ASMR: virtual meditation or easy-listening erotica?

If you walked up to someone on the street and asked them what they thought of the collection of videos surging the YouTube platform, or even if they have heard of it, they would most likely be confused. In other words, the internet phenomenon is one of those things that can’t be pinned down as to what it is. From what I can understand, ASMR could be described as the internet’s very own marmite: some love it; some hate it. The creators within the community, since it has over the years grown into a community, are known as “ASMRtists,” almost as if they are artists of sound rather than the more conventional visual format that most average people think of when they think of “art,” and what is art and what isn’t is completely up to the person reading this article. For me, art is something that has a certain connotation or meaning which can be shared harmoniously by the creator and the consumer, and ASMR, whether you like it or not, does seem to fit within that description. Of course, within this there is also room for people to dislike the art which is created, and many people do seem to dislike ASMR. As with any sort of art, that is something someone creates, there needs to be some kind of understanding of the format itself.

 

And so, what is ASMR?

 

According to Wikipedia, ASMR is an acronym for autonomous sensory meridian response. Let’s take a moment to appreciate how intelligent that sounds, and the fact that I’ve included it in my article has bumped the count of my remaining brain cells up into a solid three brain cells, or perhaps even four if we’re being optimistic. It is a very long (and intelligent-sounding) term which is used to describe a tingling sensation felt by someone who is triggered by a certain soft sound, such as whispering or the sound of rain. This sensation, which is called “tingles” or “tingling” by those who create and watch the videos, is apparently felt within the person’s head and travels down through their spine, as demonstrated by this diagram which I also found on Wikipedia, the citing website which teachers and academics alike just love to hate.

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The diagram which shows the tingling feeling characteristic of ASMR videos

However, some people, who some people argue are the majority of those who are aware of the ASMR community and their creations are a bunch of crazy people who have made up a bizarre pseudo-science which doesn’t do anything for anyone, other than ASMR’s alleged sexual connotations. I mean, watching an attractive woman, who I must admit make up the majority of the ASMRtists, whisper into a camera could be interpreted by some as being rather suggestive, although it is my own opinion that something that could be considered sexual is exactly that: something that could be considered sexual, depending on the individual’s own interpretation, and their desire. After all the eye only sees what it wants to see.

 

But there is reason to argue that this online phenomenon actually does help people. In 2015 two professors of psychology at Swansea University named Emma L. Barratt and Nick J. Davis respectively conducted the first experiments based upon this phenomenon, which was christened ASMR five years earlier. They gathered as many as 475 people who said they experienced these “tingles” characteristic of the phenomenon, which upon reading about the experiment is a considerable amount of people, which makes me believe that the self-titled “tingleheads” can’t just be a small group of basement-lurking neckbeards with a whispering fetish. The researchers found that the people they asked sought out ASMR videos on YouTube in order to experience the “tingles,” which explains the growing number of ASMR videos on that platform, since there is obviously an audience for it. But what is so good about these so-called tingles? There must be a reason for their craving this sensation so much. Well, according to this study the participants did identify a reason for their craving. The study showed that these people were seeking out the videos because they significantly lowered their stress levels and made them feel comforted. Some even use it in order to fall asleep and to aid ailments like chronic pain and mental illnesses.

 

However, one of the things I have been fascinated by which surrounds the seemingly innocent ASMR is the starkly contrasting manner in which the creators create their content. The first type of creators of these videos are the ones who appear to give ASMR as an entire community some kind of a bad reputation. I won’t name any names since but many of these “ASMRtists” appear to cash in on ASMR’s sexual connotations and make their own risqué videos in which they suck on bananas and comment on how the banana is shaped like a dick. Umm… okay? Whatever you say I guess?

 

I happened to have one of these videos pop up on my YouTube “recommended” page, and well… let’s just say that curiosity killed the cat. The cat died from cringing so hard that she turned inside out. That characteristic awkward feeling which comes from watching one of these videos is similar to when you accidently walk into a couple enjoying each other’s company at a house party… if you get my meaning.

 

But I digress. The second group of ASMR creators I have come across whilst on YouTube are those who deserve the name of ASMRtist, in that they are artists in some way. They have very expensive-looking microphones and green-screens which they use to create very professional-looking videos that rack up tens of thousands of views, which is so impressive to me. They seem to take their work so seriously that one of the most well-known creators within the community has what she calls a “tingle shed” in her garden which she appears to have built herself. There are even videos which detail the process by which the lady in question, whose channel name is WhispersRed ASMR, went about building the shed, piece by piece. Now that is dedication! There are many people like the lady in question who create high quality videos for those who need them, most with an incredible amount of subscriptions. Some even have a million subscribers and as a result have received a golden YouTube button. In my opinion this just shows how many people must watch these videos and use them for their own personal enjoyment, whatever that enjoyment may be, and that the creators of these videos are valued contributors to the YouTube platform as a whole.

 

In the comments section of many of these ASMR videos there are people who say the video made them fall asleep instantly, and there are also indices where some have said that the videos help to calm their autistic child, and in my opinion if these people are finding solace in these videos, they seem in my opinion to be totally harmless, if not a good thing. There are far worse things to be watching on YouTube than ASMR videos, that’s for sure, especially in the light of the controversies which have surrounded many of YouTube’s most popular creators (cough Logan Paul cough). Overall, ASMR appears to me to be arguably one of the most creative communities on YouTube. Although there are some who seem to pervert the medium for their own gratification, from what I gather the majority of creators within this community seem to genuinely want to create these videos, and as bizarre they seem at first, the videos do seem to be taking the internet by storm and they show no intent on ceasing to create them, so we’d better get used to seeing them on our explore pages and/or recommended sections because it appears as if they are here to stay.

 

 

If you were as fascinated by the woman who built a “tingle shed” in her garden as I am, here is her channel where you can watch one of her (amazing) videos:

 

https://www.youtube.com/user/WhispersRedASMR

 

The cover image of this article depicts GentleWhispering ASMR, whose channel can be found here:

https://www.youtube.com/user/GentleWhispering

 

 

© Sinner’s Paradise and its author, (2017-). Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sinner’s Paradise and its author with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

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Dita Von Teese by Dita Von Teese: Bop or Flop?

In late 2017 the American burlesque star and advocate of modern vintage fashion known as Dita Von Teese partnered up with French singer-songwriter Sébastein Tellier to create a self-titled album, the first time Dita dipped her bejewelled heel into the sea of pop music. It was released in February 2018, a month ago, but within the month of its existence it has been the subject of very mixed reviews.

Many people liked it. Many didn’t.

But being a Dita Von Teese fan since the age of 12 I was willing to give it a listen, and what can I say? The union of a glittering burlesque star and a bearded French man straight out of the seventies has worked in some senses, and in others? Maybe not.

