Don’t Hug Me .I’m Scared appear to be of the mindset that the show is meant to be a commentary on the dangers of children’s television, calling attention to the indoctrinating and proselytizing qualities of those programs. They don’t stop there, however. Determined viewers re-watch the videos over and again, seeking out “Easter eggs” that shed more light on the relationship between these characters and the context in which the events that transpire occur. Serious theorizing takes place in the comment section as viewers attempt to find logic in the chaos.

While I tend to agree with the notion that the series operates as a critique to children’s programming (and have attempted to posit a narrower explanation for the general proceedings), I think much of its value lies in its brazen inexplicability. Queering the normative, it turns everything we take to be true on its head by taking that truth to the absolute extreme. For approximately five minutes, this show barges into your quiet and comfortable life and just a quickly ends, leaving you reeling. Offering no explicit alternatives, its power lies in its ability to disrupt via the irrational. So it is perhaps pointless to even try to impose lucidity on it.

dinnerIt was only after viewing John Water’s Pink Flamingos that I came to think of Don’t Hug Me as relevant to this course. Like Water’s film, the series is rather dark in humor, capitalizing on the crude and warped. One might even say it’s campy, for it regales with its “embrace [of] the low, the bawdy, and the common”. Death and decay feature in some form in each video, fresh organs nonchalantly make appearances and are sometimes just as coolly consumed, and there is always blood. It is evident, as well, that the series appeals to only a certain range of people, for while the first video averaged 302,169 likes, a notable number of people – 20,154 – disliked it just as much. Could it be they were experiencing disgust?

As Berlant and Wportraiterner suggest, kinship and the notion of the couple are sites that queer culture can invert. In this series, there is no indication as to what binds Robin, Manny, and Harry besides perhaps friendship. They appear to live together (this supposition might be thrown into conflict with the emergence of episode five, however, as the kitchen is not the same as episode one) but are by no means a nuclear family as they vary in species and all present as male (this is only presumed on the basis of voice register).

When it comes to relationships episode three is by far the most notable, focusing on the concept of love. Upset by Robin’s killing of a butterfly, Manny takes off into the forest and soon finds himself greeted by yet another butterfly offering to share the gospel of love with him. Flying over a rainbow, Manny comes to the land of love where he learns that “everyone has a special one”. Monogamous and heterosexual, this love is “perfect” and “pure”, “protected with a ring”, and has “always been” this way. It is then revealed, however, that for Manny to experience this love, he has to pledge himself to Malcolm, the king of love, a giant head who must be fed gravel to be kept content. As the fellow love-goers share, it is also requisite that Manny changes his name, permits his brain to be scoured of certain thoughts, and forgets “about anything [he] ever knew”. Indeed, as this video suggests, there is ample evidence that heteronormativity is in fact a cult.malcolm2

Don’t Hug Me .I’m Scared: the surest and shortest path to WTF.

Check out the YouTube channel here

Dr. Doe’s Sexplanations

Dr. Lindsey Doe is a clinical sexologist who hosts the Youtube channel Sexplanations. Sexplanations co-created by Dr. Doe and Hank Green from the Vlogbrothers, a Youtube channel run by Hank and his brother John Green, to provide free sex education to the public. The first video titled “Meet Lindsey Doe!” went live on June 10th, 2013; since then there have been 63 total episodes of Sexplenations uploaded to Youtube. All of which discuse diffrent topecs of sex, sexuality, and gender. Sexplanations is crowd funded by its viewers and has a subscription count of 170,133 users.

Dr. Doe is all about being sex positive and educating people of safe, consensual ways to enjoy their bodies while also educating them about their bodies. This is a value she shares with the GSRM community, which also values consent, sex positivity, and sex education. Dr. Doe sees a lack of education in the public school systems in sex education and is using the platform of Youtube to educate the public about sex and their bodies. Not only does Sexplanations benefit normative individuals but also benefit those in the GSRM and Kink communities by provided information for all individuals. Dr. Doe also keeps her channel open to everyone by using inclusive non-heteronormative and non-cisnormative language. Sexplanations also makes efforts to education people not only about normative heterosexual sex but also other forms of sex and sexual, romantic, and gender identities.

