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I thought that I would take some time to write down some of my thoughts about lolcows, particularly Gloria Tesch and Christian/Christine Weston Chandler. What i’m going to say probably will be read by somebody simply because of the people I mention, so I don’t feel as though i’m wasting my time with this. Well, not completely wasting my time anyway.
Now, I personally believe that lolcows have roots in the world of outsider art, where famously terrible or eccentric performers and artists would gain followings simply for being weird. Sometimes, these outsiders wouldn’t make art at all, and they would attract a following simply for their personalities.
There’s something incredibly fascinating about being weird that makes fans of any form of art, be it music or paintings, seek it out. As a result, what tends to happen is that when an outsider gains an underground following they tend to be viewed favorably by the fans they’ve gained and the critics who are interested in the artist as well as their fans simply because they deviate from the norm. When an outsider artists gains mainstream attention, the mainstream audiences usually tend to dislike the outsider or see the outsider as a novelty act. A good example of this would be Wesley Willis, who was ridiculed by Howard Stern when he started to gain mainstream attention, but was looked upon favorably by the underground community, most notably by Jello Biafra.
This idea was exploited by Andy Warhol, who surrounded himself with eccentric musicians and artists in the hope that either their weird music/art or their personalities would attract some sort of a following. To his credit, he was correct to an extent. The main problem with his philosophy is that for every Velvet Underground, Nico and Candy Darling, there seemed to be 10 flashily dressed person who seemed to personify the sexually ambiguous glam-rock look before it became a mainstream phenomenon. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that Lou Reed’s songs about Andy Warhol and his ‘Superstars’ gained the attention of mainstream audiences at around the same time that Marc Bolan and David Bowie were dominating the airwaves. If nothing else, Andy Warhol and the genre of glam-rock proved that people are naturally attracted to sexual themes, ground-floor-level taboo imagery, the illusion of danger and bright colours.
Someone once asked if there was anything redeemable about Sonichu. Personally, I view Sonichu as being a masterpiece of outsider art that is consistently looked down upon or outright overlooked by the people who follow Christine. This is because the Cwcki, and other areas which document Christine’s life offer summaries of what is considered to be the most important sections of Sonichu. Most people seem to rely on these summaries instead of actually reading the comic so that they can talk about Christine, which is like reading only the summaries of Stephen King books so that you can talk to people about Stephen King books.
What i’m saying is that the key to making successful outsider art that will attract a following is honesty and enough coherency that this honesty comes across to the person who is interested in outsider art. There’s a reason why Gloria Tesch’s novels attract a devoted following that waited eagerly for years for her to complete her movie based on the novels, while fanfiction written with a much lower level of quality didn’t achieve the same notoriety. Being bad doesn’t necessarily mean that a piece of art belongs to the genre of outsider music/art and is therefore destined to attract a following. Anybody can draw a bad picture, but it takes a special kind of person to put a lot of effort into drawing a bad picture that communicates something about themselves which resonates with a group of people.
With the age of social media where anybody can post anything online, some of the mystique of outsider music/art has disappeared. Daniel Johnston became known because he would spend the effort to record his music onto cassettes, draw the artwork for his albums and spend hours on the streets distributing his music. The fact that he would put so much effort into getting his music known was admirable, and the fact that the average person wouldn’t do such a thing to make their cassettes known made him interesting enough for Kurt Cobain to take notice. The reason why The Shaggs fascinate people is because low-quality demos made by musicians who couldn’t play their instruments were a rarity in the sixties. Even garage-rock bands could play their instruments, albeit in a sloppy and occasionally lazy manner, so it makes sense that The Shaggs and Wild Man Fischer would attract a following simply for spending time and money to make a bad recording.
Now we seem to accept that there is a lot of terrible music and artwork being produced and shared online. As a result, the only time outsider music and art seems to gain a following is if there is a story behind it that can be easily spread through forums, and discussed by the people on those forums. You can look up Blank Room Soup to figure this out.
Christine Weston Chandler is the perfect person for this purpose, which is why he/she is arguably the most well-known lolcow and one of the most successful online outsider artists to ever emerge.
