MOLLY SODA AND THE PERMATEENS / ARRAN RIDLEY AND THE CASE OF THE LIQUID AVATAR.
In anticipation of Sarah Deetz PERMATEEN ZINE at the end of August, I want to talk about the phenomenon, my interpretation. I am not going to prescribe to the stance that I can explain the root of it or even accurately fathom it currently or forsee what the implications of the permateen may be. Gee whizz what a stupid idea to even begin then huh? No. Not really, as while I cover my ass I do it for good reason. That reason is that I accept my fractured perception of the world, tumblr and the phenomenon of the permateen, dude it’s all so ephemeral and insignificant.
I have no concrete sources(<—- generic link about early 20s loser dumb dumb heads/permateens) only assumptions and tenuous connections to make between by meagre experience/knowledge and what I observe. There are a number of factors I want to consider other than perma teens directly. Teen appropriation, 90s cultural appropriation and 90s cultural entitlement, worship of the superficial and avatar death.
I remember, before, commenting on a rather tired bbc program which was meant to analyse the teen experience/sensation from it’s inception in the 40s/50s to the teens from the 90s. Like everyone was trying to carve their own path and outdo their previous generation, which now seems very abstracted. Teens that I interact with are on tumblr, and largely, I find that while they follow trends, talk about pop culture but so many of them reblog and align their identity with cultural artefacts from my youth and even late 80s culture. It’s almost as if the vast majority feel disaffected by their present.
Maybe it’s something to do with hindsight. Yet I see it in fashion and music and so much more, there’s a reverence towards the idiocy, superficiality and optimism of the 90s. 90s teens were the ones I found puzzling when I was a kid, I never really was a very good teenager- which explains my current obsession and my admission that I am playing catch up, in that I consider myself a permateen.
I failed at my teens (no significant rebellion/drug use/anti social behaviour to admitt) and now i am failing to become a structured young adult, as that first cringe-worthy hyperlink discusses. I am and maybe you are, part of this weird stunted adolescent existence, where we can’t get a job, a house or consider a family- the things society expects of us in order to become a functioning cog. So I am festering in the primordial ooze of my teenage years, going back to uni and starting to feel worryingly peterpan-like about life.
Now I’ve made all the apologies for the lack of academia/teen angst and attempted to contextualize permateens, we can get down to business- I still want to talk about tumblr trends. Topics of discussion will be Molly Soda and some other internet artists, tumblr fame ladder climbing and generally the will to discard and evolve one’s avatar.
The first time I ever got despondent about someone on tumblr deactivating was when artist/tumblrlrr Arran Ridley/Teenage Dog’s dump fm aesthetic was becoming popular. In an act of martyrdom Arran deleted his blog just as I was about to start one of my very first essays on internet artists on tumblr. I was angry but suddenly understood that deleting your blog can be as important as making it an aesthetic paradise. It makes people lament your absence, for one.
Arran has since returned with a few different urls and projects and he’s even played the same trick with facebook. Arran’s current URL of choice is clubclassics. And it applies remarkably well to the PERMATEEN aesthetic. His current blog is a cultural tomb to it’s moniker clubclassics, he draws from movies, tv and general ephemera associated with aspirational living as a true teen/early 2000s of the 90s. I refer to it as a tomb for the fact the content is delivered quite coldly, from the stony colour pallet of the theme to the fact most of his content looks like a lazy google search, which dehumanises his blog and further affirms his budding reputation as the Riddler of avatar reinvention.
While there’s the obvious choice of being called teenage dog etc, Arran really lives the PERMATEEN existence, when we would meet up he was making work that dealt almost exclusively with imagery from his formative years. He contrasts some of the cold content with incredibly personal stuff too, webcam photos and intimate yet suspiciously tongue-in-cheek details like below.
It seems that the one avatar Arran may find it hard to shake off is the constant artist, even his most personal admissions have a tinge of slow-burning, calculated aesthetic consideration about them. What I liked too about Arran’s first blog that he deleted, much to my annoyance, was how he was didn’t have to present the low res images of ferns and doctor pepper cans with irony- it was more that these were honest remnants of his past that were being exhumed.
The level of personal investment in internet artists artwork and bloggers on tumblr is always interesting to me. They (I use they in the most unreliable sense i.e tha artists i av come across and am too lazy to namecheck rightnao, okai?), where was I? Okay, they seem to tentatively feed personal information into their work. Social networking is prevalent, it dominates contemporary living whether you like it or not, the news reports what happens on twitter etc etc.
