Over in England teenage YouTube celebrity Venus Angelic is causing a storm of controversy that is blowing into America.
Venus Palermo aka Venus Angelic is a living, breathing 15-year-old girl, who chooses to style herself as a ‘living doll’. Looking like a living doll includes contacts that enlarge her irises to anime-like proportions and a pale skin tone that uses common cosmetics to appear both real and artificial at the same time. Add in some sweet lolita fashions and you have a “living doll”. Venus says it only takes a few minutes to transform into her ball-jointed doll appearance, which she has done for over two years now. Her YouTube videos have created a bit of controversy that really only illustrates people’s beliefs of what is normal or acceptable.
Many teenaged girls are obsessed by their appearance or the perception of their appearance. Many teenagers are on YouTube singing or playing an instrument to popular songs. And yet the most common word bandied about by middle-aged America about Venus Angelic is “creepy”. This would be the same middle-aged America that has an unhealthy obsession with Twilight and Edward Cullen in particular. Middle America doesn’t get Japanese culture. It doesn’t understand elderly people reading comic books, or bankers dressing as ’50s rockers and descending on downtown Tokyo. It doesn’t understand Japanese ball-jointed dolls, which are comparable to western Barbie dolls if you had to buy them at Michaels and assemble them yourself. What middle-aged America does “understand” is that Japan is a place of sex crazed perverts who obsess over sex dolls.
So a London-based teen girl pushes the envelope of looking like the Japanese equivalent of a Barbie doll. She posts YouTube videos of how to achieve the same effects complete with faux Engrish-accented voice overs, and she’s damn good at it too. If she is indeed 15, then she is a very old 15. Of course having a mother who is a talent agent and former beauty pageant winner probably doesn’t hurt. It might also explain why she’s not too upset by her daughter’s Internet fame. When Venus’s mother was asked if she is disturbed by her daughter’s appearance or the attention she is attracting from her YouTube videos, she responded she’d be more upset if her daughter came home pregnant or was smoking/drinking/doing drugs. But middle-America doesn’t understand why someone would want to look like a “living doll” and is quick to judge it sexualizes a teenage girl. Ironically, in Japan the middle-aged women obsessed by the dolls Venus emulates push the femininity while obliterating the sexual. But this is the same middle-America obsessed with tabloids, Cosmo, Victoria’s Secret and Twilight. Sexualizing a teenage girl? A few hundred years ago the same girl would have already been a wife and possibly a mother by that age. And apparently the same parents upset at the attentions Venus gets seem to forget that their daughters not only are bombarded by sexually messages constantly in the media, but in the hallways of American schools. It’s like they’ve forgotten what it’s like to be a teenager and are suddenly shocked that people experiment with who they are.
As a fan of anime and a Japanophile I find Venus Angelic’s videos amusing. As a parent I know there are much worse things my children could be into and if dressing up in a world of cookie-cutter fashion is the worst my kids are up to, I’d be quite relieved. Sure some creepy people might be on the Internet, but they also live in real space as well. No need to worry any some dude across the country when there’s a town full of creepy people outside your door. Anyone who dares to live outside the narrow confines of normal will always attract attention, but that’s why we as parents pay attention to the interactions of out children. Want to dress up as a Victorian doll, sure. Want to go out of the house in a patent leather dress and spiked high heels, no way. Venus’ mother is aware of what her daughter is doing and is keenly aware of the type of attentions she is and can attract. And that makes her a better mother than a lot of people who have no clue what their teenagers are doing on their phones or the Internet.
How to look like a doll (make up)