I was originally going to discuss all the songs on the album but if I’m honest it would make a very boring article, because if I’m honest a lot of the songs sound the same, so instead I’ll talk about a few of the songs which are slightly different to the others and seem a little less like fillers. The first I want to talk about is entitled “Sparkling Rain,” which immediately reminded me of this costume:

dita sparkling rain

Maybe that’s the point, and if it is it’s very clever, and a nod to Dita’s usual career path, and maybe one that she feels more comfortable in. The beginning of the song is very similar to rain tapping on a tin roof which immediately give the listener a “sparkling” feeling which is in essence the point of the song. In my own opinion as long a song is only good if it conveys a certain mood or a story, and for me this one does just that. It made me imagine an elegant Parisian café on a rainy April evening. The lower tones of the song create a certain kind of “background” for the higher pitched rain sound which has been created, and the main melody is reminiscent of an eighties dance track, which immediately connects back to Dita’s retro aesthetic. In the chorus she sings “Hard sparkling rain, my bubbles unchained,” and one can almost imagine her dancing in the rain with one of her sparkling costumes for which she is renowned. It also reminds me of her famous champagne number in which she wallows in a huge champagne glass.

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The second song is called “Rendez-vous” is the first of many references to French and the so-called “la vie parisienne” which Dita seems to romanticise and twist in order to suit her aesthetic. The major chords of this song remind the listener of summer and the mention of “forbidden fruit” and poison, both of which give the song a very sensual vibe to it, and it’s almost daring and makes you feel the same way as when you sneak up to the cookie jar when your mother isn’t looking. Bold yet tender. The next song “La vie est un jeu” (“Life is a game”) sings the same tune, quite literally, as the last. This one is my personal favourite since Dita’s thick American pronunciation and mumbled sing-speaking reminds me a bit of Marlene Dietrich’s singing in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Dial M For Murder” (1954), but this could be considered a bad thing since Dietrich was not a good singer. At all. Dita’s voice is incredibly monotone and she almost sounds bored, which occasionally clashes with the slick electronic beats and orchestral backing. The reason I quite like this song is because it’s a lot softer sounding that the others and in the end one can hear Dita laughing whilst the music plays on into a fade out, which plays upon the supposed playfulness of French beauties such as Brigitte Bardot (even though she has made racist and homophobic comments in the past, but many seem to ignore that because hey! at least she’s pretty!) and their dreamy vibe, and since Paris is meant to be the city of love she sings, or maybe speaks, since that verb does seem to be better suited to her method of singing, in French of course which seems to be her language of choice despite her hardly being able to speak it, about her lover and beckoning them to come to her.

“My Lips on Your Lips” is the climax of the album’s sexual atmosphere if you pardon the pun in which she paints a scene of feminine sensuality and in some sense power, and she repeats the phrase “nothing is real.” I might be reading into it too much but this might be a reference to her burlesque shows, suggesting that the shows themselves are nothing but smoke and mirrors and the vision of vintage glamour is long gone. The song itself isn’t hateful, but it definitely isn’t for the faint-hearted. People who are afraid of sexuality, stay far away! A similar song on the album is entitled “Fevers and Candies” which is only of note since a lyric from the song, “Ride me to the farthest, be my rodeo” reminds me a lot of this burlesque number which is included in Dita’s touring show “Art of the Teese.”

Dita-von-Teese-c-Frank-Rodrick.jpg

The last song is called “Porcelaine” and is the only song in which Sébastien Tellier actually sings in, and in my opinion this is one of the stronger songs on the album since his deeper tones sort of blends in with Dita’s pouty mumbling in a way that I never expected would work. However as usual the song is in French and whilst Sébastien Tellier is French and so it won’t be a surprise to you if I say his French is naturalistic and effortless, whereas Dita as usual struggles along like a schoolgirl in French class trying to copy her French teacher.

In conclusion, with Dita’s monotone singing and the wallpaper electronic stilts which Tellier uses in an attempt to propel her barely-there voice, the album might not seem great upon first hearing. Despite this when you break down the songs and the things which all together make the songs a song it actually plays upon different themes and aspects of Dita Von Teese’s femme fatale persona. Yes, it isn’t a great album. And yes, it isn’t remarkably successful as an album, nor as Dita’s singing debut. But it serves its purpose as simply being elegant background music. Sensuality though still staying classy, theatrical though still appearing elegant, flamboyance with subtlety, Dita Von Teese definitely earns her name of “tease.” Although the album isn’t the best I believe that it emphasises her sensuality and style through music, and is definitely not the worst album I’ve ever heard, because at least it does its job. All the songs are very pretty-sounding and it would be a suiting track to have in one’s boudoir whilst wearing a long nightgown and sipping champagne, as Dita demonstrates here:

dita boudoir

© Sinner’s Paradise and its author, (2017-). Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sinner’s Paradise and its author with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Rusalochka (The Little Mermaid) (1976) film review 

In the year 1976 something beautiful emerged from the Soviet Russian film industry like a sea maiden from the ocean, a time in which Russian filmmakers like Dziga Vertov and Sergei Einstein were making iconic films which influence modern filmmakers today- a film of the name “Rusalochka” (“The Little Mermaid” in English), directed by Vladimir Bychkov, a tale adapted from Hans Christen Andersen’s fairytale of the same name. Many Russian films from the 20th century revolve around Soviet and Bolshievik propaganda, but “Rusalochka” was a part of many films made in the 1940s up to the 1970s and 80s which broke from the propaganda films that seemed to be so popular, one in which filmmakers broke from reality and harked back to a time of dashing knights and beautiful mermaids, a time where people truly expected to see mermaids and sea monsters out at sea and unicorns and faeries out on land.

One of the most mentionable aspects of this film is its cinematography and the all around atmosphere of it. In many parts of the film there are techniques used in order to layer different parts of the film to make one part, and the end result creates an illusion that the Little Mermaid (Viktoriya Novikova) is disappearing and reappearing.

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The Little Mermaid spying on the Prince and his ship

This happens when she is still a mermaid when she is spying upon the ship and the people on it, including the (human) Prince (Yuri Senkevich), who the Little Mermaid falls in love with, and also at the very end when she (spoiler) is cursed to walk the earth forever as a result of the Witch’s (Galina Volchek) deal with her- have legs so she can make a connection with the Prince, who she saved from imminent death after she and her mermaid sisters crash the ship. However if the Prince falls in love with another, the Little Mermaid will die, but despite this the Witch gives in a little when the peasant Sulpitius (Valentin Nikulin) protests, with whom the Little Mermaid develops a close friendship. This effect, the name of which escapes me (if it has one), makes the film magical and makes it almost seem as if the Little Mermaid truly is a magical creature and not just an actress with long hair.

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The Little Mermaid saving the Prince

Although I never managed to get a decent screenshot of this as I was watching this part of the film, at the very beginning we mermaids doing some syncronised swimming in the sea as a merman looks on. Now maybe this wouldn’t be so awe inspiring if this film was made in 2018 but this is 1976 we’re talking about, back when they didn’t have many health and safety regulations on set and had no CGI to speak of. The fact they even managed to film underwater is amazing to me.

Another aspect of the film I liked was the costumes. This is so shallow of me I know, but costumes truly do make an atmospheric fantasy film come to life. Imagine how boring “The Lord of the Rings” could have been if Gandalf wore a bin bag and a 2 quid wig he bought from the Halloween section of Asda! Throughout the film the Little Mermaid wore a diaphanous dress with puff sleeves and flowers sewn on the collar, which added to her ethereal, otherworldly nature, since she is a mermaid after all and not human despite appearances, and that is just the Little Mermaid we are talking about.

