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What put the uncanny in the valley?
December 11, 2012 10:34 AM   Subscribe

NextNature's Koert van Mensvoort writes about Ukranian woman, Valeria Lukyanova, who is a body artist also known as the Human Barbie. Believed to be fake, she's proven herself to be a real live human being. He takes this opportunity to remind us about Anthropomorphobia – the fear of recognizing human characteristics in non-human objects, in an essay exploring the Twilight between Person and Product.
posted by infini (49 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Isn't she also a real live white supremacist? Or have I mistaken her for someone else?
posted by elizardbits at 10:38 AM on December 11, 2012


I think she's a plastic supremacist.
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:40 AM on December 11, 2012


That's Klaus, sold separately.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:40 AM on December 11, 2012 [22 favorites]


To be honest, the photos do nothing to prove she's human and not some kind of realdoll. That's some freaky uncanny valley shit going on right there.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:50 AM on December 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


White supremacy would be almost comfortable in its familiarity.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:51 AM on December 11, 2012


Looking at the with-makeup and without-makeup pictures, she achieves a lot with makeup.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:52 AM on December 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


Didn't William Gibson mention this in one of the early books?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:53 AM on December 11, 2012


This is kind of grotesque.
posted by Mister_A at 10:54 AM on December 11, 2012


Some people put bars through their ears or stretch the lobe with a big ring. Others make themselves look like a doll. I love it when people think one is a valid alternative expression of identity and the other is a travesty. I know who I find more visually unsettling.
posted by samworm at 10:59 AM on December 11, 2012 [11 favorites]


WHAT IS THIS I DON'T EVEN

(seriously this is...just whoa.)
posted by Kitteh at 11:08 AM on December 11, 2012


hey, let your freak flag fly, lady. Go nuts.
posted by boo_radley at 11:12 AM on December 11, 2012 [10 favorites]


Didn't William Gibson mention this in one of the early books?

You may be thinking of John Varley's "The Barbie Murders".
posted by The Tensor at 11:15 AM on December 11, 2012


He "reminds" us about anthropomorphobia?

Reminding us would require that we already knew about this phobia and had forgotten. I had never heard of it. It doesn't seem to be a real phobia. And I don't think anyone suffers from it.

Unless anthropomorphobia is instead meant to pathologize the normal tendency to be shocked and derisive toward such obsessive attention-getting in imitation of distasteful things. In which case, call me anthropomorphobic.
posted by General Tonic at 11:16 AM on December 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Show me a Human Matrioshka Doll and then I'll be impressed.
posted by Kabanos at 11:19 AM on December 11, 2012 [12 favorites]


I find photos of her very appealing, though I don't usually find heavily made-up and styled women attractive. I think for me she took femininity to such an extreme that it went right past the stages that don't appeal to me and into something completely different.
posted by not that girl at 11:21 AM on December 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


It seems like about 80% of the unusual part of the look is some eye makeup and her facial expression when in character.
posted by zippy at 11:22 AM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


And then there is Justin Jedlica, Human Ken Doll, who "had 90 cosmetic surgeries to look 'fabulous'" who insulted Valeria Lukyanova.
"I do find her beautiful," he said. "[But] it appears to me that much of her look is added makeup, fake hair and 'slimming' corsets ... Drag queens have put on the same illusions with makeup and costumes for years."
posted by ericb at 11:23 AM on December 11, 2012


Meh, without the Malibu Dream House or the Barbie Glam Convertible it just doesn't feel the same.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 11:23 AM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Those tiny tiny nose jobs don't hold up well over time.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 11:26 AM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, I watched the "look like pregnant Bella Swan" makeup tutorial that was recently posted here, and I learned a lot from it. So I can see, and am impressed by, how much she is doing with makeup to create that tiny nose and huge eyes.
posted by not that girl at 11:28 AM on December 11, 2012


To be honest, the photos do nothing to prove she's human and not some kind of realdoll.

The first link links to a video
posted by azarbayejani at 11:28 AM on December 11, 2012


I can already hear critics replying that although the maxim ‘prevent anthropomorphobia’ may sound good, anthropomorphobia is impossible to measure and therefore the maxim is useless. It is true that there is no ‘anthromorphometric’ for objectively measuring how anthropomorphic a specific phenomenon is and how uneasy it makes people. But I would argue that this is a good thing. Anthropomorphobia is a completely human-centred term, i.e., it is people who determine what makes them uncomfortable and what doesn’t. Anthropomorphobia is therefore a dynamic and enduring term that can change with time, and with us. For we will change – that much is certain.