Just by reading the pages of Sonichu, a person can learn about intimate details of Christine Chandler’s fairly interesting life. Of course, his/her life isn’t actually as interesting as an outsider like Daniel Johnston or Wesley Willis or even Tiny Tim, simply because his life is incredibly contained. He rarely ever leaves his hometown, and most of his eccentricities seem less interesting as we become exposed to more fascinating individuals online. Many of his/her quirks are exaggerated by people online, and certain events in his life are heavily debated by people online as to the importance they have to the communities of people who follow Christine, as well as how they impacted Christine herself.
But, it is the constant documentation and exaggeration that existed in Sonichu, as well as the wiki created by Christine and the wiki created by the people who follow Christine that truly makes him/her fascinating. To put it another way, if Christine made a video of herself brushing her teeth, there would be an entire page of the Cwcki devoted to the video, and possibly a mention of the video in a different section of the Cwcki related to his/her hygiene. The video of Christine brushing his/her teeth isn’t interesting, but the fact that people are anxious to document that the video exists is absolutely fascinating. This is similar to the phenomenon where certain bronies will watch episodes of MLP:FIM searching for interesting scenes to record and post online. The show itself isn’t particularly interesting, but the devotion of the fans and organization of the fan communities is absolutely fascinating.
There are always going to be certain people in any fanbase who see something successful, and want to emulate the successful thing so that they can become successful. When this practice is applied by artists with talent who don’t understand why an outsider or lolcow is popular, the results tend to vary. Sometimes in music we get classic songs, like ‘Stuck In The Middle With You’ which was an attempt to mimic Bob Dylan’s style. It could also be debated that Neil Young’s classic ‘Heart Of Gold’ was also an attempt to mimic Bob Dylan. Sometimes we get a legion of japanoise artists trying to imitate Merzbow and flooding certain sections of the Internet with purposefully bad noise recordings.
With Christine, due to the documentation and exaggeration, certain trolls have achieved an almost mythical status among followers of Christine. Youtube personalities have increased the size of their fanbase simply by talking about Christine on their videos. Occasionally, people even make money and develop a significant online presence simply for making a product that either references or mocks Christine and Sonichu. People have even achieved notoriety, albeit a small amount of notoriety, simply by being the first person to bring a Facebook post made by Christine to people’s attention.
The entire situation with Christine’s followers feels like a Kaufman-esque joke that you might see on an Adult Swim show. It feels as though a mentally unstable individual who is horribly incompetent was given an opportunity to perform on-stage, and a number of curious individuals went to see the show, which wasn’t particularly entertaining until the man started revealing details about his life while drawing pictures with crayons. Occasionally the man will scream at an individual in the audience, which makes other individuals want to see if they can get him to scream at them as well.
Perhaps the most perverse aspect of the trolling that Christine has endured is that it is now motivated by jealousy. There are people who are jealous of a man who they feel is inferior to them, yet has somehow become incredibly well-known online with a devoted following, which is something that many people online want. This jealousy is often seen in the comments section of Youtube videos which feature songs by musicians like Wesley Willis and Daniel Johnston, although such comments are usually in the minority. This jealousy also motivates people like Anthony Logatto to devote a large amount of time to declaring their hatred towards Christine, and similar people.
I believe that people who are interested in outsider art are people who search for art that they can relate to, rather than art that is polished and refined to appeal to the tastes of a mainstream audience who it is believed will not accept anything less than a perfect sphere with all of the edges that it had when it was a cube removed. These people search for interesting music/art, and seek out interesting stories to accompany the weird music/art they discover. These are the people who would purchase Maradonia at a bookstore, and instead of returning it the next day, they would read and laugh at the story, before going online to find out more information about the book and the author who wrote it.
The people who dislike lolcows and take time out of their day to mock them are the type of people who would find a copy of Sonichu that an employee stocked as a joke in Chapters, read the story and be personally offended that Sonichu was stocked at Chapters while their own comic was rejected by a number of publishers and receives very little attention online. They would then leave comments on whatever website tolerates or even encourages people to talk about Sonichu, they might even get involved with the community on the site and they might start a parody comic, or at least make a photoshop image that humorously comments on something in Christine’s life the same way that political cartoons comment on the life of a famous celebrity or politician.
