Gypsy Rose Blanchard is 2024's 'it girl'
The stan-ification of true crime.
Keep scrolling for why tweens are ruining Sephora. Allegedly.
TikTok users have been following along as @engineer.everything— real name Kala— builds a tunnel underneath her house. Joining the ranks of “Tube Girl” and “Couch Guy,” she is now affectionately known as “Tunnel Girl.”
While many users have enjoyed following Kala’s journey, others have started questioning her qualifications and whether she has procured the appropriate permits.
In November 2023, NBC News reported that Kala has “no formal background in engineering” and “has spent most of her professional life working in information technology.”
Kala also confirmed to the publication that she is complying with “the rules for building emergency shelters in her local jurisdiction.” She did not mention if she had been granted any permits.
However, by December 29, Kala had been issued a “stop work order,” with officials coming to inspect the structural integrity of the tunnel.
Many TikTok users are glad to see that her property is being checked. These users have expressed concern for Kala and her neighbours' safety, accusing her of creating a "sinkhole" in the middle of the suburbs.
Others have rushed to defend the creator, claiming "[they] will not stand for this Kala slander.”
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While Kala maintained that her neighbours were aware of the project, Aura Bogado, a senior investigative reporter, claims that “not one [neighbourhood] knew about this tunnel project.”
After tracking down Kala’s home, Bogado discovered that “almost all of her neighbours are Central American migrants or first-generation immigrants.”
Bogado explains that, although many of her neighbours heard the construction, they were hesitant to involve authorities, fearing potential deportation.
“The power dynamics between Kala and her neighbours are wildly imbalanced,” Bogado concluded. “This tunnel isn’t really only about a tunnel. It’s about more. It’s about race, it’s about representation, it’s about privilege, it’s about boundaries, it’s about equity or the lack thereof.”
Former Tunnel Girl stans are now flocking to the platform, rethinking the whole situation. With many thanking Bogado for her work, it seems the Tunnel Girl saga serves as a timely reminder that virality doesn’t mean legitimacy.
Read the full story via Centennial World.
Aside from Tunnel Girl, TikTok users are directing a lot of anger toward tweens lately. Women in their 20s and 30s are going viral complaining about Gen Z and Gen Alpha as they cause absolute chaos in Sephora.
In these videos, social media users are questioning why children (some as young as 10) are coming to Sephora to buy expensive skincare and makeup products.
These Gen Alpha-approved products have gained popularity on TikTok, often from brands like Drunk Elephant, Glow Recipe, Rare Beauty, and Sol De Janeiro.
Many internet users have expressed concern for these young girls, as these popular products are typically unsuitable for children— with most sitting in the luxury category and formulated with strong ingredients.
“These girls are never going to get the feeling of entering into womanhood. For me, it went like Claire’s, Ulta then Sephora… [these girls] just don’t have a preteen stage, the way we had a preteen stage,” a TikTok user named Amy reflects. “I would have hated to be a preteen at this time and age because I wouldn’t have been able to afford nothing…”
Others have noted how the “Sephora Kids epidemic” mirrors a concerning shift in the beauty industry.
While older Gen Z may have fallen victim to 2016 makeup hoarding and full glam trends, it seems that younger Gen Z and Gen Alpha are being taught to be worried about aging (before they even hit puberty).
On top of this, Sephora staff have expressed concerns about the behaviour of some children in stores. Many employees have observed instances where these kids disrupt displays and products, often forgetting to use good manners.
Ex-Sephora employee @jordynrbennett recounted her customer service horror stories. She noted one instance where a young girl started opening and applying products she had not paid for.
"I am so happy that we are finally acknowledging the 10-12-year-old epidemic going on inside of Sephora," Jordyn says in a TikTok video. "They come in stampedes… It's like 10 of them coming in at one time, and their tactic is like divide and conquer."
Speaking of TikTok niches, a new piece by Rebecca Jennings for Vox explores the world of CleanTok and how social media is changing the perception of cleanliness.
While promoting an aspirational lifestyle isn’t exactly novel for social media, “performative cleaning” has proven to be rather toxic.
Performative cleaning is “when we clean or keep house in order to become someone, to become that woman who has it together and feels so peaceful and so happy, instead of recognising that who I am right now is worthy or caring for,” author KC Davis shares in a TikTok video.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only intensified the fixation on aesthetics of cleanliness, Jennings notes, embedding it even more deeply into the fabric of the online space.
“What began as patriotic duty during the Civil War has curdled into a never-ending stream of unnecessary products advertised to us by weaponizing our insecurities,” she explains. “The pandemic only exacerbated the germaphobia baked into American culture.”