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The Little Mermaid at the ball. She is kneeling next to the Princess’ throne

The ball scene, which is pictured above along with the Little Mermaid, is an excellent example of the beautiful set design and costumes “Rusalochka” has to offer. At the ball the Little Mermaid, after being saved from the dungeon by Sulpitius (who is an example of the kind of friend I need in my life) sits by the Princess (Galina Artyomova), who the Little Mermaid doesn’t know loves the Prince, who encourages her to dance alongside the other nobility at the court. The Little Mermaid takes up on this offer and dances, and we see the set and the costumes of the film in its full glory. The nobility, such as the Princess and the Prince, all wear extravagant court dress, but whether they are entirely historically accurate is beside the point. We are in fairytale land now, historical accuracies are now far behind us! Although I believe the dress of the main Peasant and the other townspeople we see when the Peasant take the Little Mermaid to the Prince are fairly accurate. The dress of the Witch however is understandably elaborated a little bit to show her bombastic nature, since she wears bright colours and a particularly interesting hat which she has pulled pieces of her long hair, now blueish green after the Little Mermaid gave her hair in exchange for legs, which makes the Witch appear bizarre but formidable at the same time.

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The Princess (on the right) and one of her handmaidens (on the left). Note the headpieces and jewels!

I think from what I have already written you can tell that I loved this film, but there is one criticism that I can think of, which is the acting. The acting for the most part was decent across the board, although not Oscar-worthy, but still a good effort from the actors, many of whom have now vanished into obscurity. However in places the acting (and singing, since there are two subtle musical numbers) was wooden, especially the Princess who at times didn’t even make an effort to appear convincing, and the Little Mermaid who had the vocal pitch and delivery of a five year old girl but hey! that’s obscure Russian films for you. And it doesn’t matter, since all other aspects of the film were in my opinion sublime. And the Little Mermaid’s bizarrely high pitched voice just emphasised her otherworldy nature.

In conclusion, this film is a forgotten gem of Russian cinema and in fact of cinema in general. The mood and atmosphere of this film is nostalgic and reminded me of my mother’s retro children’s books and is an excellent example of how films, if done well, are timeless and don’t age, just like the Little Mermaid never will. The ending was sad but at the same time happy endings are boring, and I liked how the director stayed faithful to the original Hans Christen Andersen fairytale which isn’t exactly the cheeriest thing to read, giving children a slap in the face from reality. Those who delight in all things ethereal and soft should make a pilgrimage to this film and marvel at its costume and set design.

If you want to watch this film too, the link to the first part of the film is as follows, and the others can be found on the YouTube account AstralTravellingMan, which the link is from. God bless AstralTravellingMan!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zvupnpGelCE

© Sinner’s Paradise and its author, (2017-). Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sinner’s Paradise and its author with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The glamorisation of mental illnesses and why it needs to stop

When one thinks of the various trends that have emerged from the murky waters of social conventions and fashions, one would probably think of trivial fads that are so ugly that they have to be changed every so often. Like a honey bee in a meadow dotted with thousands of little flowers, they jump to something that takes their fancy, taking what they want from it, and once they have sucked away what they please they jump to the next flower, seeking the next buzz.

But one of these modern trends that I have in mind hasn’t been replaced by another little flower. It has grown and grown into something that is so hideous that it is a surprise that even in this taught, highly sensitive generation it has slipped away un-noticed. It is the trend of donning a mental illness or three like a pretty dress in order to make yourself seem more wind-swept and interesting, and then when people don’t give you the attention and pity that you need in order to feed your ever-growing ego, you place more and more onto yourself until it gets to the point when people must say something in order to not seem like a terrible person. It’s sickening but this is the reality of some people’s existences, and it may just be me but mental illnesses aren’t meant to attractive and beautiful. In fact, the reality of them is they are hideous afflictions which can affect people without any warning, and the fact that many people seem to romanticizing the afflictions of these people makes my stomach turn.

Before this article turns into my own personal rant, I should show the reader some examples I have encountered in my day-to-day life. And disclaimer- everything from this point is my own opinion, and if you don’t like or accept that then stop reading this now. In addition to this I don’t dislike any of the people that I’m going to use as examples of the glamorization of mental illnesses, and if you do don’t take my opinion to heart because it doesn’t affect you in any shape or form.

Now, dear reader who refuses to take my opinions to heart, allow me to introduce to you Exhibit 1) the so-called internet “baddie” (which is one of those words I pretend to know the meaning of to avoid scrutiny) who goes by the name of “Yung Elita,” who has had a large following of teenage girls and sweaty old men for good reason. The two groups I have identified as being the two main sectors of her following both have good reasons to be following this girl, who I will call Elita, whether that is her real name or not I am not sure, but that is the name she obviously prefers to go by on the internet, so Elita she will be.

Now, why do people follow her? my reader cries. If she glamourizes mental illnesses, which is obviously a bad thing, then why do so many people pay any attention to her?

I will tell you, but bare with me. Since both categories are different they pay attention to her for different reasons, some of which are unclear to me, but the reasons I am about to give you, which OF MY OWN OPINION, are underneath the picture of the woman in question.

yungelita
Because smoking is cool, right?

Okay, now you’ve seen a picture of her, and maybe stared at her for a while, here we go. Boy am I going to offend people…

The sweaty old man category follow her because she posts pictures of her body. All the time. Because sex is a powerful thing, and boy does it sell.

Fast.

To 806,000 people and counting.

Now the other group I have identified are a more elusive sort. As you would expect of teenage girls, they are more mysterious and cleverer than they let on. But they are also confused and anguished. Lord are they anguished. They are trying to navigate this big bad world for themselves, but society has a special way of biting them in the ass if they become too bold or outspoken. As a girl in the twilight of my teenage years myself I feel as if I have first hand experience of this, and Elita, being a young woman herself, takes advantage of this fact in the way she has crafted this internet persona. She reels them in with a special sort of nihilistic aesthetic, with her short tennis skirts and holographic knives, and seems to have these group of teenage girls in some kind of trance, making them press the “Follow” button that lingers above her profile. Her pictures seem sweet but are at the same time laced with some dark force, and I have seen the dark force below the dark force that she pretends to possess. One only needs to look at her Instagram story to see the kinds of the things she appears to promote, all for her death-lusting, “I’m-so-superior-to-you-because-I-own-a bunch-of-knives-and-want-to-die” attitude. I used to follow her Instagram accounts, of which she has two, which both post the same kind of photos that I’ve shared. There is no nice way to describe the kind of thing she endorses and posts on her Instagram story, the pictures of which she takes directly from her Tumblr account, that being excessive use of Xanax, death, romanization of serial killers such as Charles Manson and Ted Bundy who don’t deserve the slightest bit of respect from anyone, cartoon characters such as Hello Kitty covered in glittering blood… you get the picture. For anyone who doesn’t know, Xanax is a drug which is used to help people with anxiety and/or depression to face their daily lives, and this woman clearly doesn’t have any of those illnesses, since it was always my impression that people with those sorts of illnesses can hardly get out of bed in the morning, never mind take half-naked photos of themselves and maintain an internet empire as Elita has done. Fair fucks to her for doing it though, because lord knows I don’t have the time or energy to even attempt to gather a large social media following, but in a way that appropriates very real illnesses? Really?

