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up here. But if you scroll far enough back on her Instagram , you can see the slow transformation of an unmistakable adult into a rather uncanny-looking teen, despite most of the content — boobs, butts, a cascade of red hair — remaining the same. These boundaries are increasingly relevant when it comes to deconstructing online self-presentation writ large. Yet its real purpose appears to be far more banal: Adopt already popular markers of Gen Z cool kids and use it to rake in sponsorship money from fashion brands without having to deal with the messy realities of managing an actual person.
CGI influencers are an extreme example of something far more common and insidious, however. Consider Blackfishing, a term that spiked in popularity around , when conversations circulated around Ariana Grande, the Kardashians, and ordinary non-Black women who adopt the aesthetics of Blackness and capitalize on it. Over the past few years, the discourse around Asianfishing has grown more urgent as East Asian cultures have become increasingly visible in the US in entertainment and social media.
He writes:. As this techno-culture begins to celebrate a new, assembled view of self and explore its limits, the uncanny automata, the assembled human — the Asian body — becomes an ideal to aspire to rather than run from. Mainstream culture now celebrates artificially rendered influencers like Miquela, or figures like [pop star] Poppy who fashion their personas as robo-entertainers … These figures — with their pushed and pulled faces, edited eyes, skin so airbrushed it looks like a render — are uncanny not by accident, but by de.
The otherness of the Asian body, which is racialized as technological, is simulated through technology. We were warned that, should everyone on the internet have access to appearance-altering software, it would incite catastrophic political chaos. Meanwhile, they can weave in and out of those identities at will without experiencing the discrimination and systemic barriers that come with living as a Black or Asian person. The problem is that everybody knows what Tom Cruise looks like. You literally can do it just by pressing a button. Underneath all this ickiness, there is another, possibly more disturbing element, which is that Coconut Kitty was right: More people did want to look at her when she made herself look like a teenager, because of course they did, because teen girls are so highly fetishized, as are Black and Asian women.
Tech companies like Instagram, Snapchat, FaceTune, and the makers of FaceApp exploit this by giving us innumerable sophisticated tools to convincingly warp our identities. All of this, ultimately, is an aftereffect of existing within an image-centric culture in mostly lawless digital spaces.
What did we expect? This column first published in The Goods newsletter. Our mission has never been more vital than it is in this moment: to empower through understanding. Financial contributions from our readers are a critical part of supporting our resource-intensive work and help us keep our journalism free for all.
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