I had my Discrete Math students critique Charlie the Unicorn, and here is how some responded.

Title says it all. This summer I’m teaching CMSC 250, “Discrete Structures” (really, this is a misnomer; I have no idea why we don’t call it “Discrete Mathematics”), to undergraduate students in the Department of Computer Science at UMD. As one of the requirements of the course, I had them review the epic saga of Charlie the Unicorn and submit a short essay. Now I knew these kids are bright and have a sense of humor, yet once again they surpassed all expectations.

Here are anonymous excerpts of what was handed to me:

The “Charlie the Unicorn” series has taught me about the dangers of the world we live in today. Life isn’t always rainbows and unicorns and I’m pretty glad it isn’t. That world seems messed up. There are tons of two-faced people out there and it is important to read through them or else they will get you to think you are the banana king and steal your stuff.

Why yes indeed, you never know when that might happen.

The Pink and Blue Unicorns are sociopathic robbers who are unable to distinguish
reality from fantasy, as well as being able to force their fantasies onto others through either hypnosis or hallucinogenic drugs. It is obvious that these two unicorns are a threat to society and need to be put into an insane asylum and be rendered unable to create their fantasy worlds.

Ouch! So much for second chances.

While Charlie is being manipulated, they continually make fun of him and steal his belongings. These acts seem to be unprovoked and only cause them enjoyment; they gain no real reward from these acts. Each situation they get Charlie into results in a catchy song followed by the immediate death of the performer.

My favorite part of Charlie the unicorn was the part when Charlie is convinced that he is the banana king. It’s probably true that if you levitate and shine and light on someone you could probably convince them of anything.

In an attempt to make sense of this video, the only conclusion that I could come to was that this is what Jason Steele, the creator of Charlie the Unicorn, experienced while higher than a kite. I would imagine that his stoner hallucinations were best manifested in a video where he and his friends were portrayed by unicorns, so that is exactly what Steele created.

Some people were more introspective than others:

Charlie the Unicorn is a politically-themed satire lambasting both Democratic and Republican politicians alike.  In the video, Democrats are symbolized by the blue horse and Republicans, the red.  The third horse, Charlie, represents the average citizen, with his white color additionally connoting the average citizen’s relative innocence and naïveté in politics.  The blue and red horses—henceforth referred to as “the purple horses”—employ fanciful promises and extreme enthusiasm to slowly goad the white horse—who is initially reluctant—into travelling to Candy Mountain with them.  This journey represents an ordinary citizen being stirred out of political apathy by the campaigning of a compelling politician spouting ideals, hopes, and promises of a better tomorrow.  However, the motivations of the purple horses were not so noble or selfless;[…]

While others actually hinted towards inductive reasoning / rule learning:

Each adventure involves an annoying commute to the destination with the pink and blue unicorn, arriving at the destination, receiving a song, having the singer blow up, and then Charlie somehow being put into danger. From this pattern, we can build an implication relationship which Charlie quickly learned. If Charlie goes on an adventure with the pink and blue unicorn, then he will be put in danger. As far as then fourth chapter of their adventures, this rule has been valid. But we do not know for sure if it will apply for future episodes.

Or human persuasion techniques:

To me the fact that there are 3 unicorns was interesting. People tend to believe when more than 3 people start believing some idea. For example if 3 people points to the sky in the middle of the road, other people start looking at the sky since people think there must be reason the 3 people are pointing to the sky. It is called the “Power of 3”.

This person, along with the person who provided the politically themed comments, seemed to be the ones closer to what the Internet believes the videos to be about:

One thing I did find interesting throughout all the episodes is that no matter how evil the things were Pink and Blue unicorn did to Charlie were (like taking his kidney), he went on every single adventure with them. After losing my kidney or my belongings by hanging out with my friends I wouldn’t want to hang out with them anymore. I don’t know if they’re necessarily Charlie’s friends to begin with which makes me question his decisions to follow them even more. In the last episode, Pink and Blue unicorn tried to take his life, but starfish came and rescued Charlie. I honestly could not stop laughing when starfish told Charlie that he was a star and then when Charlie made the wish, starfish’s eyes burned out. I was questioning why starfish was so in love with Charlie in the third episode, but good thing he was a starfish or else Charlie wouldn’t have lived. YOLO. I wonder why Pink and Blue unicorn were able to take everything away from Charlie except for his life. Was the creator trying to tell us something there? Whatever, I’m not going to think too much into it. A+, 10/10 would watch again.

Finally, if you’re interested in finding what the Internet thinks these videos are about, (a) You have a serious problem and (b) Here you go:

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