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Agentic cute (^.^): Pastiching East Asian cute in Influencer commerce

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There has yet to be a definitive study of cute culture that is organically Singaporean. Drawing on existing work on East Asian cute culture and the regional popularity of commercial social media microcelebrities or ‘Influencers’ in Singapore, this article annotates three modes of agentic cute used to obscure the soft power that Influencers hold. Through the qualitative textual and visual analysis of content from three popular Singaporean Influencers, and their associated blogs and social media, this article examines how three tropes that I term ‘the Doll’, ‘the Darling’ and ‘the Dear’ are enacted as cute femininities among adult woman. It argues that the subversive power of this performative cuteness is obscured by the corresponding sensual delight, romantic docility and homosocial desire that the Influencers develop in tandem with their cute self-presentations. By continually emphasizing stereotypical gendered relationships with their male partners, and relations with their followers, these Influencers are able to position themselves as non-threatening and submissive, when they are in fact quietly subverting these hierarchies for personal gain.
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Keywords: East Asia; Influencers; Singapore; bloggers; coupling; cute; microcelebrity; social media

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Western Australia

Publication date: April 1, 2016

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  • The East Asian Journal of Popular Culture is the first academic peer-reviewed journal for scholars, teachers, and students from around the world who have an active and passionate interest in the Popular Culture of East Asia. The journal is devoted to all aspects of popular culture in East Asia and the interplay between East Asia and the wider world. With the growth in popularity of Asian visual products in the Western world and the increasing strength of the Asian markets, this publication fulfills the need for an international journal that allows Western and Asian film, media, literary, music, fashion, digital media, television, art and cultural scholars alike to engage in discussion. In the last few decades there has been a huge rise in the interest in East Asian popular culture. The East Asian Journal of Popular Culture will be engaging directly with that trend. From film to music; art to translation and fashion to tourism, this journal will offer a forum where multidisciplinary work can come together in new and exciting ways.
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