What do Skrillex, Shinji from Neon Genesis Evangelion and 19th Century German philosopher Arthy Schopenhauer have in common? Well, it all has to do with the little creature on Skrillex’s surprise second album release (in as many days) last weekend.
Aptly titled Don’t Get Too Close, Skrillex is subtly referencing a philosophical concept explored by seminal pessimist Arthur Schopenhauer. Published as part of his 1851 work Parerga and Paralipomena, ‘The Hedgehog’s Dilemma’ explores the paradox of hedgehogs huddling for comfort and warmth in the face of cold winters. Yet due to their unfortunate spiny anatomy, they will inevitably inflict pain on themselves whenever they get too close.
This parable is Schopenhauer’s explanation of the human condition and how we are forced to find comfort in one another in the face of a cold, cruel and unforgiving universe. However, when humans get too close, we too inevitably hurt each other.
In the title track featuring Bibi Bourelly, the chorus warns against such intimacy:
Don’t get too close
‘Cause nobody knows me
Don’t get too close
You don’t even know me
Followed by a melancholy bridge featuring these lines sung by Skrillex:
I’m on my PC
I see famous people
I think they’re like me
So why aren’t we equal?
The last time Skrillex released a full album was during a very different social landscape. Perhaps it’s rose-tinted nostalgia, but the early 2010s really do seem like a time of pure innocence compared to today’s chronically online world of Zoom calls, fame-hungry influencers and Tik Tok trends.
Despite being more digitally connected than ever, there is evidence of our human disconnect and loss of empathy growing at alarming rates. The popularity of online personas and the parasocial relationships they foster also ties into Skrillex’s repurposing of the Hedgehog Dilemma for life in 2023.
It’s no wonder that it seems harder than ever to make friends.
Episode 4 of seminal anime Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995) is titled ‘Hedgehog’s Dilemma’ and also explores the concept of isolation and existential angst. Besides giant robots kicking kaiju butt, these themes actually form the central core of the whole series, with main character Shinji Ikari setting the template for depressive adolescent anime protagonists.
The episode’s plot revolves around the same idea of how hard it is to maintain intimacy with other people. In a hyper-techno-saturated world where characters literally fuse into their robotic exteriors, the parallels with our own modern existence with technology may be tenuous, but are difficult to ignore.
Perhaps Skrillex was feeling a bit lonely during COVID and spent too much time on his phone, or maybe he binge watched a bunch of anime, or maybe he actually spent time exploring the depths of existential philosophy. Whatever it was, the track “Don’t Get Too Close” stirs emotion and reflection. For me, it made the joyous footage coming out of his New York performances with brothers-in-arms Four Tet and Fred Again all the more triumphant.
In a time where it is difficult to make friends and to find human connection, moments like these, with music at its unifying best, are imperative to seek out and celebrate.
One thought on “Skrillex & The Hedgehog’s Dilemma”
Thank you for this insightful article. I’m a Skrillex fan (and a fan of philosophy), and had never heard of the hedgehog’s dilemma. It is tough to connect these days. But your words reached me! 👋
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