And now for Exhibit 2) the singer Melanie Martinez. I feel as if this is more of an obvious one and because of that I didn’t want to include her, but since more and more people are at her throat now than ever for reasons I don’t want to go into because I don’t want to go off topic, I think I should. One thing I will say is that the warning signs were there within her music. But I digress.

Let’s take a look at her music. Her songs are a gold mine for the romanticization of mental illnesses in popular culture, and even my cat could see that within the chorus there is the dreaded romanization of mental illness, pulling on the ears of the listener like a pair of dangly earrings that you feel inclined to wear on a special occasion. Below are the lyrics of “Mad Hatter,” one of the songs featured on her 2015 album “Crybaby.”

 

I’m nuts, baby, I’m mad
The craziest friend that you’ve ever had
You think I’m psycho, you think I’m gone
Tell the psychiatrist something is wrong
Over the bend, entirely bonkers
You like me best when I’m off my rocker
Tell you a secret, I’m not alarmed
So what if I’m crazy? The best people are
All the best people are crazy, all the best people are

In my high school English class we’d have to pick out the dominant themes of a poem in order to analyse them. Now, I wonder what is the most prominent theme of this chorus if it were a poem? Hmm, maybe the theme of mental illness would come to mind. It is almost as if the universe has a sick, twisted sense of humour and made it serendipity that Martinez was singing about mental illness and pretending to pull skin off of her face and a few months after it was released she was accused by a former friend that she sexually assaulted her. If this accusation is true, for no-one will truly know what happened between the two women, then I can safely say that the tell tale signs were there but seemingly no-one bought on to it.

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Martinez in her self-directed music video for “Mad Hatter”

There are many examples of the glamorization of mental illnesses that I haven’t mentioned. I’ve only picked the ones I know the most about myself, since I used to like Melanie Martinez’ music and used to follow Elita on Instagram, but of course they aren’t the only ones. I feel like I can write about these two examples without making assumptions about things I truly know nothing about, an example of which being the Netflix show “13 Reasons Why” which apparently glamourizes suicide and was controversial due to the fact Google searches for “how to commit suicide” skyrocketed after the show was streamed, and I don’t think I should include it since I haven’t watched the show myself. One very important thing I haven’t addressed in this article is how I have seen the impact of popular culture and it’s fascination for mental illnesses impact the people I know and used to know, because after all where else is a better ending point to see the true extent of the glamorization of mental illnesses?
Many of the incidences I have encountered took place during high school, which was all but six months ago, but there is one in particular that has stuck in my mind as a particularly nasty one. Of course I won’t mention her name, and so for now I will gave her the name A. A was a particularly nasty girl, not because she was particularly rude or obnoxious, although she was, but because she was so thirsty for attention to the point that she would get angry whenever someone ignored her, not out of malice but because they simply didn’t like her, and A did not make an effort to make herself liked by even the most sympathetic of people, even though that was one the one thing she desired most of all- to fit in and be liked, which is something I have never been able to sympathise with.

One day this girl just stopped eating lunch and would brag about it day in and day out, and the fact that she would often sit with me during lunch and break times made sure of the fact that I noticed it. As she began to do this more and more, the more she would brag about it.

“You guysssss,” she would lament, “I think I have anorexia…”

This may sound worrying to anyone who hadn’t spent five minutes in a room with her, but when a friend of mine reported this bizarre attention-seeking behaviour to her guidance teacher and began to buy her food out of her own pocket to prompt A to eat, she ate it, and when she had got all of the attention she could squeeze out of pretending to have an eating disorder gave her she stopped, and began to eat normally once again. I could be wrong but that doesn’t sound like anorexia to me, but if there is an eating disorder which spans from wanting attention and sympathy from other people then maybe she had it.

Even though the examples are mostly based upon popular culture, at the end of the day it is popular culture that is one of the biggest influences upon people and their behavior, as sort of distant peer pressure. The fact whether you like it or not is that popular culture has latched onto mental illnesses, and whether that is something that is a good thing or not is debatable. Does it spread awareness of mental illnesses? Yes. But does it spread mental illnesses in a constructive and harmless way? No. The fact is that people with large amounts of influence on social media or otherwise are romanticizing mental illnesses and it isn’t okay, and the fact that I’ve actually had to write a 2,200 word article about it shows the extent to which I feel it has affected people and it needs to stop.

But one thing is for certain: depression isn’t having mascara run down your cheeks as you stare wistfully out the window, anxiety isn’t feeling a little bit nervous about an exam, and anorexia isn’t being slim and healthy whilst at the same time watching what you eat. Depression is lying in your bed in your own filth because you can’t bear to face the day, anxiety is vomiting because you can’t bear to imagine going out into the big bad world to face the day for fear of messing it all up for yourself and anorexia is barely having the energy to breathe whilst clumps of hair fall out of your head.

Mental illnesses aren’t something that should be taken lightly. They are monsters that take over the afflicted like a cancer, changing them until the point of no return. Mental illnesses are as real as physical illnesses, and they are not something to be glamorized.

© Sinner’s Paradise and its author, (2017-). Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sinner’s Paradise and its author with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

“The day that changed everything (and everything after that),”: a short story

Mackenzie’s life, according to Mackenzie, was the most mundane thing in existence. Nothing excited ever happened to her, and unlike the teenagers in her beloved TV shows, she was in herself a mundane person. She wasn’t the homecoming queen, nor was she the ugly, socially-inept nerd who never got a date to prom and wore knitted jumpers her mother had made for her in an attempt to look “stylish” and “cool”- she was merely a normal girl- an extra in the great TV show of another more interesting person’s life- the blank, unsmiling nobody who never had anything interesting to add to anything.

She was disgustingly normal.

Most days of her life were the same, with very little changes in them, almost as if things had to be switched up in order for her not to die from boredom, like her guardian angel changed the tiniest things for her in order to prevent her from going insane. However, from those days came forth the day that changed everything. Mackenzie never really understood why these events took place, but they just did. She believed she wasn’t deserving of them.

***

Before the details of the day that changed everything (and everything after that) unfolds, it must be understood that Mackenzie had a crush on a boy who didn’t know her name, but she knew him. Oh, did she know him. She felt as if she knew everything about him. She had looked into the deep depths of those amber-flecked eyes briefly as he walked down the hall during the first day of school, and from that moment she knew she made a deep connection with him. He never looked at her, or was in any of her classes, but yet she knew their souls were connected. She was in love, and she knew she was in love because every time she masturbated she thought of him, and every time she climaxed she felt herself breathe the name “David.” But on this day, her belief that they were in love was confirmed when he asked her out on the day that changed everything.

