Queering Through Vtubing

Hey, you noticed how a bunch of Vtubers are kinda queer?

Not really necessarily, not all of them, not like it’s an actual trend, right, but…

it’s there, right?

Now this is not actually a thing, not any kind of serious proposition here. It’s more that I noticed something and I think it’s a something where a handful of trends just kind of line up and create a sort of odd little cultural bubble.

First things first, a lot of our current vtuber culture derives from a variant of Japanese idol culture. That idol culture has a lot of overlap in selling and merchandising girls, the iconic image of… well, cute girls. There are definitely boys in the same space, but they don’t tend to be merchandised internationally the same way. Oh oh oh, some K-pop stans are saying, to which I say, shut up, you know you’re not a majority, you’re just noisy.

Point is, that vtubing culture has one like, group of intersection in a space of primarily women as merchandisable objects. This means that the idol culture will also avoid having references to things like boyfriends, to make sure the audience will continue to think of them as desireable, something that is very common in idol culture, and in homophobic straits of Japan, that’s pretty fucked up.

Idol culture sucks, y’all.

Anyway, that’s one thing, and we kind of don’t have idol culture in the west. There’s definitely crossover with English-speaking fans of vtubing, but that vtubing has to be English-language approachable, and that tends to mean that you wind up with people in that space who are also weeby dorks. If you look at the English-language Vtubers – the first ones before we got official Hololives and whatnot – there were a lot of people doing ‘idol culture’ stuff without the pre-existing control and superstructure of promotional labels.

The result is that the people who seemed to prominently get into vtubing in English language spaces who could mimic the ‘idol culture’ of ‘cute anime girls’ were uh, largely, a lot of extremely weeby dork gamers. I’m not saying these are a bunch of channers turned twitch streamers but if you know the kind of jokes that were flying around in the space ten years ago, you might think you’re hearing a language derived from the same basal root.

Okay, so we have two different things going on here, then, where English language creators in the space start promoting the tech but it tends to be people who are for some reason or another not in another, more conventionally supported space.

And then you tie into it that suddenly this is a way to have a real-time living action avatar, in a fairly affordable way, that isn’t not only not ‘really’ like the material body you may have, but which people accept as being wildly unreal and suddenly you have an allure that can draw in a lot of people who may have some reason to want to avoid depicting their material body on screen, either for control or preference or even just to avoid harrassment.

Which means that vtubing, in English, is a space that has a solid core that hits some of these traits:

  • Weebs
  • Girls who’ve been pushed out of conventional spaces
  • Highly technical minded geeks who are fascinated by new A/V tech
  • People who hack phones
  • Epic Gamers
  • People who don’t want to show themselves on camera but want to stream
  • Channers who had some very distinct reason to bail on the culture oh, you know, about five or six years ago

What I’m saying is that even though it’s not a stated purpose, it’s a natural outcome of the way this culture acreted that there’s just going to be a lot of queer people running around in this space, and then, seeing one another in that space, get drawn to join in on the same experience. Just by dint of showing up the space gets a little more queer, and more and more weird, fun, cool queer folk are getting to make their weird, fun, cool, queer OCs into Vtuber avatars and experience a form of expression that honestly seemed like a goddamn fantasy just ten years ago.

There’s no doubt, I’m sure, people who have a stricter vision of the world to be able to say something like ‘the vtuber is a fundamentally queer form of expression’ but I don’t think that’s true. Even if it is, it’s not for me to say on this blog out of nowhere as a non-expert.

Though also, it does mean, maybe don’t be a shitlord about other people’s Vtuber avatar designs, chances are good they picked them for a reason, and maybe they’re just better at indulging weird queer shit than you are.

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