DHMIS Critical Approaches: Formalism

  • Published: 17 November 2018
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    In this installment, I'll be taking a look at a highly analyzed, much revered work in the realm of surreal internet horror. That's right, folks. I'm covering Don't Hug Me I'm Scared. And it's pretty safe to say I have my work cut out for me this time around.

    For the uninitiated, Don't Hug Me I'm Scared is a series of short films directed by Becky Sloan and Joseph Pelling. The very first video was released all the way back in 2011. In total, there are six installments along with a couple of promotional videos. At first, these short films generally tend to present themselves as children's content akin to, for instance, Sesame Street. The central characters are three anthropomorphic puppets. Each of the videos present a seemingly innocuous song, the subject of which is some abstract concept, such as, for instance, creativity or time. Although the further along the song goes, the more disconcerting and pernicious it becomes.

    On September 13th, a promo for what appears to be a new TV series was posted to the Don't Hug Me I'm Scared YouTube channel. So, I thought now might be an opportune time to discuss my thoughts on the series. What I originally wanted to do in this video was demonstrate how certain methods of analysis operate in relation to the critical unpacking of an abstract work such as Don't Hug Me I'm Scared. But I'm increasingly seeing that this idea was a little too ambitious for just one video (to put it mildly). So, I’m doing an entire series on Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared, and each subsequent video in the series will focus on a different approach. Think of it as the spiritual successor to my Theorists Handbook series. I thought this might be an interesting exercise for me personally, and I hope that it will be useful for viewers as well. In this video, I want to talk about formalism.

    Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared:

    Sources and Additional References:

    “The Intentional Fallacy” by W.K. Wimsatt, Jr. and Monroe C. Beardsley

    Viktor Shklovksy's “Art as Device” (in this version, the translation is “Art as Technique”)

    Professor Paul Fry's lectures on New Criticism and Russian Formalism, respectively:

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Comments • 117

  • ADuBToR
    ADuBToR  2 weeks back

    19:00 it also says tome ^^

    • Lotsagrapes
      Lotsagrapes  1 months back

      very curious. I was drawing and thinking about a teacher teaching art class who insisted on correcting students paintings themselves, maybe wasting somebody's first attempt at something they'd be proud of, as an exercise in arthority or something idk

    • Murp 63
      Murp 63  1 months back

      I love dhmis and a year ago or so I came across a video that I cannot seem to find. I do not remember the title and I need help finding it! It was not the gum ball video, it was not fan made, it was a kinda creepy channel that made an video that was similar to the first dhmis but with different people and other things in it too. I would really appreciate the help, please let me know if you find it!

      • Stephen Gillie
        Stephen Gillie  3 months back

        My favorite idea is economic comparative advantage, followed closely by the wave-particle duality of light.

        • Partymangle 2018
          Partymangle 2018  4 months back

          How did you do this with a straight face-

          • Jaylin Broan
            Jaylin Broan  5 months back

            Holy hecc dude yur 13 minutes in and haven't even gotten past the first line of the song ;v;
            Not complaining, just... I mean this is the kind of thing my family complains I do all the time and now I'm just pointing at you like "Look at him go!"
            I find it very impressive how well you tie every aspect of the content you review to a meaningful concept or messege

            • Mike Peterkin
              Mike Peterkin  6 months back

              I made this DHMIS Dream Lamp: www.etsy.com/ca/shop/puppetshowstudio

              • Lincoln7Echo
                Lincoln7Echo  6 months back

                Affirming the antecedent, not tautology. 😁👍

              • Lincoln7Echo
                Lincoln7Echo  6 months back

                Qualifying ideas isn't out of the realm of creativity as the originator of the idea must then answer the question of "favorite" in a manner that is applicable to the inquirer, and that would entail extensive cleverness and logic--the two combined qualifying as 'creativity.' Qualifying isn't restrictive, it allows for the exercise of creativity to answer a posed question with what would hopefully be the most applicable answer.

                • Night Raven
                  Night Raven  6 months back

                  I thought it was ink, not paint. XD

                  • Night Raven
                    Night Raven  6 months back

                    MY BIRTHDAY IS ON JUNE 19TH!!!

                    • FuzzzWuzzz
                      FuzzzWuzzz  7 months back

                      It seems like it's about how these children's show lessons on creativity don't really teach us anything useful in this world. What you create will be criticized, or not fall within the arbitrary factors it needs to bring success. The world will not value you if you are not useful in the ways it needs you to be useful.

                      • Minsk Lit
                        Minsk Lit  7 months back

                        Wow you're really good! I don't think I've ever seen content this meticulously made on youtube

                        • Samuel Lombardo
                          Samuel Lombardo  8 months back

                          Never noticed before, but green isn't on the color wheel that are on the notepad page with sticks.

