Poppy: A Transmedia Youtuber

Almost three years passed since the first video on this curious, strange Youtube channel called “Poppy” which still produces regular new content. The project is a bit mysterious and its videos are often unsettling, but maybe this is the very reason behind the web-chattering and its success (videos like this one count millions of visitors).

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So, who is Poppy? She’s a Youtube star, a character played by the young actress and singer Moriah Pereira. Poppy is a girl (or maybe a robot, it’s still too clear) who calls herself a hugely beloved popstar. Her videos are really short (most of them are 2 minutes long or even less) and they consist in Poppy curiously speaking or interacting with various objects. The settling is a Aplle-ish asettic white background.

We see her in many situations: reading the Bible, playing with a hula-hoop, pronouncing politician names, chatting with a plant and so on. Her countenance is always clean, cute, in a word: kawaii. She often looks at the camera and speaks with her fans (and it doesn’t matter if they are real or not).

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This may look like simple non-sense, but it’s easy to find in this serial project several key-themes and a precise aesthetics. “Poppy” is definable as a general satire and parody of the pop (not only pop music) system and the popstars, puppets controlled by the producers. We actually know who is the producer who controls her: his name is Titanic Sinclair, the director and creator of the series, and a youtuber itself. The whole pop machine, its way to recruit “followers”, the communication on the web, all of this is grotesquely emphasized. Especially the videos of the first period resemble mini-performances satirizing the vacuity of Facebook chattering and the spectacularization of world events.

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Some of these themes could sound quite corny, but the Poppy project deals with them in a smart way, because it incorporates all the features of the 2.0 web. It reflects upon the system by using the very elements of the system. So, the web-communication elements are stressed: minimal design, flash duration, J-pop imagery, extremely high audio quality; the main platform is the popular Youtube, but the few characters of the series are also on social media, and they regularly update their accounts with sentences coherent with them; there is also a merchandise (something recalling the QT musical project) and even real music albums. Poppy is pervasive and ubiquitous, so Moriah Pereira keeps on acting even outside the web, in the upcoming music tour or in her alienating TV interviews.

Since the early period, all this cuteness is actually source for uncanniness. Video by video, dark elements and details emerge, blood, ghostly apparitions, addict mannequins…so that the shadows of this shining, brilliant pop mechanism are always present. Some of the creepiest elements have been interpreted as masonic references by a part of the fan-base, but this somehow contributed to the success of the project. While until 2015 every episode was often interesting in itself, in 2017 this creepiness appears in very simple videos creating a perverse narrative of sort. Now it’s still unclear which direction the series is going to take: maybe it will insist on this uncommon story-telling? Maybe it will stop? The end of the music tour could be the right moment for an answer.

Calogero Gambino

 

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