“I’m going to become an idol!” I sent this message to my friend’s group chat at the end of 2019. We joked about it a bit, and then I ended up naming myself “Magical Bunny Maid Idol Linlin” in the group chat, solidifying my new existence.
The sudden obsession led me to make a “90’s Geocities” style site for this character (shhh don’t ask for it, it’s still under construction >:0). I also ended up buying the perfect cosplay to eventually take anime polaroid pictures under a fully bloomed cherry blossom trees with a plan to sell the snapshots online for $3 each with my custom signature on it. I even woke up at 2am and started recording my voice for my first Bunny Maid Idol album but… let’s just let that one bury itself
Now, this creation process is an interesting phenomenon. I started wondering: why do we like to make “virtual” personas of ourselves? What are we trying to achieve by re-imagining ourselves through characters we create? After all it’s not an uncommon phenomenon in the otaku sphere: just look at anyone with a Picrew-generated anime profile picture on Twitter and see the variety of characters users make based off of themselves. We love making these virtual characters!
Is this phenomenon normal and healthy? Or is it an egotistical trip to feel more important than we truly are, to make ourselves look like the perfect anime protagonist? In order to answer this question, I thought back to my “youthful years” (hey, I’m still young!!) to try and figure this out.
Re-imagining Our Identity Through A Fictional Self
On a more personal note, when I was younger I was very insecure about myself and often felt inferior to others. Part of this inferiority came from being bullied in school, but I also believe it came in part due to my insecurity about my femininity. As a girl I never felt I was “feminine” enough, either because of my awkward mannerisms or the way I liked to present myself to others. I felt I didn’t match up in comparison to other girls. Other girls were always prettier, more confident and shining brighter compared to myself, an introverted loner.
There is also the fact that anything “feminine” is often looked down upon or ridiculed in American culture. When teen girls squeal over Twilight, BTS or whatever the next trend is, people dismiss that thing because of its primary audience, as if teen girls are a bunch of brainless morons (and as if trashy entertainment is never made for boys). I always notice that I get sexually harassed way more when I’m wearing more feminine clothing compared to if I’m wearing a loose sweater and jeans. Sometimes when I’m getting dressed in the morning I ask myself, “do I have the emotional energy to deal with harassment today? Or no?” and yes, this stuff gets exhausting so sometimes I don’t even want to deal with it. For these reasons, I have often surpressed my femininity either to avoid harassment or not being taken seriously.
However, I now realize that worrying about such rigid gender roles is exhausting. I want to embrace my femininity and my love for cuteness, and that emotional strength and inner peace can be found in both. This is why I believe in promoting cuteness and “moe” both through my art and how I live my life. People should be comfortable no matter how they want to express their gender, and femininity can be an important part of our identity if we so desire. As a plus, I can make my virtual self as cute and feminine as I want without having to deal with gross men yelling at me on the street 🙂
For me, creating virtual selves through art, writing and cosplay have helped me to accept and express my true feminine self freely.
Cringe culture is dead, create that magical-girl-pink haired-queer-demon-succubus-wizard virtual persona you’ve always dreamed of and go live your life to the fullest! In the end we’re all trying to find our true selves, and perhaps art can bring us a little bit closer to our own answer.