In Sexplanations Dr. Doe treats sex as a normal activity that is done in many different ways by many different people. This relates to how sex is seen as taboo in heterosexual circles, which we talked about at the start of this unit. By normalizing her language in regard to sex Dr. Doe is normalizing sexual activity and attempting to erase this taboo. In the process she is also normalizing all the different kinds of sex people have, from masturbation to sex with one partner of the same sex to BDSM. Dr. Doe goes even farther in her discussion of sex by also normalizing education of the body and teaches her audience about their bodies without shame or withholding information. In addition to normalizing a subject our society normally views as taboo Dr. Doe is also providing an education to a wide audience as her videos have no age restriction and can be viewed by anyone with an internet connection. This allows people of all ages to educate themselves about sex and their bodies from an early age. The lack of availability of sex education for young people is one of the many problems we talked about in class. Sexplanations offers an alternative way for people to educate themselves on sex outside of the public education system and their parents.

Little Game

Ben J. Pierce is a 16 year old Youtube star, who runs the Youtube channel “KidPOV” (Kid Point of View) which he started on August 28, 2011.  Pierce also runs a second channel for his music called “BENNY”, which is where he released his debut single “Little Game”. This music video focuses on how harmful gender roles can be to kids. Pierce has also released two other videos questioning gender roles on KidPOV, “Why Boys Can’t Wear Pink” and “Why Double Standards Are Great”. In the first video, Pierce relays to his audience the three negative reactions he got for going trick or treating as a pink loofah; in the second, he discusses the double standards in the reactions between a photo shoot Nick Jonas did and Miley Cyrus did. Pierce released “Little Game” on October 25, 2014, which soon went viral and currently has a million and a half views.

The music video uses color and gendered toys and clothes to visually contrast the two gender roles society forces children into from a young age. The video revolves around two main characters, a boy and a girl, who question the roles they are forced into. The boy tries to pick up and play with a pink doll while the girl opens a book instead of balancing it on her head like the other 3 girls, at 0:37 and 1:21 respectively. As the video progresses, we see how both children’s peers react threateningly to these displays of independence. The boy and the girl then get thrown into a room for “broken toys” where it seems that other children who have also broken from their gender roles were sent. The other kids in this room are still trying to conform to the gender norms despite already being ostracized from the group. Our two main kids find some blue and pink powder and shake hands after touching it at 3:02. This mixes the colors that represent the two genders and breaks the other kids from the “game” of gender, allowing everyone to be themselves. More colored powder is added to visually represent the mixing of the two “genders” and the children end up putting the opposite gender’s color on their faces to show that everyone is done playing the “little game” of gender.

The video visually represents Judith Butler’s idea that when the minority in the population queers gender or sexuality, they pave the way for the majority of the population to have more freedom. The two main kids break from their gender performativity, and stop performing as their assigned gender even though they are shunned for it. By breaking this performativity, they end up showing their own peers that it is okay to be themselves. At the end of the video, the boys and girls are interacting and sharing their genders with each other, visually represented with blue and pink powder being blown around. There is also a visual representation of the breaking of the genders through the breaking of blue and pink objects, which then mix together at 3:05. The minority group (the boy and girl) queer gender and allow for the majority group (the other kids) to explore their genders farther.

The lyrics of the song further the idea of Judith Butler’s Gender Performativity. The song starts out saying that the people are played “like pawns” with “absent minds”; the kids are dolls who have to perform to the expectations of their society based on what they were assigned at birth. The song goes on to say, “You’re raising suicidal with your predetermined titles” and “Gender roles impose control and deceive progressive time”. These lyrics show how gender is predetermined without the person’s say and how it serves more to control those people. It also stressed that, despite the idea that society should be progressive, this is not actually the case. The song ends with a repeat of, “Play our little game” and a question, “Won’t you play with me?” Society wants everyone to play the game of gender and perform their gender correctly, but each person has the ability to say no and reject their gender roles or performance, thereby queering gender.