Original Airdate: May 14, 2012
Written & Storyboarded by: Somvilay Xayaphone & Bert Youn
I’m pretty sure anyone who has seen this episode before knows it as the “rape analogy episode” and to be fair, that’s not a bad way of remembering it. The hug wolves and concept of hugging quite strongly allude to how sex, which is considered virtually good, can be twisted for very violent and inappropriate causes. It’s surprising a kid’s show is tackling a subject like this, but even more surprising to me that it’s a pretty light and humorous episode otherwise. It’s not a “very special episode” or completely dark and serious, but rather tackles a relatively heavy subject matter with plenty of silly and enjoyable scenes to carry it through.
The quest at the beginning I think is a really awesome and energetic start. Feels very mythological, while also incorporating some nice fast-paced intensity as Finn shakes off the Hug Wolf. The allusions to sexual harassment are there in the very first scene, as Finn states that the Hug Wolf “didn’t even ask for his name.”
It’s actually kind of amazing to me just how much they do with the “hugging” conflict in this episode. You have Finn, who is a relatively simple and good-hearted guy, that is completely altered once he gives into his desires, or “curse.” There’s the Candy Baby, who asks his mother why Finn is locked up because “hugs” are considered nice (much like sexual relationships themselves, and how they can turn very toxic in cases where consent isn’t involved) and his mother, who just silences him because he’s too young to understand the weight of the issue. Then there’s Cinnamon Bun, who, despite being opposed to getting hugged by Finn, constantly goes against himself, presumably because he’s lonely and enjoys the attention and idea of being loved. And throughout the episode there’s brief lines like “No hugging! Without consent!” and “uhhh, I have a wife,” that drive the whole metaphor further. These are all very realistic depictions of societal reactions and behaviors to sexual harassment that are kept brilliantly subtle and intriguing by just how many references there are, but as I mentioned, it’s made even better by the fact that all of the examples I listed are still pretty hilarious because all of them deal with hugging. No matter how heavy the implication, the idea that Finn is hugging people without their approval is just hilarious in it’s own right.
BMO’s pretty adorable in this episode, and I love the bit where he’s hiding from Finn and, instead of comforting him, Jake just simply replies “well, that plant’s not gonna protect you.” It’s a pretty hilarious one for Somvilay, with a lot of great touches when it comes to his obscure sense of humor. Like the bit where Finn’s slouched under the bridge, and we briefly see Princess Bubblegum chasing after a cat. What the fuck is the story with that?? I’m guessing that they needed a reason to not include PB in this episode, so that was their excuse. She was chasing a cat. Wonder what the story behind that was. There’s also the fly that lands on Jake’s head in the library and just chills there for like, a full 30 seconds. The reason behind this was so Jake’s expository dialogue wouldn’t seem boring, and it strangely sort of works. I dunno, that gets an odd chuckle out of me.
There’s other great moments in this one, mainly deriving from the victims at Finn’s expense. Mr. Cupcake’s monologue about his frosted drink directly before he gets attacked really cracks me up; Dee Bradley Baker rarely fails to get a laugh out of me when voicing the debonair cupcake man. I love the Pen Ward-Candy dad that protects his daughter with a candy cane gun, and most of all the general stupidity of the other Candy People. There’s the one guy that is mad at Finn but doesn’t feel like walking under the bridge, and then the fellow that solely agrees with the “last guy”, even though the last guy only said, “yeah!” It’s one that’s constantly amusing throughout, and really highlights the goofiness of the Candy People.
The ending closes on a perfect note: as Finn and the alpha hug wolf reunite, they literally “hug it out” and return to normal. The resolution of two people who have similar desires and act on them in consensual and loving way was a pretty great message to me. By the end, Finn and the woman have no intention to carry out their desires in an unhealthy way on other people because they were able to find that healthy balance that hugs are supposed to be intended for. And of course, there’s the very abrupt callback to the beginning where the woman randomly turns back into the Tree of Blight. Another great “what the fuck” moment to close it out.
I do quite enjoy Hug Wolf for a majority of the reasons I mentioned above. It doesn’t take itself too dramatically; it balances metaphorical writing with silly jokes and characters very impressively. It even kind of works as some decent folklore, with a pretty spooky mythical feeling, dark purple and gray colors, and a complimentary apprehensive atmosphere. It’s an episode that has a lot going on at once, and one that I think works well on several different levels.