Lil Uncanny

If any of you YouTube munching consumers delve your eyes and ears into daily Shane Dawson vlogs, you would probably know that he creates some pretty captivating conspiracy theory videos on a wide range of topics. One occurring topic that has evolved and updated itself over time is the mystery of Instagram famous girl Lil Miquela.

Basically, Lil Miquela is an Instagram account, which features a picture-perfect animated girl called Miquela that people have started obsessing over. She is like every ordinary Insta’ famous girl, yet made of pixels. Miquela has made quite the effect on her audience, spreading a widespread confusion and investigation into who she really is. Here are just a few examples of the mass confusion over her:

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She definitely has people talking! Her fame has resulted in releasing some singles on Spotify as well, which doesn’t actually sound too bad! I will provide some pictures and her music here:

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In light of this whole topic, it has inspired me to investigate the topic of Miquela’s relationship between the public, and why people feel they are uncomfortable and need to know who is behind her.

 So what exactly makes people uncomfortable about this?

The weird relationship between people and fake beings has been around for quite a while starting with puppets to wax figures and now CGI and robots.

I must admit I do feel quite uncomfortable in the same room as a puppet or walking around a museum with wax Nazi figures beadily staring at you. Some fears of these artificial beings are known as Pupaphobia (Fear of puppets) and automatonophobia (fear of animatronic and wax figures). Aside from naming fears, the theory of the uncanny valley is probably the best way of looking at this topic as it explains the unsettling feeling we have over false representations of beings.

Uncanny Valley

Take a look at this puppet for instance. If you feel uncomfortable about the way it looks at you then you will probably relate to this hypothesis.

Image result for vintage ventriloquist dummies

Psychologist Ernst Jentsch (1960) in his book ‘The phycology of the uncanny’ explained that uncanny was an eerie sensation occurring when people view a life-size figure such as a wax figure or puppet and cannot decide if it is real, not real or animated. Furthermore, Angela Tinwell wrote about this in her book The Uncanny Valley mentioning that the essence of why we feel this is because of the intellectual uncertainty of what the figure encompasses inside it. Horror moviemakers use the uncanny to their advantage and by making apparitions appear only slightly visible to make the human mind uncertain and fearful.

This hypothesis really got me thinking of that scene in Prometheus where Dr Shaw asked the robot named David why he was putting on a helmet to breath outer space and he responded explaining that he was programmed to take procedures that real humans do in order to make the people feel more comfortable being around him.

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What I think from Davids quote really corresponded with the Uncanny Valley theory because it explains that if something is slightly off about the artificial being, it makes us conscious that the essence of it is still fake therefore feeling disturbed and uncomfortable. This sensation is further mentioned by expert Mashiro Mori (1970) in his essay on Uncanny Valley as a catalyst from witnessing the first mechanical arm. Being a professor at the Tokyo Institute of technology, Mori explained in his essay that his engineers were not satisfied with a robot functioning being without the actual features. Therefore fake flesh and hair were put on the robots in order to make them more realistic. Mori concluded that people indeed had a negative reaction to the robots despite it imitating humans perfectly, they said that the appearance and imitated human behaviour was still slightly off.

Coming back to Lil Miquela, could this be the case for her?

Miquela has sparked a lot of attention across Instagram since her first appearance, and although as beautiful she is, I believe people want to know who the human behind the project is to feel more comfortable. Perhaps the die-hard investigation into Miquela has come from people with automatonophobia because it would settle the question of the unknown.

What is for certain is that I, the writer of this, cannot stand the following instances:

  • Museum wax figures
  • Vintage puppets
  • Theme park rides with moving robots in them
  • When Siri knows where my car is parked
  • The Dolmios pasta sauce ad with the puppets
  • The live-action ‘Adventures of Pinocchio’ movie (1996)


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