Sweet but Psycho?

Can you imagine how disorientated I felt after stumbling sober from Leonardo da Vinci’s A Life in Drawing Exhibition right into Rachel Maclean’s Too Cute! Exhibition at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery last weekend? Maclean’s psychedelic vision of our culture saturated in cuteness was indeed an eye opener and a blatant reality check for some of us, urging us to wake up from our afternoon naps and turn off the cat videos on YouTube.

Too Cute! Exhibition featured portrait of Gillian Wearing's Lily Cole (2009), depicting the actress and model wearing a mask of herself
Too Cute! Exhibition featured portrait of Gillian Wearing’s Lily Cole (2009), depicting the actress and model wearing a mask of herself

Too Cute! made me ask myself the question- are we just a big bunch of babies? I mean, look at us: we are all slumping around in our onesies, watching Disney films all day, expressing our emotions through emojis and pouting at the camera while using big eyed snapchat filters, so the whole world can see us for what we truly are: a pack of pathetic First World babies. Don’t you think that’s a bit crazy for fully grown adults to be doing such things in this day of age? It’s like Benjamin Button all over again. Even art has gone a bit childlike, just take a look at Joan Miro’s scribbles for goodness sake! How can that be classed as art when a baby could have produced the same effect?

Cara Delevigne wearing a onesie

So who is to blame? Is our childish behaviour due to our Japanese friends from across the ocean? I mean, it’s no secret that the kawaii culture, where ‘cuteness’ is fetishised upon by contemporary society, has become a norm in Japan. The psychological response to being cute encourages caregiving and possession of an object. Think about it, when you see a baby kitten, don’t you just want to take it, give it a good “sadomasochistic squeeze” and love it until the end of time???

Cute things can make you go a bit psycho, no? Well, that’s the whole intention of needing to be cute- it makes you become a commodity fetish. Now do you see why advertisements use cuteness to encourage a pattern of psychotically, compulsive consumption from us.

In a similar way, how perverse is it when you combine childlike cuteness with sexual imagery? Back in the day men liked the whole pure and innocent Virgin Mary appeal in women, only now do they refer to it as “cute”, giving it a more contemporary label than the boring ol’ “wholesome” archetype.

ariana grande
Ariana Grande entices in her “innocent” school girl outfit

Now this is about to get real dark, but if you think about it ‘cuteness’ has a ‘Lolitaesque’ aspect to it, it hints at a girl’s innocence, virginity and submissive nature, which can be said to evoke certain repressed sexual desires in men. The passivity of females leads to their primal needs of aggressive suggestion (e.g rape), thus it was “only natural to take her by force”, hence purity is fetishised and seen as a female’s perverse desire and is desperate for a man to fulfil her sexual needs. Since a female is cute and untouched, this also carries an image of obedience and submission, which men are supposed to be enticed by and decrypt as a playful suggestion of unattainability, and in turn should invigorate the ego and ravage the sexual instinct of men to compete in taking her virginity.

japanese girl
Japanese Kawaii- the culture of cuteness

As a result, infantilizing society, in particularly women, is pretty messed up. Your eyes might be staring at something cute, but in reality, it’s pretty psycho what you’re staring at. You might want to add that to the many of your First World woes, of course, after you’ve come back from Coachella, you wouldn’t want to worry about these things before such an important time of your life.

I’m afraid that’s all we have time for today, I will have to leave you with an important quote about consumerism to reflect on:

“You are not your job, you’re not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You are not your fucking khakis. You are all singing, all dancing crap of the world.” 
― Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

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