He approached her in the hallway, shadows of people walking past, kissed her lips and asked her to prom, and she, kissing his lips, agreed. On that day, she felt as if everything was falling in place. The popular girls, finding that David had asked this nobody to prom, sat next to Mackenzie’s friend group and began speaking to her almost as if they had been close friends for years. They spoke to Mackenzie and only Mackenzie, and she, discarding her old friends, fit in with her new friends like a glove. They spoke about their dresses and hair, how one girl’s father was going to drive her to prom in his own limousine. Another spoke of how dress was from a designer in Paris and asked Mackenzie if she wanted a dress from the same designer, saying her parents would pay. Mackenzie of course agreed. The afternoon passed like a flap of a butterfly’s wings. David asked her to meet him at his house at 8, and at that time they had sex on his parents’ bed. The parents were absent for all Mackenzie cared. She didn’t care. All she cared about was the fact she lost her virginity to her one true love.

On the night of prom, she entered in a glittering dress and everyone looked upon her beauty. She was no longer the boring girl no-one really noticed. She was popular and beautiful and dating David. All the girls whispered to each other, their beady eyes locked on her, saying how they wish they were Mackenzie and how jealous they were of her. All the boys just stared at her in awe, their jealousy fizzing inside of them. As she and David danced, it was almost as if the world stopped in admiration of the lovely young couple dancing in the centre of the globe. All hail the King and Queen of Prom! The rulers of the school hierarchy! The beautiful young lovers!

And then, Mackenzie woke up for the first time in a month, her glittering gown disintegrating into a hospital gown.

“Mom?”

“Yes, baby? I’m here, Mackenzie, I’m here!”

Her mother embraced her, her tears of joy falling on Mackenzie’ pallid forehead.

“Mom? Mom?”

“Mackenzie, what?”

“Where’s David?”

Her mother stopped. She let go of Mackenzie slightly in order to look her in the face.

“David? Who’s David, baby?”

“David, my boyfriend Mum! David, David, why isn’t he here?”

“Sweetheart, you don’t know anyone called David. You’ve been in a coma for four weeks!”

“Mackenzie will be confused, Mrs Schwimmer,” a cold doctor’s voice said. “We should give her some space and come back in a few minutes.”

“No!” Mackenzie screamed. “Where’s David! Where’s David! Where’s my boyfriend?”

“Sweetheart, you don’t have a boyfriend!”

“Mrs Schwimmer!” the doctor said, almost aggressively, pulling Mackenzie’s mother away from her daughter, screaming and crying tears of heartbreak from a boy who didn’t even know her name.

© Sinner’s Paradise and its author, (2017-). Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sinner’s Paradise and its author with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

If “Lolita” was realistic, a short comedy sketch

My spin on Nabokov’s “Lolita”

Characters

Humbert: the guy

Dolores: the girl

Charlotte: the girl’s mum

Time; the present, Place; Charlotte’s back garden

The action of this sketch takes place within a summer afternoon.

Humbert is the newest lodger of Charlotte, who is the landlady of a block of flats in a city. Humbert voices over the action of the sketch like a narrator in a book. This narration is illustrated with italics. His speech is illustrated like this. 

Close-ups of the flowers and grasses of the garden ensue.

Humbert

Lo. Lee. Ta. Love of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. She was my everything. The day I met her was the day my sensuality awoke from the depths of my heart, arising from the ashes like a phoenix. None other girl I had ever seen measured up to her beauty. Oh, Lolita, my Lolita!

The screen cuts to black, then the scene resumes. Charlotte is showing Humbert around the apartments, coming down to the patio and the garden.

Charlotte

…and here we have the garden. All the tenants share this piece of land, including me and my daughter.

Humbert

You have a daughter?

Charlotte

Yes, Dolores. She’s just out here. I’ll get her to come over.

(clears throat)

DEH-LOR-EZ!

Dolores is lying down on a blanket, watching a video on her laptop. She has short, greasy hair and spots. She wears jeans and a t-shirt with a fandom slogan on it. She takes off her earphones with a disgruntled look on her face.

 Dolores

Whaaatttt-uhhhhh?!

Charlotte

Get your arse over here! The new tenant is here.

Dolores

Why-uhhhhh?!

Charlotte

Because manners, that’s why!

Dolores gets up from her spot and walks over with her back slumped and arms dangling. She mutters to herself as she walks over.

 Romeo and Juliet theme plays. The camera goes blurry.

 

Humbert

Ah, my Riviera love! With those supple arms and balletic gait! It isn’t true that angels only live in heaven. They live in the most unexpected places.

 The camera goes back to normal.

 

Charlotte

Mr Humbert, this is Dolores. She’s thirteen in August, aren’t you duck?

Dolores

(wipes nose on sleeve of her top)

Yup.

Humbert

It’s very nice to meet you, Dolores.

Dolores

Yeah, ‘kay.

Dolores takes her phone out of her pocket and starts playing a game loudly. Her face begins to contort and she starts snorting with frustration. Charlotte talks but Humbert isn’t listening.

 

Humbert

She acts with such sensuality, such passion! Why, every muscle in her face is a work of art, each crafted by bands of angels.

 Charlotte

Dolores! Stop it!

Charlotte takes Dolores’ phone away from her.

 

Dolores

MUM-UHH!!!

Charlotte

I’ve had it up to here with you! I’m taking this away until you learn some manners.

Dolores

This is so unfair! I hate you!

She storms off, back to her laptop and headphones. Humbert eyes up the table and chairs on the patio.

 

Humbert

May we sit outside?

Charlotte

Of course! It’s such a lovely day, why waste it inside?

Humbert

As my new landlady spoke to me (or rather, at me) about the arrangements, I could help but gaze upon my little Lo. She would be mine forevermore.

© Sinner’s Paradise and its author, (2017-). Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sinner’s Paradise and its author with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

“Angels,” a short story

The inspector never expected to see something like this. It seemed like such a strange way to go. A fifty-eight year old man with everything going for him taking his own life in the bath. He thought that if he were in the man’s position he would want to die surrounded by attractive women on a private ship in Monaco at the ripe old age of ninety-nine, certainly not by his own hand anyway.

He turned to the man’s son, who stood outside the door of the apartment. The son stared into an imaginary horizon, as if he was spying a way to escape the hard grip of what reality was lying through that door. A policewoman spoke at him more than with him, her shrill voice piercing the bustling air like a foghorn.

“Now, Mr Wetherspoon, can you think if there would be any motivation for your father killing hims-… taking his own life?”

There was a delay in his answer.

“I can’t think of anything. Why he did it, I’m not sure. I’m not sure… it all happened so fast.”

“That’s alright, Mr Wetherspoon. That’s alright. We’ll find out, that’s for sure.”

“I just wish I knew.”

***

I can see angels, and hear them too. No-one will believe me, but I can prove it. They tell me the future, and they’re always right. They tell me what the weather will be like. They tell me that my friend will phone me tomorrow inviting me to dinner. They told me that my daughter-in-law’s pregnancy would end in a stillborn. They showed me heaven. But why I’m able to do it, I’m not sure. All I know is when it began.

It all started when my Rita died. At her funeral I saw something.

I asked my son if he saw it too, and he didn’t.

The next day I saw it again.

It was blindingly bright. It appeared to be a person, but I knew it wasn’t. It was something else. It stood next to my cooker, its wings touching the walls. I was so in awe, I didn’t know what to do. Before I could do or say anything my body gave way, collapsing onto my knees.

“Andrew Wetherspoon, if that is he?”

“Y-yes?”

