Madeline Argy Emma Chamberlain

Madeline Argy to Emma Chamberlain: Inside TikTok’s problem with sleepy girl influencers

My bed rotting could never be this aesthetic

Cars piled with rubbish and days under crusty sheets: Madeline Argy and Emma Chamberlain have long been many girlies comfort influencers. They love bed-rotting. They can’t handle the demands of life. But the tide could be turning on this sleepy girl aesthetic.

Maddie recently joined Alex Cooper’s production company The Unwell Network. To promote the collaboration, she posted photos of her in a hoody and face mask, lounging in bed, peering gloomily into the mirror: “i am @unwell,” she wrote. And TikTok had a problem with it.

“The more and more these Emma Chamberlain 2.0, mentally unwell, sad girl, sleepy girl archetype influencers pop up, become successful, and then create podcasts, products and brands of this character, the more I urge young girls that are fans consuming this media to have discernment that this is a brand,” said commentary TikToker Mayi to 405k likes of agreement.

“Her room. She supposedly lives in the same room, same car – it’s a tip. That’s her brand. That might not work out as well for you if you’re not going to get paid to post pictures of your messy room in the same way she is. It’s brilliant to take comfort in these pieces of media but maybe not to surround yourself with solely depictions of this because it might not be the healthiest,” she said.

“This is marketing. [Maddie] has access to resources that mean a lot of these things that she’s showing you could go [away] just like that. She’s taking pictures of them and getting paid from the engagement from that. 

“While it’s brilliant to perhaps feel empowered seeing somebody showing you the reality of life – we are all at some point going to struggle with mental health in some way or other – it’s not exactly all as authentic as it is literally marketed to be,” she concluded.

Most recently, on a photoshoot with The Face, set-dressers carefully placed meal deal wrappers and other pieces of rubbish throughout the car Maddie was driving to align with her messy girl reputation. She posted the efforts on TikTok and highlighted their ridiculousness. But we’ve reached a point where the snake is eating itself:

“Obviously her brand is being authentic but to a certain extend when she’s reached followers and is now selling products to people of this branding it can’t be authentic anymore,” pointed out Mayi.

Obviously, it’s nice to have relatable content on TikTok. And Maddie provides exactly that: She’s not okay all the time. She’s palpably chaotic, emotional, messy. She cries. She’s tired. But she’s now also in a position of privilege. “Money doesn’t buy happiness but it does buy resources and protection!! Most of her audience doesn’t have that safety net,” one user commented.

We’ve tried to be the clean girl, that girl, rebelled against the perfect aesthetic with rat girl summer and bed rotting winter— but now we’ve come full circle. The sleepy, sad, messy girl influencer definitely has a place online. But, as soon as brand deals get involved authenticity undeniably gets muddled with the performative. The mess gets messier.

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