                          • Beth Gamboa
                            Beth Gamboa  8 months back


                            *Looks at June 19*

                            June 19 is Father’s Day every day O_O
                            / —|JUNE 19|

                            • K
                              K  8 months back

                              I hope you're planning to continue this series! I'm loving your Petscop analysis series as well, and understand if you want to focus on it, but I highly enjoyed this analysis too and am eager to see you look 'under the surface', as it were.

                              • JHM 1
                                JHM 1  9 months back

                                Have you made any other videos about this series yet?

                                • cardea jackson
                                  cardea jackson  10 months back


                                  The Notepad is Daddy.

                                  • Dolly
                                    Dolly  10 months back

                                    Subbed for Shklovsky

                                    • TL oS
                                      TL oS  10 months back

                                      Really enjoyed this. You are a natural teacher. I’d love to see a lot more videos like this.

                                      • Ambrose DeLaGrange
                                        Ambrose DeLaGrange  10 months back

                                        It's so refreshing to see this sort of formal analysis in action. So rarely these days do you get any sort of analysis of anything that doesn't start dragging all sorts of perceived intent in order to justify unfounded theories. I'm sure we can all agree that some people in various theorist circles definitely make this "intent fallacy" as they often take outside factors to extremes to justify their points. (For example, how people continue to browbeat the whole Newmaker theory with Petscop as well as various theories about Jun 19 that have come up in this here very subject.) However, I obviously agree that formalism/new criticism has its flaws and I can't wait to see the rest of your videos!

                                        • The Mighty PALADIN
                                          The Mighty PALADIN  11 months back

                                          This was extremely interesting, although I was disappointed with the ending because there were no general conclusions about the meaning of the work as a whole. Also It looks as if we'll be switching to a different method of analyzing the show in the next video instead of continuing this through the series. I am curious and will come back for the next video. I'm extremely curious though as what you would say about my own analysis of the show. Please take a look at the Don't Hug Me I'm Scared Video on my channel, and tell me what you think about my methods and conclusions https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwuAXcnurUk&t=629s It would mean a lot to me.

                                        • Tate Connelley
                                          Tate Connelley  11 months back

                                          I noticed on the Duck’s side of the room where the little side table is, it has the red telephone, the post it the says “Get Creative” the key and the airmail envelope

                                          • 42 Cubing
                                            42 Cubing  11 months back

                                            When are you going to make a second one?

                                          • Library Seraph
                                            Library Seraph  11 months back

                                            SIlly comment, but that's not pink and purple silly string, it's pink and purple shredded/crimped paper, which gets used in crafts for kids a lot

                                          • sweesbees
                                            sweesbees  11 months back

                                            i want to like this video but it has 666 likes

                                            • Ganon Tice
                                              Ganon Tice  11 months back

                                              I like waffles

                                              • Paulo
                                                Paulo  11 months back

                                                If you pause at 20:37 you'll see that there is a color wheel with the following colors: Blue, Yellow, Red, Black and Paige(?). The thing to notice here is that there is no green.
                                                Later, when the character spells their favorite color, they say: Blue! (Which was in the color wheel). Red! (Which was in the color wheel). Green! (Which wasn't in the color wheel).
                                                That is the reason why the green is NOT a creative color, because it wasn't on the wheel.

                                                Just something to notice here.

                                              • nosie
                                                nosie  11 months back

                                                you went into so much depth in this one man, great work as usual!

                                                • Slimy Clearing
                                                  Slimy Clearing  11 months back

                                                  So excited for this series!

                                                  • Sneaky Beaky Like
                                                    Sneaky Beaky Like  11 months back

                                                    Keep at it and you will find your audience.

                                                    • Jo -
                                                      Jo -  11 months back

                                                      i thought it was interesting that the character who seems to think expressing oneself through hair is "boring" has their entire face obscured by long, stringy hair

                                                      • Cobra6x6
                                                        Cobra6x6  11 months back


                                                        • Theemmarolling
                                                          Theemmarolling  11 months back

                                                          I feel smarter for watching this

                                                          • Jascha Bull
                                                            Jascha Bull  11 months back

                                                            Wow, this is making me notice things I missed, even which you don't point out. This is the first time I noticed that the notebook actually showed a colour wheel while describing the twig project which didn't feature the colour green. I'm not sure if this affects an interpretation or not. It makes it slightly less arbitrary that the notebook would disagree with Yellow's choice (because it clearly wasn't an option), but then again, that was still an arbitrary rule with arbitrary arguments behind it in the first place, so maybe it still holds?

                                                            Pretty neat approach, in any case! Liked the blow-by-blow description of things.

