Lil Miquela, like all virtual influencers, is a CGI character designed as a replacement for social media influencers of the more flesh-and-blood variety. She has no agency and, as such, each of her social media posts are carefully scripted by the team of marketers who manage her. One genre of media that her team seems to be pulling from is the great American soap opera. Using Harrington and Bielby’s three characteristics of soap operas we can see how this works.
Unlike most genres, soap operas don’t work towards a conclusion. Harington and Bielby tell us soap operas are “open texts” which are “resistant to closure” (1995, p. 13). The point is to stay within an “endless middle.” Miquela’s scripting works much the same way. She is forever 19 and her story has no stated end goal. Instead, audiences are encouraged to follow along in her eternal adolescence.
Run Long, Run Often
Soaps are also noteworthy for their high output and long-running nature. Soaps often air new episodes every weekday and the most popular franchises air for decades. Miquela keeps a similar no-breaks schedule, publishing new content to her Instagram profile several times a week. Audiences are conditioned to expect a constant stream of new content, knowing every few days there will be some new piece of Miquela’s story revealed.
Last, Harington and Bielby suggest soaps rely on a set of “specific codes” which are recognized and understood by “competent viewers” (1995, p. 13). Below are some of the codes they describe and how Miquela leverages them.
Character Development: Displayed by Miquela via her romantic relationships and other sub-plots played out on her feed.
Distortion of time: Miquela has been active since 2016, though her canonical age hasn’t changed. She was introduced as a 19-year-old, and she will remain so.
Commercials as structuring devices: As an influencer, Miquela’s job is to sell things to her audience. The ‘commercial’ is baked into her every post.
Harrington, C. L., & Bielby, D. D. (1995). Soap fans: Pursuing pleasure and making meaning in everyday life. Temple University Press.
Phillips, H. (2020, December 10). Miquela. EUPHORIA. https://www.euphoriazine.com/blog/2020/12/covers-miquela/
Goldfine, J. (2020, March 6). Lil Miquela Has ‘Consciously Uncoupled’ From Her Human Boyfriend. PAPER. https://www.papermag.com/lil-miquela-break-up-2645414969.html
Sousa, M. (2021, September 22). Miquela on Instagram: “Y’all, I can’t wait for the premiere of ALTER EGO!! I totally shoulda auditioned – I woulda killed it as a mermaid. People go through a….” Instagram. https://www.instagram.com/p/CUIuMLGJ61g/?hl=en
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