This page is under construction. This is a page that will be part of a series on more anthropological approaches with interviews and noted influencers.
Trigger warning: This article has a focus on topics of abuse, mental illness, eating disorders, and religious abuse. If this sort of content has the potential to be triggering to you, please turn back from this page and go to another page. Viewer discretion is advised.
Morute, a name combining the words "morbid" and "cute," is an aesthetic created in the early 2010's that expresses the dichotomy between a hyper-feminine and childlike softness with grunge and Gothic elements. It is an outlet for expressing trauma, especially those surrounding eating disorders and mental illness. Many visuals also suggest physical abuse, sexual assault or precociousness, self-destruction, and physical disability. The child-like imagery serves as a desire to return to a girlhood that was ripped away from them, with the Christian and cute motifs being an idealization of purity and innocence. Religious guilt is a common motif, with the desire to go to Heaven, but feeling unable due to the victim being "dirtied" with whatever traumatized them. Poverty within small-town Americana is also present, and it reflects the influence of horror movies and the idea of home being sullied and unsafe. The common character trope of being a victim of a serial killer that is herself morbid and evil is possibly a representation of the cycle of trauma.
It is a precursor to Traumacore, and that aesthetic is an example of convergent evolution, wherein two aesthetics express the same thing, but the later community is relatively unaware of its predecessor and its influences. The aesthetic is one that has largely fallen out of popularity due to the current notoriety of Traumacore, the insular community, mental recovery of many influencers, and discourse surrounding the aestheticization of dark themes. The community itself does not emphasize the necessity of actually having trauma. Many simply are visually attracted to it and there is no need to discuss or vent about past experiences.
See Kinderwhore for more information.
Cult Party Kei
Cult Party Kei, a fashion characterized by its use of pastel, diaphanous vintage garments such as bed jackets, night gowns, and layered skirts, as well as its use of rosaries and red medical crosses, gained popularity in 2012 tumblr. These elements are seen in Morute fashion, albeit in a more simplistic and less layered coordination.
Nicole Dollanganger is a Canadian singer-songwriter whose music and visual presence on tumblr greatly influenced, and arguably created, the Morute aesthetic. Her stage name itself, Dollanganger, was taken from the Gothic novel Flowers in the Attic, which explores poverty, abuse, incest, and religious fear, which are multiple motifs that appear in her songs and later Morute artworks. In 2011, she released her first song, Coma Baby, on tumblr to great praise. Her music is characterized by her ethereal, child-like voice contrasting with lyrics about kink, violence, and depression, something that is both influenced and admired by metal and hardcore musicians.
Her now deleted aesthetic, personal, and self-promotional blog on tumblr contained multiple visuals associated with Morute: bondage, horror movie stills, 1920s porcelain dolls (which she collects), and her own hand-drawn illustrations. This led to the growth of her fanbase, which contained other aesthetic enthusiasts, such as Cult Party Kei fans and Gothic Lolitas who would regularly communicate with her and foster a community.
Allison Harvard (Creepy Chan)
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Jess Woods is a deactivated tumblr user who would post hundreds of her own photographs. Her style ranges from hazy and whitewashed to found footage-esque. Her photo subjects include gloomy scenes of her small suburban town, herself wearing girly J-fashion and vintage nightwear, and small trinkets often found in the Morute aesthetic. Many images typically circulated in the Morute community are hers, and she has also influenced other aesthetic communities such as Suburban Gothic, Vintage Parisian, and Kawaii. She deactivated in 2014, but a fan blog has archived most of her photography here.
The community, like multiple other communities in early-to-mid 2010s tumblr, was a loose collection of blogs that predominantly utilized images made by notable influencers specific to that aesthetic, crossed over with other communities, and developed their aesthetic through osmosis.
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The tumblr purge, done in December 2018 caused multiple tumblr users to lose their accounts. Morute fans often reblogged images that would be against the new ban on adult content, such as images that referenced BDSM and the Nymphet community. Because of this purge, many accounts are now lost. Some dedicated users have rebuilt their old blogs, which explains why multiple users do not have content before 2018, despite their previous content on the site. Images from deleted accounts are still lost, such as those from the blogs deleted in 2014,
The visuals of Morute rely on the juxtaposition between sweetness and death. The most popular and recognizable images are typically macabre subjects framed with a cute background, such as a knife on a pink bedsheet. The lighting is often either shadowed and reminiscent of vintage photographs and advertisements or over-exposed, creating a white haze over the photo.
- Angel imagery
- Antique baby paraphernalia such as buggies
- BDSM-cladded men standing ominously
- Blood, bruises, and cuts
- Boudoir materials such as hairbrushes and perfume vials
- Bugs that suggest decay, such as maggots and cockroaches
- Christian little girls dressed in baptism clothes
- Cut locks of hair
- Decaying houses, especially ones from the rural South and with feminine wallpaper
- Deformed people and animals such as conjoined twins or three-eyed deer
- Gas masks
- Lingerie, often vintage 1950s nightgowns, or modern pink frills
- Medical tools such as syringes and scalpels
- Gloomy suburban neighborhoods
- Rosaries and crosses
- Shibari, duct tape, and other restraints evoking either BDSM or kidnapping
- Small, vulnerable animals such as rabbits, lambs, kittens, and deer
- Statues of the Virgin Mary
- Stuffed animals
- Teeth, often either baby teeth or rotten ones, a reference to bulimia
- True crime references
- Vintage porcelain and bisque dolls
The look takes a lot of inspiration from Kinderwhore, which ties into the Morute music taste of grunge bands.
- Gunne Sax-style prairie dresses
- Pastel vintage baby clothes-inspired dresses with heirloom sewing details. Common elements include:
- Floral print
- Peter Pan collars
- Black Mary-Jane shoes
- Doc Martin's
- Saddle shoes
- White frilly socks
- Gimp masks, BDSM harnesses, and rope bondage
As said in the Influences page, Nicole Dollanganger was the largest influencer of the community, with her music being shared within the community. As such, the music of Morute is largely defined by her. The non-Dollanganger artists included here are ones that appear in 8tracks playlists (see 2014-era tumblr for an explanation) and have a similar sound, but may not necessarily be as popular within the community. In addition, grunge and metal bands with lyrics that express the same vulnerability and sexuality as Morute are included.
- Cake Bake Betty
- Elvis Depressedly
- Nicole Dollanganger
Grunge and Metal Artists
- Marilyn Manson
- Radulovic, Petrana. (2018, December). Tumblr will purge most NSFW content under new guidelines. Polygon. https://www.polygon.com/2018/12/3/18124039/tumblr-ban-guidelines-nsfw-content