In conclusion, anthropomorphia is a study in contrasts. What will the future hold? Only time will tell.
posted by brain_drain at 11:29 AM on December 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


That Justin guy looks a lot like the Lion Lady. It's as if plastic surgery is creating it's own distorted ideal of beauty that only recipients find appealing.

The girl, she has to have full eye contacts to get her irises that big? I mean COME ON!
posted by Max Power at 11:32 AM on December 11, 2012


I have to agree with those who mention that most of her look is the makeup, particularly the eyes. Without the makeup, the effect is gone.
posted by Glinn at 11:33 AM on December 11, 2012


She doesn't just look like a doll. She looks two-dimensional. And not in the sense of a character without emotional depth or whatever. I mean, I'm reading these images as being drawings or paintings, but only where her face is. Literally no third dimension.

Is that a deliberate effect on her part or some weird way I'm reading her cartoony face or what? Maybe just the uniform lighting.
posted by DU at 11:43 AM on December 11, 2012


Reminding us would require that we already knew about this phobia and had forgotten. I had never heard of it. It doesn't seem to be a real phobia. And I don't think anyone suffers from it.

I'd never heard of this either, but:
Although anthropomorphobia was originally rare, with complaints limiting themselves to fairs and amusement parks with moving dummies that laughed at visitors, the blurring boundary between people and products is leading to increased problems. Complaints can be accompanied by irrational panic attacks, disdain, revulsion, and confusion about what it means to be human.
That last sentence combined with "moving dummies" makes me think of just about any MeFi post about robots.
posted by DU at 11:47 AM on December 11, 2012


Is that a deliberate effect on her part or some weird way I'm reading her cartoony face or what? Maybe just the uniform lighting.

It's the makeup which completely changes her skin from looking like skin to looking like vinyl. From a computer graphics perspective, skin is actually really complicated to model and is done with several different layers to make it look realistic. You can't describe it, but you definitely notice it.
posted by GuyZero at 11:49 AM on December 11, 2012


Didn't William Gibson mention this in one of the early books?

Pretty much every aspect of modern life was touched on in one Gibson book or another at this point.
posted by Sangermaine at 11:55 AM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


From a computer graphics perspective, skin is actually really complicated to model and is done with several different layers to make it look realistic.

Subsurface scattering.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:58 AM on December 11, 2012


It's the makeup which completely changes her skin from looking like skin to looking like vinyl.

The real, actual, vinyl Barbie doesn't read as 2D to me, even in photographs. I'm going with a combination of makeup effect and lighting.
posted by DU at 12:06 PM on December 11, 2012


I believe those are the specialty contact lenses that enlarge the iris and make the pupil bigger, too.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 12:13 PM on December 11, 2012


To clarify - go nuts with your appearance, do whatever you want. What I find grotesque is the whole white power part of this story, which colors my perception of what she's done with her appearance.
posted by Mister_A at 12:16 PM on December 11, 2012


I am getting old and blind and need three different spectacles, but what white power part of this story ?
posted by infini at 12:35 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Some people put bars through their ears or stretch the lobe with a big ring. Others make themselves look like a doll. I love it when people think one is a valid alternative expression of identity and the other is a travesty. I know who I find more visually unsettling.

One is an appropriation of indigenous cultural expressions from around the world. The other is plastic surgery and makeup.
posted by elizardbits at 12:42 PM on December 11, 2012


William Gibson is the new "The Simpsons did it first".
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:43 PM on December 11, 2012


infini: "but what white power part of this story "

Ask elizardbits, I guess?
posted by boo_radley at 12:43 PM on December 11, 2012


What stuck with me from the interview with Justin Jedlica linked by ericb above is his response to the question: why not work out? He laughs and answers something to the effect of: because that's not fabulous or glamorous at all! And he's right. It's a terrible slog: wax on, wax off. But we tend to valorize that slog based on a commandment that reaches back at least to Aesop's turtle: "listen now kids - reality favors the slow and steady." People like Jedlica and Lukyanova (perhaps I'm overreaching here), they seem to reject that notion so completely that it gives their quest a kind of quixotic beauty, and it is that intrepid idealism and willful conviction that makes me want to root for them. But I can't help also feeling like I'm watching tragedy unfold: because in a struggle against reality, well, unless you're Madonna, it seems reality usually wins.
posted by deo rei at 1:08 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


And then there is Justin Jedlica

I guess if the Human Ken Doll thing doesn't work out for him he could always hit the celebrity-lookalike circuit as a young k.d. lang.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 1:28 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is that a deliberate effect on her part or some weird way I'm reading her cartoony face or what? Maybe just the uniform lighting.