The nature of the Internet means that anybody can get an inflated ego with a small group of followers and be prone to lolcowish behaviour. If a person regularly receives three comments from a small group of people every time they upload an inflation-porn picture to Deviantart, they will likely continue to post the same type of picture for years. If a person has extreme views, than a person could search for a community with members with the same views and have their views become more extreme as they are encouraged by one or two people. When a person has hundreds, or thousands, or millions of people encouraging them to have extreme views and make strange art, it can affect people in odd ways.
Yet, as I said earlier, artwork that is merely bad or weird or created by a person with extreme views doesn’t always achieve the same level of notoriety. As I stated earlier, the key to making successful outsider art and becoming a lolcow is honesty in your work.
Sonichu is popular because it is incredibly honest, for better and for worse. I encourage people to read at least a little bit of the comic because it genuinely has near-universal appeal, bringing a person to the time when they were a child drawing comics where they are a superhero fighting to rid the world of everything evil that they dislike with the help of their friends. It’s like Earthbound in a way, a light-hearted adventure that looks as though it was created by a child for a child, not an adult creating something that they think a child would enjoy. As a result, it’s creator understands the one thing that all great cartoons and comics intended for children understand, that occasionally something really fucked up happens in artwork created by children because children are fascinated by things that are fucked up, as are most adults but the curiosity is strongest in young children and teenagers.
As a result, in Sonichu really fucked up things happen and people get murdered, which is an incredibly base level of shock value which is often used by children in their artwork as they draw people shooting other people with guns. The really fucked up and interesting things in Sonichu are unintentionally shocking scenes that were put in by the author who doesn’t really understand why people would find them shocking, much like a child’s drawing of a marriage between a young boy and his mother with his father in a coffin while the two kiss. In a certain child’s mind, this is an innocent fantasy, but most people would find it to be pretty shocking, particularly the mother and father of the boy.
Maradonia appeals to people because it was written by a young girl who was at the stage in her life where she wanted to write a book. The main difference is that her book series was self-published by her parents, who continued to tell her that her book series was incredible and even filmed a movie based on the series. Yet, despite the drama behind the scenes of the book, if the only thing that a person knew about the series is that it was written by a young girl for a writing project, they might think that the story is cute. The numerous grammatical errors and the large print of the books are absolutely adorable given the context in which it was written. Unlike a number of fanfiction stories written by girls around the same age as Gloria, Maradonia is coherent enough that the unintentional humor within the story is able to be comprehended and enjoyed by the like-minded reader.
In all honesty, Sonichu and Maradonia could have easily attracted followings of people who are interested in outsider art, rather than a group of people who seek to mock them. Like I just said, Sonichu started out as an admittedly adorable webcomic with a dark edge to it as the author inserted references to his mental instability and moments in his life, which isn’t very far removed from the music of Wesley Willis. Maradonia is a book written by a young girl, which isn’t far removed from the works of fanfiction which are generally tolerated or even enjoyed by people who enjoy bad fanfiction.
I’m under the impression that most people who spend hours at a time online become desperate for some kind of attention. Whether it is a reply to a comment posted on a website, a mention in a post on Facebook, or even a mention in a video or a post on a social media website from someone who has people following them and regularly commenting on their posts. Therefore, it makes sense for people to be attracted to the idea of gaining attention through association with people like Gloria Tesch, whether it be on the side of mocking her in a similar manner to Conjugal Felicity, or by simply commenting on Facebook posts made by her in the hope of getting noticed by people who follow her or even Gloria herself.
So-called ‘lolcow cults’ exist for the sole purpose of following these lolcows for a number of purposes. Whether it be harmless curiosity, or more likely the desire to be involved with the communities associated with these people. The main problem with communities and fanbases is the same problem that exists with cartoons and comics. There’s no endgame to these communities other than to document the ‘funny’ moments of these people. As a result, what tends to happen is the equivalent of what happens when a group of people plan a roadtrip with no destination in mind with whoever will agree to travel in the car. Since the car isn’t planning on making a stop at a place like Disneyland or a nice beach somewhere, the journey in the car needs to provide the excitement. Which means that the entertainment provided in the journey must be provided by the sights which will be seen outside of the car, as well as the interactions between the people travelling in the car. It also means that the road trip will end once everyone travelling in the car gets bored of the journey, and nobody wants to hop inside the car and continue the trip, which means that the car and the road trip will end on it’s least exciting point. This takes a strange turn when the person driving the car starts asking for money to purchase fuel to continue to drive, and wants to continue to gain money simply for driving the car.
