Watching creepy and weird age-inappropriate internet videos is a rite of passage. But, your teacher probably shouldn’t be helping you find them.
A substitute teacher in British Columbia has been suspended after showing his class the unholy trinity of weird internet videos: “Salad Fingers,” “asdfmovie,” and “Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared.”
James Thwaites, who served as a teacher on call for the Nachako Lakes school district, was issued a two-day suspension for showing the videos to his grade seven and eight class in 2018.
In a report by the British Columbia Commissioner for Teacher Regulation, (BCCRTR) commissioner Howard Kushner wrote that students found the films “weird, creepy, and inappropriate.”
Thwaites will not be serving his suspension. In its decision the BCCTR report states that the teacher is no longer working for the district and is currently stationed at a school in a remote community. His absence for those days would adversely impact his students.
If you haven’t been blessed/cursed with having seen these internet videos and are wondering what all the fuss is about, here’s some backstory on each of the films shown.
The most disturbing from the bunch is the 2004 cult classic, “Salad Fingers.” For millennials who grew up with little to no internet supervision, it seemed like his sickly voice and pale green face were everywhere online.
Set in an apocalyptic post-war wasteland, the titular protagonist is a bald, green man (or creature?) who politely babbles to inanimate objects as if they’re real people. His interactions with the desolate world around them are bewildering: sometimes he takes on different personas, and does creepy, unconventional things.
Creator and animator David Firth heard about his work making headlines because of Thwaites, choosing to cheekily endorse mandatory viewings of “Salad Fingers” on Twitter.
The actual plot and meaning behind Salad Fingers’ behaviour is highly debated; if you can stomach the grossness, 11 episodes are available for scrutinizing online.
Content warning: if you’re squeamish about body horror, this gets into the nightmare fuel territory really fast.
The report mentions several details about “Salad Fingers” that would disturb viewers, including his iconic quote, “The feeling of rust against my salad fingers is almost orgasmic.”
‘Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared’
Think Sesame Street gone horrifically wrong, and you’ll get something like the 2011 viral hit, “Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared,” or DHMIS for short.
Clocking in at a little more than three minutes, its puppet characters sing about the concept of creativity in a familiar, kid-friendly way. It’s only at the halfway mark that the clip takes a turn for the unsettling.
The original DHMIS spawned six equally mind-melting sequels, with a television series produced by late-night host Conan O’Brian’s company in the works.
Although DHMIS’ creators have yet to weigh in on Thwaites’ suspension or actions, they’ve previously been nonplussed about children watching their work.
I fully support Salad Fingers being shown to children. In fact it should be mandatory.David Firth
“Most people are pretty nice to us about it, either that or politely confused. But occasionally someone will tell us that we’ve traumatized their child after they showed them an episode thinking it was a conventional kids show, which always makes me chuckle,” co-creator Joseph Pelling told Metro.
Among the three, this collection of animation shorts features the least horrifying imagery. Directed by musician Thomas Ridgewell, a.k.a. “TomSka,” each short clip features monochrome stick figures and darkly comedic dialogue.
The digestable nature of the “asdf” franchise has made it perfect for memes and gif material.
As opposed to the other two, violence is played more straightforwardly as a joke. Less David-Lynch vibes, more silly randomness.
TomSka was incredulous that his cartoon series got a teacher suspended, sharing a news story about Thwaites with a reaction gif of Charlie Day.
When it comes to his young fanbase, TomSka has voiced worry over the blame adults can place on him for letting their kids watch “asdfmovie.”
″I’ve had a view angry parents in the comments or on Twitter asking “Why is my child singing I want to die?″ he told Metro. ‘I worry about it a lot but there comes a point where I can’t be responsible for for those kids.’
His music video starring a suicidal muffin has racked up more than 130 million views on Youtube.
What do kids find creepy?
From the videos’ content, it’s easy to see where a school board would draw the line. But are adults more freaked out by these type of content than kids?
A University of Washington landmark study on creepiness found that it was a completely different emotional state than anger or fear. While all three occur when threatened, feeling creeped out happens when someone is confused by the threat. Common factors that can trigger that unease are seeing social norms get ignored and people who are unpredictable. When asked about physical traits, adult participants said that people who have long fingers, pale skin, and bulging eyes were creepy.
Sounds familiar, right?
But children may not share the same idea of creepy. Neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett told Wired that there are no empirical studies on what kids find creepy. Both she and the study’s researcher agree that children, who have less exposure to predictability, are less creeped out than adults.
Still, this doesn’t mean kids should be marathoning the “Saw” franchise anytime soon. Being mindful of kids’ online habits is the safest bet to ensure they don’t see anything too graphic.
Required viewing gone wrong
Other teachers besides Thwaites have scarred their students for life through content shown in class.
A Tennessee school issued a letter in 2016, alerting parents that a teacher showed his students the horrifying gore-porn sequel to “The Human Centipede.”
In New York, a dance teacher made her class watch an anti-abortion video featuring children performing a theatrical rendition of an unborn fetus getting aborted. The teacher faced an unspecified reprimand and the school’s principal stepped down after the controversial incident went public.