White light pierced through my very soul, my very being. It was almost as if it saw through me.

“You have acquired the ability to see and hear us, we great beings of love and light! We are here to guide you…”

It breathed a great sigh, if it could even breathe. “Let’s cut it with the formal bullshit, eh? Basically somehow you’re able to see us.”

“What?” I said.

“Angels, you know angels right? Winged guardians of humanity, servants of God, blah blah blah… whatever. You know?”

“Uhh… yeah. Yes I know what you… I know what angels are. But how did–?”

“You’re asking me like I know mate. I’ve no idea. Must be a glitch in the system, or because you have had close contact with other realms. Has someone died?”

“Yeah… Rita, my wife.”

“Ah well,” the angel sighed. “That’ll be why then. Strange how you’re the only person that we know of that has acquired this… talent. So far anyway.”

“But why me?”

“Only God knows, and one thing’s for sure, I’m not gonna go up and ask Him either. We’re all terrified of Him, not ‘cause He’s a bad guy or anything… He’s just… how can I put it… intimidating, that’s all.”

It laughed at it’s own comment and threw itself down in my armchair, the light that emanated from its being glowing through the fabric. It told me that its name was unpronouceable to human beings, but I could call it Dave. It told me it was able to see into the future and as a result I would see it too because I was able to see into the realm of Heaven.

And I saw Heaven alright.

That day it told me that the kettle I had put on the stove would boil in exactly 2 minutes and 34 seconds. I grabbed my phone and timed it. It was the longest 2 minutes and 34 seconds of my life, because in that 2 minutes and 34 seconds I would know whether Dave was just a shadow of my own insanity or if what was happening was real. I needed to know. And in exactly 2 minutes and 34 seconds the kettle began to whistle. I was so much in disbelief that I began to laugh uncontrollably, almost as if what was happening was far beyond the expression of words. The fact that an angel was sitting in my chair was enough to make anyone question their own sanity, and believe me I did. Oh, I did.

I doubted it even more when it told me that my eldest son’s wife would have a stillbirth. I didn’t want it to be true, but it happened at the moment I disbelieved it more than ever. But there was something I did believe, or maybe I wanted it to be true so hard that I had convinced myself that it was real. I didn’t care. When I saw Heaven, I saw Rita, and she smiled at me and beckoned me to come to her.

And what kind of man disobeys his wife?

***

The inspector was back in the station, where the evidence was being analysed. For a moment it felt as if he was underwater, watching the goings-on in the room without having an impact himself, as if he himself had died and was a ghost watching the living go about their daily business without having any impact on it himself.

Suddenly a woman in a beige mackintosh walked into the room, and with her she brought a wave of nervous energy that wasn’t there before. She told the other police officers that she knew something vital about the case. She was the wife of the man’s son, and as soon as the son met her eyes he was drawn into her arms like a magnet and began to sob like a child. She looked up at one of the officers, and she began to speak just as he was about to open his mouth to prompt her.

“The day before I had a stillbirth Andrew told me something,” she said. “And that something has haunted me ever since.”

“What did he tell you?” the officer asked, writing vigorously on his notepad without even looking at her.

“He told me that whatever he was about to say was going to sound horrible and I would never believe it, but he told me that he thought my pregnancy would end in a stillbirth, and he was right. I didn’t believe him until it happened.”

A week later, the very same police officer wrote on Andrew Wetherspoon’s case file that his suicide was caused by mental illness caused by the sudden loss of his wife.

© Sinner’s Paradise and its author, (2017-). Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sinner’s Paradise and its author with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

John Galliano through rose-coloured glasses

When John Galliano created his own fashion brand in the 90’s, fashion had never been so ethereal. With runway shows based on the romance of times gone by and his use of colour to create a certain atmosphere, he managed to transport the people who were invited to his shows to somewhere they never believed could exist on this earthly plane. With women draped in diaphanous materials and faces painted beyond recognition, they looked as if they were otherworldly beings, gracing the audience with their glittering presence. The designer himself is a controversial figure, and I certainly don’t agree with what he has said in the past, but it isn’t his opinions that I am going to examine with this article. It is his creations that have left me spellbound; everything else is superfluous.

Below are a few of my favourite Galliano collections.

Princess Lucretia, own label, 1993

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A young Kate Moss looks wistfully behind her shoulder, almost as if she is the embodiment of the mysterious figure Princess Lucretia. 1993

Inspired by the grandeur of Russian nobility, one of Galliano’s first ever runway shows showed the trials and tribulations of a Russian princess named Princess Lucretia, who escaped from her lavish yet suffocating life at the royal court to pursue her love of a young serf. There was the image of the Princess running through the dark forests of Russia, her long skirts ripping and her curled hair unbinding itself as she calls out for her love. The large crinolines the models, including a young Kate Moss (pictured above) wore contrasted with the short bodices with appeared to have ripped or come loose from the skirts themselves, making the pieces seem as if the models have truly been running through the forest, not caring whether their extravagant gowns survived, for love is by far more powerful and well-wearing than a gown, no matter how luxurious by Victorian standards could ever be. The silk that rested on top of the crinolines seems to have almost been thrown on them in a rushed, uncaring manner, giving the collection a lavish yet distinctively unpolished look.

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Backstage of “Princess Lucretia,” 1993. This picture is particularly good in illustrating the skirts and the crinoline underneath them.

Asia Major, Dior, 2003

© Fredrique Dumoulin/JAVA/ABACA. 41578-19. Paris-France, 20/01/2003. Christian Dior Haute Couture Spring-Summer 2003 Fashion Show
“Asia Major,” 2003. This is such a good picture for showing more than one of the pieces because like many runway shows every piece is different. Note the makeup

Inspired by his visits to China and Japan the previous year, Galliano created a salivatingly sensual collection that was a burst of colour in the fashion world. Models strutted the catwalk with their faces painted white, their lips painted red in the shape of petals, contrasting with the prismatic garments that were draped on their shoulders and piled on top of their heads. Their hair was bound with hairsticks that were decorated with ribbons and small flowers (the technical term being “kanzashi”) that cascaded down their shoulders, alluding to the Japanese geisha. Colourful fur trims, tinsel and patterned fabrics are used in a way as to symbolise not only the staunch traditions of China and Japan respectively, but also the change these countries underwent once they began to trade with European merchants, and this particularly changed the way the Chinese and Japanese dressed. The European merchants brought them different goods such as furs and cotton, and the Chinese and Japanese peoples traded silks and spices.

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Detail from “Asia Major,” 2003. The influence of Indian culture is evident here

Some even take inspiration from India, with the use of gold trimmings on the face as shown above, which links to decoration used in Hindi customs. One of my favourite pieces from another Galliano show from 2007 is similar to the oriental theme, yet seems to take upon the western world’s view of glamour more than “Asia Major” does.

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Dior, 2007. The hair and makeup are very oriental inspired and the dress reminds me of origami!

