I Must Choose Darkness

October 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

It's funny because I have

As I am sometimes inclined to do, I sent my family an email telling them that I missed and loved them. My brother, who was instrumental in my early research and remains a trollish wind beneath my wings, immediately replied-all with this image. I laughed, then was reminded of an idea I’ve been kicking around for ages and which I briefly revisited during my lemon party-feuled ROFLbender (I’M LOOKING AT YOU PD) — namely that there’s some interesting gender shit happening just beneath the surface of all the cutsey can-haz animal macros, perhaps best embodied by the imperative IT’S CATURDAY (DOGURDAY) POST SOME FUCKING CATS (DOGS).

In this particular case, “I love you” coupled with a grinning corgi appears diametrically opposed to, or at the very least gestures towards a deliberate inversion of, the statement that grindog is actually an agent of darkness — hence the initial lol. But something interesting happens when you consider the image as a whole, as opposed to three discrete components (picture of dog + two seemingly incompatible statements) placed into ironic discourse. Considered holistically, the image somehow manages to embrace and repudiate sentimentality. The image isn’t exactly ironic, but it’s not exactly not-ironic either. This seems significant, and provides –for me at least– a way into the discussion of online cuteness.

But let me back up. Though love of cuteness extends into the deepest recesses of the tubes (just type “kittens” into any search field anywhere), I’m mostly interested in the performance of cuteness in otherwise (and often decidedly) non-cute spaces. This is a very, very green idea (as I said, it’s remained nebulous until this past weekend), but my sense is that cuteness shoved through the troll-hole, even shoved through the ROFL-hole (these holes overlap, you see, like a Goatse Venn diagram), is transformed from “simple” cuteness to something much more interesting. Namely, I’m inclined to argue that it rejects and embraces and comments upon and ludicly recombines traditional notions of heteronormative masculinity. The shorthand explanation is that there’s something somewhat queer/ed about cuteness in ROFLspaces, but it’s more complicated than that. I’m not sure what the THAT is, yet, but suspect it’s something — and will, once articulated, help explain what happens semiotically, subculturally, whatever otherally when you place an image of a cute fuzzy newborn kitten in the same thread as performances (arguably a different thing than “expressions”) of sexism and homophobia. Obviously I’m thinking specifically of 4chan, here, but have encountered what can loosely and somewhat facetiously be described as a kind of fag/kitten dialectic across the ROFLscape.

In other words, more to come on this.

They really fucking do.

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