A big distinction between hated lolcows and beloved outsider artists is often the message and attitudes expressed by the art being produced. Daniel Johnston expressed a message of peace, love and tolerance while Christine Chandler expressed a singular desire for a girlfriend, and the desire for bad things to happen to people who have wronged him. I’m actually typing this right now and nothing that I can say about Christine would paint him/her as anything other than an eccentric individual with mental issues that were inflated by the environment he/she grew up in, and were exaggerated by trolls to make themselves seem justified in disliking him/her and actively working to make his/her life miserable, or pushing him/her to entertain them in some way to sustain their community.
Really, the only major difference between a disliked lolcow and a well-liked outsider artist is the type of people who follow them and interact with them. The trolls who seek out these eccentric outsiders seem to be incredibly insecure individuals who are less interested in eccentric individuals, and more interested in making their superiority over inferior individuals known. These are the type of people who practice drums for 6 months, then go onto Youtube and complain that Meg White is a terrible drummer who is undeserving of her fame because they can play drums better than she can. Or the type of people who spend hours creating videos mocking other people online.
Someone once told me that making fun of a lolcow as a pastime is diminishing in appeal, due to the fact that some of the things that lolcows are made fun of are becoming much more socially acceptable in our society. The thought of somebody spending hours online, with only the occasional bathroom break and food break, seemed strange at one time and was routinely mocked. Now, it is considered completely normal and some people consider people who don’t spend 1/4 of their time in front of a computer to be strange. Even furries and bondage are becoming much more socially accepted, with pedophilia possibly being more accepted in the future. It has also been proven that the ego which is a common trait among lolcows can appear in people who have at least 20 subscribers on Youtube. With the amount of people who have hundreds of subscribers, and the new technology which makes it easier to produce daily content for people to watch and comment on, there are more people than ever with massive egos who crave drama to draw attention to themselves and their Patreon accounts.
So, lolcows are becoming a lot more common, outsider art is also becoming a lot more common as people become lazier and new technology appears that continues to allow people to create art/music/videos and gain a following much easier.
Did I have a point with this article? Not really, these are just some of my thoughts regarding outsider art and lolcows. Someone once told me that a big problem with Internet culture is that people see text, then they see a comment section and immediately start thinking of what their comment will say instead of thinking about what they’ve read.
Anyways, now for some stray observations to pad this out further.
The most common piece of advice given to lolcows when they have financial problems is “Get a job,” as though walking into a restaurant/store and handing in your resume means that you’ll receive a call the next day and be paid enough money to fix all of your money woes immediately. Personally, most people I know will hand out resumes and search online for weeks/months before being asked to come in for an interview, and even then there’s no guarantee that you’ll be hired at all or start working immediately. More practical advice would be to “Get a job,” along with advice on how to make a small amount of money and survive on that while waiting for a call from a potential employer who received your resume.
I know that this a strange complaint, but every once in awhile I see people criticizing writers like Robert Stanek and Gloria Tesch by comparing their writing to Stephen King and the novels I had to read in high school, as well as Harry Potter. For me, this feels like comparing every band a person hears to The Beatles and Led Zeppelin. Yes, the bands are talented and made great music, but when those bands are your only frame of reference as to what ‘good’ music is, people are going to question your musical tastes. Chances are, some people will question whether you actually enjoy music, or are simply parroting the popular opinion without actually developing your own opinion.
I think that when a person obsesses over the Facebook pages of mentally unstable people for a number of years, they forfeit the right to mock the person. When celebrities are monitored by people in the way that lolcows are monitored, it’s creepy and could be considered to be a crime or at least in poor taste given the intent of people monitoring them. Why is the same standard not applied to lolcows? Probably because they’re not famous or well-liked enough to warrant sympathy.
Thanks for reading my thoughts. I look forward to reading your comment if you decide to type one.