The Out-of-Touch Adults’ Guide to Kid Culture: Uncanny Valley MakeupReading Time: 4 minutes
Generations Z and Alpha do weird things, but they seem to mean well.
Pop culture is like a disturbing science fiction movie this week. Young people are intentionally styling themselves as nightmarish quasi-humans, having their eyes burned at weird parties in Hong Kong, and sharing the trailer for a new Mean Girls movie.
The corner of TikTok devoted to makeup tutorials is on something weird this week: uncanny valley makeup. Originated by TikToker Emilia Barth (whose feed is full of grotesque makeup looks) the idea behind uncanny valley makeup is to to create the look of an extremely lifelike, but still artificial, human face. Wrinkles are smoothed out, imperfections erased, and something subtly artificial is added by highlighting some parts of the face in a slightly ‘wrong’ way. The end result is a doll-like look, or the kind of visage an AI would create, but it’s even weirder because it’s applied to a real human. Not being able to readily identify whether something is human is deeply unnerving in a primal way. Check out some examples, and if that’s not enough creepy for you, here’s the #uncannyvalleymakeup hashtag.
It apparently wasn’t enough for Yuga Labs, creators of Bored Ape Yacht Club, to steal online rubes’ life savings by convincing them that easily copyable digital images of cartoon apes were a solid investment—they also tried to blind them.
ApeFest 2023 was held in Hong Kong on November 4, and people attended the event, presumably of their own free will. The hype for the international gullibility convention promised ‘Three days of meetups and mayhem. One big night full of surprises.’ One of those big surprises was UV stage lights shined into the crowd, resulting in severe eye-burns.
‘I woke up at 04:00 and couldn’t see anymore. Had so much pain and my whole skin is burned. Needed to go to the hospital,’ reports Twitter user CryptoJane.
CryptoJane is describing the symptoms of photokeratitis, a condition the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) likens to having a ‘sunburned eye.’ The result is pain, sensitivity to light, and temporary blindness. ‘While nearly everyone has indicated their symptoms have improved, we encourage anybody who feels them to seek medical attention just in case,’ Bored Ape Yacht Club tweeted. (You really want to take medical advice from these people.)
I assume this was accidental because of course Yuga Labs would fuck up anything it touched, but people’s eyes were burned. They’re the eyes of the dumbest people on the planet, but still.
You might expect a class-action lawsuit, but I’m not sure. Consider this tweet from professional dimwit Adrian Zduńczyk. In it, he reports on being blinded and hospitalized at ApeFest, but adds, ‘Thanks for great apefest logistiscs guys @yugalabs & @BoredApeYC. Incredible event and met plenty of amazing people.’ So maybe Yuga Labs can create a special line of drawings of pandas or something and pay the settlement with that.
In the early days of the web, accidentally clicking links to disturbing images or videos was a rite of passage. You’d get an email from a friend reading, ‘Check out this cool car!’ with a disguised link to lemon party, goatse, or another piece of made-to-be-shocking content. You’d race for the ‘close window’ button and vow never to click anything anyone sent you, ever again. Then you’d send your own ‘Check out this cool car!’ emails.
The practice has been mostly dormant for a long time, but the young people are bringing it back, with an added wrinkle of reverse psychology, in the form of ‘do not google.’ The phrase is, of course, designed to make others google things that will result in messed up content.
I do not think you should google ‘the fish video,’ ‘the horse video,’ ‘botfly removal,’ and ‘twitter.com.’ I really mean it. I don’t know the result of any of these searches because I learned my lesson the first time around, so be smart and do not google.
If your kid has suddenly started playing Fortnite again, here’s the skinny: Back in 2018, Fortnite was everywhere. Everyone was playing it, memeing about it, making videos of it, and generally living a Fortnite lifestyle. But gradually, interest fell off. Maybe it was the over-exposure, the focus on casual players, the addition of mechs, or maybe it just got old.
Epic Games wasn’t going to let Fortnite go the way of Angry Birds, though, and did the one thing that could make people play the game again: They reset the clock. Fortnite OG brings back the original map and weapons, and urges players to forget everything that came later. So far, it’s going great: The update/rollback resulted in a peak player total of 6,172,463, which is more than the game ever had at the height of its original popularity.
They’re making a new, musical version of Mean Girls, and the trailer was shared massively: over 3 million views in its first day online. Check it out.
This project has all the things needed for success: There’s obviously a ton of money behind it. The cast it talented and charismatic. It was written by Tina Fey. But judging by the trailer, I don’t think it’s going to resonate with young people at all.
Mean Girls feels like it was written by middle-aged people looking out at younger people and not understanding what they see. There’s a lot of ‘aren’t they sex crazed?’ jokes, and ‘wow are they mean’ comedy, which is worse than just obvious and hacky—it’s dishonest. Real teenagers are having a lot less sex than they were 20 years ago, and as for the ‘mean’ part of Mean Girls, cliques and bullying aren’t as much of a thing for current kids either. Zoomer and Gen. Alpha seem way more innocent, accepting, thoughtful and kind than kids used to be. Honestly, we’re the depraved ones—but I guess you can’t make money on a movie about that.
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