Feeling Forms: ASMR Roleplays and Sensorial Media Reception

Curator's Note

Within ASMR’s infinite digital diversity of styles, “triggers,” and topics, roleplays of existing TV and film characters spark a unique receptive experience. Creators who inhabit other fictional properties leverage the affective affordances of ASMR’s formal techniques (sound mixing, vocal performance, mise-en-scène) to process, deform, and re-present mainstream media texts; they quietly refract popular culture back to us through a sensory lens.

These particular videos do valuable cultural work on the ways audiences have always already used film and television for sensorial pleasure and somatic stimulation. Beyond the fun of seeing characters as diverse as Voldemort, Edward Scissorhands, and The Log Lady “translated” into ASMR, these performances also posit ASMR itself as a model of spectatorship. They reorient our approach to texts as sensorial comfort objects. The curator’s selection of characters, scenes, costuming, performance, and special effects highlight the aspects of mainstream texts that act as “feeling forms,” sparking an uncanny and sweet affect that audiences can’t help but chase.

These clips have been chosen to illustrate commonalities in the way creators have interpreted the powerful sensorial bond between texts, actors, and audiences. You’ll often see direct address, vocal tics, and gentle attention to props. These connect to larger ASMR categories such as personal attention, eating, soft-speaking, accents, and more. But these roleplays also claim many receptive positionalities: faithful (i.e. a perfectly miniaturized Spirited Away breakfast) to oppositional and/or parodic (a Walking Dead murderer with a weapon made of bubble wrap).

Sensorial reception, as much as any other mode of reception, can venerate, celebrate, disagree with, critique and reject texts - sometimes simultaneously. For example, the Bob’s Burgers roleplay playfully re-frames Linda’s grating vocals as nurturing and meditative; the setup is designed to delight fans of the original text by creatively recuperating loudness, energy, and stress for ASMR purposes. Many of these creators roleplay “appropriate” texts, but also take on “inappropriate” texts as an artistic challenge. They not only declare ASMR’s place in fan culture (and vice versa), but also gesture more broadly to the implications of roleplay in the context of relaxation, self-soothing, care, and physical attunement. 

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