So slipping their identity into their work while being an aloof and inexplicable artistic intention, is also very much standard learned behaviour to garner interaction, or also an existential gesture towards the frailty of the avatar wahhh. Brad Troemel, ever the oracle to which I look for internet sense makes an apt comment on his facebook:
REAL TALK, I think we can all agree.
I have been lax about namechecking my artists, I won’t when I discuss blogs in question. As usual I write about Molly Soda but that’s because she reigns as tumblr queen- whatever she does or blogs is greeted with equal adoration and contempt- to all of which she is seemingly unaffected. So boys who look like molly soda and molly soda try hards attempt to make scathing critique, they try and deny such butt-hurtedness and Molly just shrugs, murmurs some Taylor Swift lyrics and continues to draw followers.
She has reached the heights of a deity almost. When she reloblogged a pic I drew of her, it got so many notes and I gained so many followers, it is as though all she touches turns to gold. Even moreso the mollysoda try hards blog, reblogged an earlier essay of mine that waxed lyrical about Molly and I easily gained 100 followers. It wasn’t very negative but was mostly about tumblr fame.
Molly Soda is definitive of a perma teen, in more ways than the ones I have descibed. it’s also down to a kind of lolita way of dressing, being very honest about her body and private life. Molly owns her identity, warts and all, which I figure is part of her success- something that all teens aspire to. Molly is my age, she dresses like a stereotypical 90s grunge/artsy girl, if you catch my drift, people find this quite sensational as her body modification choices tend to challenge the status quo and then become immediate trends. Her identity is copied vastly, hence the Molly Soda tryhards blog, for as her fame becomes meteoric, there are a proportional amount of people who dislike or are jealous of her. The fact that people invest time to half heartedly antagonise her is just inadvertent PR.
An obvious and unmentioned factor is how do people remain interested? The ‘hate’ perpetuates interest mostly, like the tumblr burn book- of which there have been many incarnations- dedicated to just being cruel about tumblr famous people/ make them ever more popular. There are gossip magazines, we don’t need to get deep to realise that people get off on gossip and their idols faults etc etc. But whatever piques a community on tumblrs interest soon ebbs; as with trends, there’s a short shelf life for the tumblr famous- but Molly Soda is constant haha.
Bloggers martyr themselves( by deleting/changing url), under the impression that they can begin again and easily regain their popularity. I often see people message popular blogs ‘hey I used to be so and so but I deleted’ expecting recognition and most of the time they get a sardonic reply. There is a sense of entitlement with tumblr fame but none seem to realise their fame is often coincidental and temporary not something intrinsic to them.
I fully understand the slightness and coincidence of my follower count and it’s down to separate incidents:
- a picture of me went viral, the same picture, twice, such madness.
- I drew a pic of molly soda, which she reblogged
- another pic of me got moderately popular
- an article I wrote about molly soda got exposure.
These reasons humble me cos I am primarily a photo blog that documents found photography and reblogs my likes. I’m simple folk. There’s a lot of posturing on tumblr, I only had to scroll down my dash just now to find peole lamenting tumblr, dissing it which of course, is so cool cos it’s an unpopular opinion, or at least we all wish we were tired of tumblr and had lives…
I feel like I wanna full circle back to what Brad Troemel said about internet artists not making anything just inspecting one another’s brands. Tumblr is mostly personal brands, blogs that is but what kind of productivity does this cause, there’s definitely a futility to blogging on tumblr, it’s quite addictive and gives one a sorta false sense of achievement.
An artist once told me that my practice was slight, in the sense it was slight gesturally, not in a fragile sense, maybe in a slow burning and subversive sense haha I hope. I don’t really make art anymore, so what do I do? Bits here and there? Not much. My future is still in this permateen phase, half baked etc. One thing abut perma teens i noted is how it is an incarnation of generation X.
“…”Generation X” has always signified a group of young people, seemingly without identity, who face an uncertain, ill-defined (and perhaps hostile) future. -from wikipedia yo.
I feel that tumblr is a kind of hive-minded, self-destructive, snowballing generation X, where everyone is seemingly melding into a permateen with too much identity. All wishing we were teetering on our platform shoes, quivering with fear at the ominous millennium bug. Those were simpler times.