Internet fame is a fleeting thing, so I am not sure who will be familiar with the Llamas with Hats series of videos. I reckon a few of you are. The original (link) has over 35 million views, for what that’s worth. The initial premise of the videos was that there are two llamas wearing hats. One, Carl, is extremely violent, while the other, Paul, whines about how violent the first one is. Spoilers follow, so if you want the undiluted llamas with hats experience, go watch it now. The first 4 episodes focus on this central theme, gradually ramping up the violent acts that Carl preforms, concluding with the detonation of a nuke and faces tied to balloons. After that, however, the series took a strange turn. In the fifth episode, Carl does something shockingly violent and… Paul is not surprised. Paul’s response is ‘I think I was expecting worse.’ In Episode 6, Paul leaves, splitting the comedy duo. Episodes 7-12 then depict Carl’s descent into madness.
This melancholy turn surprised the videos fans, including myself when I discovered a few days ago that the series had suddenly gained 8 more episodes. I was immediately curious what other people had said about the videos, and so I did a little bit of research (i.e. I asked google). I found several explanations, including the series creator’s own explanation (link) and this video (link). The central reason for the odd twist is essentially this: the series wasn’t fresh any more. Paul, like the audience, could no longer found Carl’s horrible acts outlandish or edgy. The initial core concept of a violent llama and his horrified friend only lasts so long. Yet, my understanding is, there were many people who continued to want more Llamas with Hats of the original vein: they wanted to keep nostalgically consuming new content following the script of the original series.
I think that this kind of desire to consume more of something is a common occurrence in human existence. It is difficult to be satisfied with something in moderation. Whether its food, literature, success, or sex, we as a species have a tendency to over-indulge. I don’t mean for this to sound like a judgement of sin, or something of that nature. Instead, I mean that we have a tendency to overindulge from a satisfaction standpoint: we consume until our consumption makes us sick, or until we have rendered a previously satisfying experience mundane and unexciting. Part of satisfactory consumption seems to necessarily be the ability to consume in moderation.
Returning to literature and story and Llamas with Hats. A phenomenon that seems common to me is that young people (by which I mean those younger then 15) often seem to want to read the same stories over and over again. I know that there was a series of books that I read three or four times, and I believe I know several people who have read the Harry Potter series upwards of ten times for each book. Now, I do not think this behavior is ‘wrong’ in any sense, but I do thing that it displays a kind of hunger for the initial pleasure that the series brought – a nostalgic repetition.
What is the solution to this nostalgic repetition? One answer might be that we should consume each thing in moderation, take what satisfaction that we can and then move on. To many this answer is deeply unsatisfying because it is improper to really call it a solution. Indeed, there is a way that this restless consumption mirrors the initial problem: instead of consuming a single thing to excess we endlessly consume the novel. Many philosophical schools have explored solutions to this problem, including Buddhist and existentialist philosophies. I shall explore these at another time.
Let me know what you think,
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