                                                          • Melissa
                                                            Melissa  11 months back

                                                            Somehow, I went from a vine compilation and a dumb pug video to a half hour video on formalism. YouTube is a fascinating place.

                                                            Enjoyed this video. Very informative, a unique approach to a much-analyzed work.

                                                            • Ry Wil
                                                              Ry Wil  11 months back

                                                              the hell is nightmare master class

                                                              • hippiechik95
                                                                hippiechik95  11 months back

                                                                Thank god, an analytical video on DHMIS that *isn’t* about how the media wants to kill us all in various ways. I really enjoyed this video, and I’m looking forward to the next installment!

                                                                • Mickey Daze
                                                                  Mickey Daze  11 months back

                                                                  I really look forward to this

                                                                  • Lol ita
                                                                    Lol ita  11 months back

                                                                    Yes! DHMIS always brings me nostalgia. This was a really good video! I can't wait for more! Definitely earned a new sub!

                                                                    • Abbey H
                                                                      Abbey H  11 months back

                                                                      Looking forward to the next one!

                                                                      • WooferJr
                                                                        WooferJr  11 months back

                                                                        The thing is that A. the creators of dhmis did not had a fixed set of mind with the First episode. and B. I still think it is a dream and those goggle eyes are just dreams that play in the red guys head. (red guy is dreaming this scene.)

                                                                        • Digicraftmon the Crystal Gem

                                                                          it's a director's megaphone with googlie eyes and duck legs! not a 3 eyed duck legged beast!

                                                                          • Digicraftmon the Crystal Gem

                                                                            "object with a plane on it" that object is a letter sir..... it's just made out of cloth for this film to give out the kids' show astetic of felt, fabric, and puppets.

                                                                            • Jaspertine
                                                                              Jaspertine  11 months back

                                                                              The piece of cloth with a plane on it is actually an envelope.

                                                                              • Aaron Singleton
                                                                                Aaron Singleton  11 months back

                                                                                Glad to have you back NM. Love your work. I can always depend on you to put forward a unique take on the things you cover. Thanks.

                                                                                • Rine Ray
                                                                                  Rine Ray  11 months back

                                                                                  This is a great series for doing this kind of critical exercise (not formalism specifically, but playing around with different analytical methodologies in general). I'm reminded what one of the creators of DHMIS said when asked about the various fan theories and speculations: that they're all correct. The creative work of interpretation and analysis is the fun of it, and ultimately more useful than any decisive revelations about truth and intention that the creators could provide.

                                                                                  • Eleanor Vance
                                                                                    Eleanor Vance  11 months back

                                                                                    I'm just going to write this comment as I go through the video, pointing out aspects I feel are surprising that you didn't mention. I'm not particularly familiar with formalism, so forgive me if I mess up, but I'm trying my best to stay in the context of the definition you stated at the start of the video. I figured that recognizing basic information about the world (for example: cacti are usually green, but the cactus in this kitchen is black) would be allowed within the context of formalism, since basic information does not really require a specific cultural context, but I might be wrong about that?

                                                                                    - The paper which notes the stock market is doing well is titled "The Right Wing," which seems to be a pun (the bird on the coin) as well as a pretty clear reference to conservatism (or does acknowledging that count as referring to information outside of the work?)
                                                                                    - The children's toy on the fridge is directly in contrast with the knives in the same shot--not just general kitchen utensils, but knives, the utensil one would least want children anywhere near
                                                                                    - Someone else mentioned the cactus flipping the viewer off (flipping us "the bird," actually, to continue a theme). The cactus is also black, where normally, a cactus would be green
                                                                                    - The "piece of cloth" that says to "Get creative" is pretty clearly intended to be the top paper on a pad of post-its, making it a reminder someone wrote to herself or someone else who was likely to see it. This is confirmed in the next shot, where you rightly point out the post-it notes next to the phone which we can see are placed in the same relation to the envelope as the "Get creative" cloth was, confirming that they are intended to be the same object
                                                                                    - In the wide shot, we can also see a clothes iron on the fridge--yet another object on top of the fridge which would not normally be in that location
                                                                                    - You say the yellow character is "moving erratically, as if he is having a fit" but I'm pretty sure he's dancing (creatively?)

                                                                                    Maybe it's the context of the formalistic approach, but I was surprised that you looked at the work so linearly--specifically in respect to the notepad's line "Green is not a creative color," which can be used to look retrospectively at the room's design, where even things which would normally be green (like the cactus and the bird in the 3D animated sequence) are instead a sort of blackish color. The only distinct green we see is the green of the grass outside, which is 1) natural and 2) unreachable by the characters in their current location.

                                                                                    I'm looking forward to your future videos using different analytical approaches!