Ready-To-Wear Collection S/S, Dior, 2004

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A piece from Galliano’s Ready-To-Wear collection, 2004

Rosy-cheeked, lace-clad mademoiselles of times gone by and porcelain dolls were the inspiration of Galliano’s most decadent collection. Models with their hair piled on top of their heads and pearls falling from their necks strutted onto the catwalk with virginal allure, draped in frills and lace and knee-high stockings, making them appear so darling and sweet, perhaps even sickengly so. Their hair was back-combed in order to achieve the same look as the towering, powdered wings worn by members of the aristocracy of the Georgian era, Marie Antoinette in particular, who was the very person who made those imposing wigs fashionable. They would be decorated with all kinds of delicacies available at the time, even fresh fruit and model ships! The ribbons and silks are used in a way to make the models appear like porcelain dolls themselves. They are almost wrapped up in these beautiful materials in order to protect them because of how delicate they are.

2004 details
Detail from Galliano’s S/S collection, 2004. This is an example of the tear stains running down the model’s cheeks

Their cheeks are rouged, linking back to the fashions of long ago, but their eyes are darkened using purple eyeshadow, and in some cases streaks run down the models’ cheeks where tears have fallen, adding a slight edge to the collection. In a way this adds a different element to this particular collection, as it is almost as if everything not as it seems. For me that is what intrigues me about Galliano’s collections because they always seem to tell a story, and for me that is what pulls me to his designs.

Paris Fashion Week F/W Collection, Dior, 2009

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Galliano’s Paris Fashion Week F/W collection, 2009. The glitter in the background is the fake blizzard the models would have walked through. Note the details and wintery colour palette

This collection is probably the most theatrical of all of Galliano’s collections. Taking inspiration from the hostile wastelands of Siberia and the Baltics, the models, who almost appeared like winter faeries in floating veils and golden body adornments, walked through a glittering whirlwind of fake snow, their hair dusted with silver paint and frosted winter flowers. Their eyes and eyelashes seemed to glitter with the reflections of another world as they gazed intently upon an imaginary horizon.

2009 details .jpg
Details from Galliano’s Paris Fashion Week F/W collection, 2009. I think the makeup in this show is my favourite out of all of the others

© Sinner’s Paradise and its author, (2017-). Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sinner’s Paradise and its author with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The “nymphet” community and why it can be harmful

Anyone who has an account on either Tumblr or Instagram will have encountered the “Lolita” or “nymphet” community at some point. The community is more like a girls gang than an Internet subculture, and they are taking over. Donning heart-shaped sunglasses and summer dresses, they stare coquettishly at the camera they point at themselves, captioning the pictures they take with forlorn lyrics from various indie bands and quotes from Vladimir Nabokov’s novel “Lolita,” sometimes without even knowing the context. The girls and women that form this seemingly exclusive community don’t at first seem to be doing anything harmful in their sugar-coated, childlike actions, but at second glance it can be said that their actions are doing a considerable amount of damage to not only to those who are most vulnerable, but to themselves as well.

Before we explore how this subculture could potentially be dangerous, one must know the definition of the word so often used by the members of this community to describe themselves- the word “nymphet.” Before knowing anything about the community, one would think that this word is just any other word people use without any grim undertones. However, according to the Collins English Dictionary that I painfully dug out of my old school bag, the word “nymphet” means “a girl who is sexually precocious and desirable.” Now, I do realise that that doesn’t sound too bad at first, but it sounds worse when this phrase first earned its spot in said dictionary when it was used in the aforementioned novel “Lolita,” which is infamous for its narrator and protagonist developing an obsession for a 12 year old girl named Dolores, who later becomes his stepdaughter when her mother, his landlady, tells him she will kick him out of his lodgings if he doesn’t marry her. With that, Humbert has an opportunity to become closer to Dolores, for whom he creates an exclusive nickname- “Lolita.” It is in the very beginning of this book, the book’s ill-fated (and for good reason) and dangerously eloquent narrator Humbert Humbert first describes the concept of a “nymphet.”

“Now I wish to introduce the following idea. Between the age limits of nine and fourteen there occur maidens who, to certain bewitched travelers, twice or many times older than they, reveal their true nature which is not human, but nymphic (that is, demoniac); and these chosen creatures I propose to designate as ‘nymphets.’

In short, the word “nymphet” not just describes a young woman, but a prepubescent girl, and if you haven’t guessed already, Humbert is attracted to girls around the ages of nine and fourteen. The correct term for it is hebephilia, but I just call that creepy, and in my personal opinion, I find the fact that some young girls, some of whom are at the latter and women tag their pictures with the term “nymphet” could be a way for people like Humbert to look for sexually suggestive pictures of young women, and perhaps even girls around Dolores’ age.

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The character Dolores Haze, portrayed here by Dominique Swain in the 1997 film “Lolita,” before Humbert Humbert changes her forever

Despite the fact I’m writing about this certain community, I absolutely have nothing against them as people. I pay very little attention to them whenever I encounter them online. Live and let live, you know? The things they do in general aren’t particularly harmful at all, but there is one thing I object to that some who are involved in this community tend to do. The moment they begin to romanticise the relationship shared between the two principal characters of “Lolita” is when I really begin to have problems with this community. When doing my research for this article, I noticed two viewpoints on the story online. One group say that Humbert was a predator who ruined Dolores’ life and she wasn’t responsible for what was done to her due to her age, but the other group believe that Dolores was “the incarnate of the devil” (which is the opinion of one Instagram user I have encountered who will remain anonymous) who lured the innocent Humbert in with her “nymphic” charm and had “daddy issues” (taken from the same Instagram user’s words), and if I had to put myself in one of these groups, it would be the former. To agree with the anonymous Instagram user in the latter group would be sheer naivety and ignorance of the book’s plot. To say Dolores was responsible for what Humbert did to her would be exactly like saying a woman who had been raped has “asked for it.” It is nonsense. At times I have noticed times when people, mostly the girls who are involved with the community, talk about how much they want to be in a relationship similar to the one portrayed in the book and films, calling it a “forbidden romance.” This may just be me but the last thing I want in life is to be in a relationship where someone “accidently” kills my mother and repeatedly emotionally and sexually abuses me whilst dragging me across the length of the country, and I feel sorry for anyone who wants that because they clearly have issues they need to sort out. They either do this because they are ignorant of the book’s plot, just like our dear anon is, and cherrypick the details they want from the films, which are both highly unfaithful to the book, or they’ve read the book or seen the films and have completely misunderstood it’s message. The book is a warning of how one person’s sexual obsession can ruin everything, including the other person’s life. In the end Dolores ended up dying in childbirth at the age of 17 and Humbert died of coronary thrombosis while in prison. So romantic.

There is also the problem of the impact this community of self-titled “nymphets” can have on the social media community as a whole. Some of these “nymphet” accounts post pictures of actresses such as Brooke Shields and Natalie Portman when they were young girls (surprisingly) around the same age as Dolores Haze was meant to be, and tagging them with the word “nymphet” along with their own suggestive photos. Imagine how much fun a paedophile on Instagram will be having now! This kind of behaviour occurred even before the internet existed, with films such as “Pretty Baby” being made in 1978. This particular film centres around a 12 year old prostitute, played by Brooke Shields who was of the same age at the time, following in the footsteps of her mother in early 20th century New Orleans. Despite it’s commercial success, it (unsurprisingly) aroused controversy because of scenes of a sexual nature involving an actress who wasn’t even a teenager. This is clearly child pornography, and many people agreed. It was banned on release in Canada but was repealed in 1995. Before becoming involved with the “nymphet” community I had never even heard of this film, but once I saw pictures of the young Brooke Shields on the internet accompanied with captions saying how much of a “nymphet” she was, I was in shock to realise how young she was and how she had been exploited in the film. When the term is used in the same context as it is on poor Dolores Haze, it sexualises a child, and not a fictional one. Shields herself years later talked about how the role had affected her, and it’s terrible that these images are still circulating around without her control, just like they were taken without her control.

