Procrastination is something most students suffer from at one point or another. It is sitting at your desk and feeling your heart pump – without actually doing anything. It is having all sorts of emotions, many of them positive, about the new book on your favorite topic – without actually reading it. It is getting a rush from creating the ultimate semester plan, complete with a perfect calendar – without actually using it. It is sensing something is wrong with you because you neglect that painful Nike slogan: you don’t “just do it”. But you want to. And so it is feeling like lazy scum – without actually being it!

In Futurama (I often wonder why only so few sentences ever start with those two words), the 11th episode (Mars University) presents my favourite character, Guenter the Monkey. For those who haven’t yet seen that episode (lucky as you are), here is the Futurama Wiki’s description:

“Guenter is a monkey made super intelligent by the Electronium Hat, an invention by Professor Farnsworth. Guenter was originally an experiment to see if a monkey could pass a course at Mars University. Seemingly on top of the world, Guenter was both smart and cute, making Fry extremely jealous.”

But Guenter is also increasingly tormented with dilemmas regarding his past, his parents. He is highly conflicted – and bananas (why not bananas?) become a great way of illustrating it:

Fry: You want a banana?
Guenter: I don’t eat bananas. I prefer banana-flavoured energy bars made from tofu.
Fry: I don’t like you.

Of course, Futurama is “quoting” a well-known steorotype of the intellectual, tofu-eating, slightly superiour over-achiever. It is also the perfect illustration of the kind of constraint, self-discipline, (civilization!) Guenter has internalised. At that stage in the episode, he probably truly believes that he prefers the banana-flavoured energy bars. He has forced himself to be the kind of person who prefers the tofu bars. Because only that kind of person would be worthy of The Hat.


But a visit by his non-hatwearing primitive monkey parents causes his inner conflict to escalate. He theorizes, contemplates, he considers ambiguities – in other words: he uses The Hat. And using The Hat means seeing all the grey areas. He realizes, for instance, how his new position compromizes his family values and identity. Ironically, it is The Hat itself which makes it possible for him to truly understand what’s so wrong with being ashamed of one’s primitive monkey parents. It makes him understand that deep down, he will truly, really, always prefer the real bananas. That he can always only be a pretend-tofu bar eater.

And so Guenter comes to the conclusion that One Should Stay True To One’s Roots – or rather, that The Hat brings so much pain and separation that its disadvantages outweigh its advantages. He can never be a true tofu bar eater – but with The Hat, he can also never be a true banana eater. And where does that leave him?

So he takes The Hat off.

Then the plot continues:

When Fry, Leela and the Professor’s lives are in danger, Guenter once again dons the hat with some difficulty and manages to save them all, however in doing so he falls down a massive waterfall, damaging the hat. Comfortable with the new “moderate intelligence” the damaged hat produces, he decides to abandon academic greatness in favor of business school. He got his MBA and became the president of the FOX Network.

The Damaged Hat as a perfect solution is of course a great pun. But there is really something to it: The Hat makes him reaaaaally think – overthink. The Damaged Hat, however, makes him “just do it”. The Damaged Hat removes the greys, the ambiguities, the pros and cons. With The Damaged Hat, everything is much much simpler.

I love the parody of the “half-hatted” business school student. (And would be interested to see if there isn’t some truth to that.) But where am I going with this? Well, which Hat would be most likely to cause its owner to stare at the blank computer screen with her heart racing – without actually doing anything?

My working theory (and tell me if I’m wrong) is that those same qualities in The Hat that made Guenter a brilliant student and a complex thinker are the exact same qualities that ultimately destroyed his academic career. (Maybe it’s enough to call that “overthinking”?) Notice that Guenter never removed The Damaged Hat – no self-destruction there. Why should he remove it? It was working for him, he was happy, the dilemmas were gone.

But does that mean that everyone should try to kill all complex thinking? Remove all nuances? KISS (“keep it simple, stupid” – a motto for some marketing strategies)? Of course not! If everyone followed Guenters example, that would even mean no more Academica. We need Hats, as many as possible.

It is, however, crucial to use The Hat wisely – to recognize the tofu bar trap wholes and strive to stay mindful of them. “Tofu bars are not always the answer.” And when the deadline is a few hours away and you still haven’t started? And your mouth is dry and your stomach is in a knot? Well, I’m still working on that one…