As a lot of people have said above, in large part it's the makeup and the sort of doll-like expression. And don't get me wrong, the makeup is amazing. Serious props.

But there are other things at work too, that I find really interesting.

For one thing, her bust is way bigger than one would expect for her build. There are a lot of ways this can be achieved if nature does not provide but the specifics of it are a level of speculating on another person's body that I'm not comfortable doing, so let's just say it's there and go with that.

Anyway, an effect of this is that there's a dramatic, curving difference between her hips, waist and bust, which basically creates an optical illusion that makes her waist look impossible (that link is probably not safe for work, though there's no nudity in it), to the point where I would really not be surprised at all if someone told me that image was not photoshopped.

I mean, don't get me wrong, she's incredibly skinnny too, but she's also using some really interesting clothing choices (the heels in the photo above and the accessories in this photo) to make her limbs look much longer than they really are. Again, impossibly long. That's also an optical illusion, which is why I think it's so clever and fascinating, because it's like the cylinder on the checkerboard - even though you know, empirically, what's actually going on, your brain simply will not see anything but the illusion.

She's also got, you know, a bit of a fivehead, which helps make her head look larger than it really is.

And she is tall, and she is skinny, and her limbs are long, but she's employing a lot of really smart tricks to exaggerate all of the above, to the point where your brain sees all these things and then upon trying to assemble them into a human being sort of chokes a little bit, and that's why she looks so two-dimensional and weirdly inhuman.

I don't know. I think it's great.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:29 PM on December 11, 2012 [10 favorites]


I suppose this is the white supremacist part of the story elizardbits and others are alluding to.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:48 PM on December 11, 2012


She does look like a live doll in that video, but I'd like to see her when she isn't "on" or isn't playing the Barbie role. Like sitting around at home with her friends laughing and gabbing, and not keeping her facial expression fixed in place and her posture just so. Then she might just be a pretty, slender young woman. With a tiny waist.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 1:50 PM on December 11, 2012


"I think Barbie is in another transitional period."
-Chris Byrne
posted by clavdivs at 1:55 PM on December 11, 2012


saulgoodman: "I suppose this is the white supremacist part of the story elizardbits and others are alluding to."

There are a lot of Russian penises on this site! I'm not disagreeing with the story, but just be careful clicking around, OK?
posted by boo_radley at 3:36 PM on December 11, 2012


Anyway, an effect of this is that there's a dramatic, curving difference between her hips, waist and bust, which basically creates an optical illusion that makes her waist look impossible (that link is probably not safe for work, though there's no nudity in it), to the point where I would really not be surprised at all if someone told me that image was not photoshopped.

She's had a lot of surgical work done, including having ribs removed, jawline shaved down, nose completely shrunk, and enormous implants. She used to look much more proportional, even after her first plastic surgeries.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:42 PM on December 11, 2012


This is extremely striking. Yes, makeup and those weird contacts and optical illusions and breast implants and nose job, but even so there is something about the nose/mouth/jaw area that my brain can't accept. If she's had her jaw shaved down (aaaaaigh!) that would explain it; in the most doll-like pics her mouth and nose are too close to her chin, too low on her face.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:08 PM on December 11, 2012


She's a singing, swinging Livin' doll. Interesting.
posted by unliteral at 6:00 PM on December 11, 2012


There are a lot of Russian penises on this site!

Yikes. Didn't see any when I viewed the link. Did ad-block spare me or was I spared because I didn't click around? Either way, sorry about that. If my edit window weren't closed, I'd append a NSFW tag.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:06 PM on December 11, 2012


but even so there is something about the nose/mouth/jaw area that my brain can't accept.

Her head reminds me a bit of a grey-style alien.
posted by 2N2222 at 8:25 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Chris Cunningham did it with post production. Valerie does it with extensive plastic surgery. As long as nobody is being coerced I can't object. I just wonder what she will be doing in 5 years.

Reminds me of The Caress by Greg Egan, where a character abducts people to remold them physically and emotionally so that they can be photographed to re enact a classic piece of art.
posted by asok at 6:25 AM on December 12, 2012


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