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Brooke Shields in a still from “Pretty Baby” (1978)

To conclude this essay, I need to add something that I haven’t already. It’s probably one of the most vital things that I feel makes me able to write about this community, which is my own involvement in it a couple of years ago. The fact I did used to tag my photos with the word “nymphet” on my old personal account, which I have now deleted, is not really something I’m particularly proud of. I used to think it was alright since I had read the books, but on hindsight it didn’t really make things any better. I just liked the vintage aesthetic the community have, and in a way I was stupid to not realise it was dangerous. As a result of that men did used to comment strange things on my photos that I only half understood, and I never really knew what to do, because I was too naïve to realise they were sexualising me. I have this to say to people who are still involved with the “Lolita” or “nymphet” community- be careful what you post and with the people you’re involved with online. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t post cute pictures of your outfit or your new heart shaped glasses. No-one deserves to be sexualised, no matter what community they belong to.

© Sinner’s Paradise and its author, (2017-). Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sinner’s Paradise and its author with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

“Lust For Life” review- one small step for Elizabeth Grant, one giant leap for Lana Del Rey

After a two year hiatus, Elizabeth Woolridge Grant, aka Lana Del Rey, released “Lust For Life,” a glittering new addition to her repertoire of albums. When she announced her new album in a short YouTube video depicting her as a magical figure who lives on the H of the Hollywood sign, linking back to her references to the faded glamour of the 1950s in her other albums such as “Honeymoon,” her fans couldn’t contain themselves in their excitement. But does this album live up to Lana Del Rey’s musical aesthetic, and most of all, is it any good?

At first listen, one cannot ignore the glitzy optimism of the first track, entitled “Love.” There is the use of the minor chords and the slow tempo, which at first makes it seem like many of her other works, but when you listen closely to the lyrics, it contains a shimmer of optimism which is absent in many of her other albums. The middle eight of the song in particular shows the artist’s new-found vivaciousness, as it is simply Grant almost whispering the phrase “Don’t worry baby,” which can almost be interpreted as her comforting the listener, and perhaps even herself, that things will get better. The next track, “Lust For Life,” has very much the same hopeful atmosphere to it. The male vocals in the song, provided by Canadian singer and rapper The Weeknd, are smooth and almost songbird-like, almost calling in the new sun of the morning, a new beginning literally and metaphorically for Grant.

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Grant expresses her new-found love of life through a smile gifted to us in music video for “Love”

However, Grant’s hopefulness for the future and optimism seem to disappear from “13 Beaches,” “Cherry,” “White Mustang” and to an extent “In My Feelings.” It is almost as if she returns to her wistful, almost lethargic self, ignoring the fact that she ever did have a “lust for life.” The songs in my opinion seem rushed, almost as if she didn’t have enough songs for an album so she wrote them at the very last minute. However, all albums seem to have “filler songs” in them in order to balance out the more successful ones and to give a different feel to the album, and for me this is what Grant was attempting to do. With “God Bless America (And The Beautiful Women Who Live In It),” Grant links back to songs such as “American” and “National Anthem” from her earlier album “Born To Die” through it’s patriotic, anthem-like atmosphere. This could indicate that Grant is not only optimistic and continues to be enthusiastic for her own career, but for her country too.

However, the thing I find the most interesting about this album is that Grant has begun to introduce a political slant into her music which she has never before. With “Coachella- Woodstock In My Mind,” Grant explores the idea of having fun when the world around her is in such a dire situation, and how she wants to escape that. This becomes obvious when she at first sings, “I was at Coachella, leaning on your shoulder”, which at first sounds optimistic, but she then adds later on, “And what about all their children? And what about their children’s children?”, almost lamenting the struggles of others. She also adds a historical slant on her work in “When The World Was At War We Kept Dancing,” which is a link to the US’s position in World War 2, since whilst the Allies of Britain and France fought the Axis Powers of Germany, Italy and Japan, the US’ film industry boomed, along with it’s culture and fashion. She may not know that’s what she has done, but like everything in this review, it’s just my interpretation. I think this is one of the great successes of this album, since 1) Grant has never done this before in any of her previous albums and 2) it’s a fascinating idea that I personally haven’t really heard any other songwriters in the modern pop industry do.

Even though Grant has changed the way she writes her songs immensely, there are some elements I have noticed that she has kept as a part of her personal style, such as adding her signature siren-like sensuality. “Groupie Love” is a sultry account of a band’s female superfan (a groupie) having a sexual relationship with one of the band members, and I think this is very faithful to the flirtatious femme fatale persona that Grant has created for herself. The “edgy” aspect of her style is something she has also carried on into the “Lust For Life” era, and “Summer Bummer” is one of the prime examples of this. In this song heavily influenced by 90s hip hop, Grant almost raps the lyrics, and the addition of A$AP Rocky’s harsh style of rapping in the middle eight of the song almost makes it appeal to a wider market other than just her faithful fans, who could be dubbed her “groupies” in reference to “Groupie Love.” “Beautiful People, Beautiful Problems” and “Heroin” both follow suit, with Stevie Nicks’ nasal vocals adding a certain “edge” to the former, and the theme of drugs for the latter. I also think that “Heroin” is similar to many of the songs in her previous album “Ultraviolence”, since the song of the same name seems to glamourise power imbalances, and perhaps even violence, in relationships (“he hit me and it felt like a kiss”), and for me this is a reason why I dislike that particular song. However I did like the next song in the track, entitled “Tomorrow Never Came,” because it was an almost humorous mix of major chords and sad lyrics, and its pessimistic mood contrasts from the earlier songs. For me, “Change” and “Get Free” were saved for last because together they are a match made in heaven. They are both very similar in atmosphere, and perhaps could even be considered non-identical twins musically, since they sound very much alike, but in the best way possible. “Get Free” is perhaps the more joyful sounding one, whereas “Change” sounds sadder because of the amount of flat notes, but both are united in their dream-like atmosphere.

In conclusion, I believe some aspects of “Lust For Life” are clearly stronger than others. Grant explored parts of songwriting she had never attempted to before, such as adding her own viewpoint on politics and history through songs like “Beautiful People, Beautiful Problems” and “Coachella- Woodstock In My Mind,” and the fact she has done this makes this album more successful than it would have been otherwise. The notes alternate from major to minor chords, which is different from the other albums she has written which I find all have one distinct “mood” to them, and her style has changed somewhat to cater to a wider audience, such as adding more “modern” aspects, such as rapping, to her songs.

Some may dislike the fact she has introduced these influences to her songs, but I believe the fact that she continues to experiment with different harmonies and techniques is a good sign that she and her work will continue to be successful in the future.

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