Today we will consider two recent moral panics, one comical and the other crossing into dangerous territory. For the former, we take a look at the hullabaloo surrounding Huggy Wuggy, the titular character from a video game. That particular entertainment form has been panicking parents since around the advent of Pong.
The latest menace is a blue-tinted, fanged monster who sings about hugging people until they breathe their last and other fatal notions. The online universe if full of warnings about this deceitful teddy bear who fixates on physical embraces and murder. These are accompanied by anecdotes of children emulating Huggy Wuggy’s wayward example. Other rumors have the terrible teddy encouraging patricide and suicide, while less alarming stories focus on his obscenity and alcohol abuse.
Huggy Wuggy also appears in the video game Poppy Playtime, which centers on a former toy factory worker who returns to his place of employment. There, Huggy Wuggy and other anthropomorphic toys stalk the former employee. Additionally, there are fan-made videos featuring Huggy Wuggy that would upset some preschoolers. But these do not target children and are, in fact, rated as Teen or Mature.
A Rolling Stone investigation found no Huggy Wuggy videos on YouTube but some on TikTok, which is aimed at those 13 and over. Some of those show Huggy Wuggy videos, though none encourage harm to self or others.
Like previous moral panics, the warnings are being repeated without the speaker first having ascertained that the phenomenon exists. Those warnings are then treated as the proof in future retellings.
Now onto the dangerous. When Florida’s Don’t Say Gay bill was signed, Disney’s too-little, too-late response was to object once the legislation became law. The collective response from the right has been an unending chorus consisting entirely of “groomer.” This word refers to someone who targets a child for sexual abuse and works his or her way into their life and eventually begins molesting them. It does not refer to objecting to a specific piece of legislation. Reason writer Scott Shackleford has been labeled a pedophile and child molester by online commentators, based on his having contrary opinions to the posters. This is what passes for political dialogue in 2022. In these circles, saying “groomer” is considered reasoned discourse and the claim is itself presented as its own proof.
Vice noted that right wing walk show hosts now label anyone opposed to anti-LGBT legislation to be a groomer or even a pedophile. Much like Robin DeAngelo labeling all whites to be racist, this groomer/pedophile umbrella is so massive that it encompasses 60 percent of the population and thus loses all meaning. In the most extreme corners, far-right agitators are doxing school officials, Disney officials, and Democratic politicians, claiming without any evidence, that they are facilitating the sexual abuse of children or committing the acts themselves. These rants include posting the address of the targeted, along with calls to torture them or subject them to an extrajudicial execution. That’s a lot scarier than any blue fanged monster.