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The Rise of the Social Media Fembot


The following is an excerpt from AMANDA HESS | February 4, 2018 | Nytimes.com |

MTV’s “TRL” recently welcomed Poppy, a rising star with hologram-perfect skin, an avant-garde Japanese schoolgirl wardrobe and a voice like Betty Boop’s on benzos.

For much of the show, she perched silently on the couch and methodically stacked candies on a glass table. A longhaired handler called Titanic Sinclair accompanied her, explaining, “I’m just making sure she doesn’t malfunction.” Poppy proved a tough interview. Asked what she thought of the Grammys, which had aired the night before, she chirped: “Um, I don’t really remember them.” Then she changed into a costume that made her look like a beautiful egg yolk and performed “Bleach Blonde Baby,” a song about how she was born with full makeup and a mani-pedi.

Poppy is — to sum up her project most simply — an android-themed pop star. She first appeared on YouTube in 2014, in a video where she eats cotton candy while an overdubbed soundtrack plays oddly pleasant eating sounds. When she speaks, Poppy exhibits the limited range of a chat bot, the oddly formal vocabulary of a digital assistant (she says “New York New York” and “YouTube dot com”) and the late-capitalist tics of an online influencer. In “Hey YouTube,” she repeats vlogger greetings — “What’s up, guys?” and “Hey YouTube!” — until they lose their meaning. In “I am empowered,” she purrs, “I feel empowered when I create high-quality content on the internet” over and over again.

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