HORROR MONTH #16: Don't Hug Me I'm Scared, by Becky Sloan and Joseph Pelling (2011)

Type of Media: Web Series

It seems like more and more these days people are letting media raise their kids. I will fully admit that as a little tyke I was glued to the television when I was at home, but at least I had to take a break when I went out somewhere. Now kids have iPads and smartphones that let them watch Youtube every waking moment. It's not all bad, though. There are so many fine edutainment programs that can teach your child valuable lessons, like how magnets work, which religion is correct, and how you should eat Johnson & Mills grain products if you don't want your gums to turn grey and your teeth to rot out.

Don't Hug Me I'm Scared is a six-part webseries of short videos that at first appears to be a children's TV show. The three unnamed stars, commonly called Red, Yellow, and Duck, all live in a colorful world of felt reminiscent of Sesame Street and regularly have objects around them come alive to teach them lessons about a particular subject. A notebook sings about creativity, a clock explains time, and so on.

Except not everything is right with these lessons. The notebook starts going into which types of creativity are acceptable and which kinds are bad, destroying a painting Yellow does because it's not the correct sort of creative. The clock dodges a bunch of tough questions from the gang, and when Duck starts suggesting time is just a human construction it starts beeping so loud Yellow's ears bleed. That's not to mention the regular occurrence of raw meat and entrails.

Something very dark is hiding behind this show's happy veneer. It feels more like a prison than a fun learning environment, and Yellow is in some way tormented by the singing objects in every episode. Some of the information taught is outright wrong, suggesting product placement is twisting the lessons to fit the needs of a corporate sponsor. And certain elements keep popping up, like the date June 19th and Yellow's creepy father Roy.

Don't Hug Me I'm Scared is a very strange and surreal watch. It doesn't have a straightforward plot, and the tone and visual style of the show can shift very suddenly from childish to menacing. There are a lot of different interpretations of what the series means, but one theme that runs through deals with corruption in children's television. The producers of most children's media aren't really interested in helping kids. They want to make money or they want to push a particular message, and their goals are incompatible with actually teaching children complex concepts. Instead they distract your kid for you with songs and color, and in return they get to plant whatever ideas they want in some young vulnerable minds.

If you want a simple scary story that will give you a nice set up and pay off, stay away from Don't Hug Me I'm Scared. This is the kind of thing you watch several times before telling your friends to watch it so they can tell you their opinions of what the ending meant. If you're in the mood to be disturbed and intrigued at the same time, Don't Hug Me I'm Scared will do the job for you.