Through TikTok GRWMs and vlogs, social media users have gained unprecedented access to the homes of the rich and famous. With many influencers living in perfectly clean (and often minimalist) houses, the ideal aesthetic has shifted away from lived-in spaces.
“It’s all the likely result of doing the majority of our socializing via a screen, where the image of something becomes more important than what it actually is, or does, or how it makes us feel,” Jennings concludes. “We were never meant to tour this many people’s sterile gray homes…Doing so has warped our perception of what and whom cleanliness is for, and vastly overestimated how much any of it matters.”
Read the full story via Vox.
Gypsy Rose Blanchard’s story— in which she served eight years of jail time after conspiring to kill her mother— has gripped internet users for almost a decade. After being released from prison on December 28, Gypsy has reached a new level of celebrity, accumulating over 8 million followers on TikTok and Instagram. In a recent video by commentary creator Mika’s Rhetoric, she explores what Gypsy’s newfound fame says about true crime and stan culture.
Throughout her childhood, Gypsy was made to believe that she was suffering from a swath of chronic illnesses, including leukemia, asthma, and muscular dystrophy. But there was just one caveat: Gypsy was healthy.
Experts believe that Gypsy’s mother, Clauddine “Dee Dee” Blanchard, was suffering from Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy— a mental disorder where caregivers feign health problems in another person, typically their child.
After enduring over 20 years of abuse by Dee Dee, Gypsy planned to murder her mother with the help of her boyfriend at the time, Nicholas Godejohn.
Gypsy and Nicholas were sentenced to ten years and life in prison, respectively.
Gypsy has left prison with millions of fans on social media. As internet users flood Gypsy’s posts with a seemingly endless stream of “slay mama” comments, Mika claims that “stan culture” language is reductive and is pressuring Gypsy to perform as an influencer.
“The part that rubs me the wrong way about the use of stan culture language… this is the same type of language that people use around their favourite celebrities and artists,” Mika reflects. “This is very different when you’re talking about someone who is known for facing incomprehensible levels of trauma.”
By treating Gypsy in this way, she becomes susceptible to the “cycle” of a social media celebrity — where she will constantly have to balance audience expectations and her authentic self.
“They want her to be this person who is brave and can easily overcome her circumstances… but I imagine that [when] she shows too much regret… or a lot of remorse [it] might not be reflective of what people want her to be,” the content creator explains.
As Gypsy discovers social media for the first time, there is a demand for content from her. She has become a commodity of the true crime genre — a phenomenon that has been intensified as many internet users view Gypsy as a “perfect victim.”
“The commodification of this sort of perfect victim complex has now moved it into overdrive, where people are looking at this situation too superficially and as if it is characters on a screen,” Mika goes on to say. “It doesn’t help because Gypsy Rose Blanchard has literally been a character on a screen [in shows like The Act].”
Watch the full video via YouTube.
Now, for the internet's other favourite woman: Taylor Swift. Social media users are coming together to support the singer-songwriter after The New York Times published an op-ed questioning her sexuality. In a new piece for The Atlantic, Spencer Kornhaber dissects the situation, exploring how fans often project their identities onto celebrities.
On January 4, The New York Times published an opinion piece by Anna Marks speculating that Swift isn’t straight. In typical Gaylor fashion, the article scans through Taylor’s lyrics, career, and life for evidence of queer desire.
With Marks framing the piece around the idea that celebrities often hint at queerness while also feeling obligated to keep their sexuality private, she offers a valid critique of Hollywood and society at large.
These references to queerness have long built a sense of camaraderie within the LGBTQIA+ community. But, as Kornhaber points out, today’s "voyeuristic" social media landscape has restricted the celebrity-fan relationship.
“The impossible yearning to know who our artists really are beyond the art they put out is a powerful lure that keeps users scrolling TikTok and other platforms where fans gather,” Kornhaber writes. “As a result, listeners don’t just analyze songs to find meanings applicable to their own life; they investigate songs, searching for truth about the creator’s life. And, ideally, that truth validates their own.”
Rather than seeking comfort in an artist's queerness, Kornhaber suggests that pop culture enthusiasts need to embrace a different understanding of the term — one in which individuals "queer a work through their interpretation." In other words, what should truly matter is how people interpret the text and its impact.
“The unfortunate thing about this situation is that Taylor Swift means a lot to LGBTQ listeners for good reasons, ones worth discussing. You don’t need to speculate about Swift the human being in order to queer her music,” Kornhaber concludes. “Swift’s songs shift for each listener, reflecting their image back like a mirror ball—dazzling while guarding what’s underneath.”
Read the full story via The Atlantic.