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Sensitive Content Notice ⚠️
The following article contains and discusses content that may be distressing to some readers.
Reason for Warning: This article has a focus on topics of domestic abuse, self-harm, sexual assault, mental illness, eating disorders, and religious abuse. There is also discussion of a real murder, as well as mass shooting.

Morute, a name combining the words "morbid" and "cute," is an aesthetic created in the early 2010's that expresses the dichotomy between the hyper-femininity and softness of a childhood/girlhood in the past with the darker imagery of true crime and American Gothic elements. In the community, users often use it as an outlet for expressing trauma, especially those surrounding eating disorders and child abuse. The community largely developed from the music of Nicole Dollanganger and influential photographers such as Jess Woods and milliedollgraves, who have since deactivated. It is more commonly known as "Sadbbydoll", due to those in the aesthetic looking like sad baby dolls.

Many visuals suggest physical abuse, sexual assault and molestation, emotional abuse and self-destruction, religious trauma, 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, angelic, 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.

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 the contrast between cutesy, girly, childish aesthetics with dark, creepy, gothic aesthetics, and there is no need to discuss or vent about past experiences.

History[]

Morute as a community in Tumblr during 2014 involved a number of bloggers who would photograph the visuals associated with the subject. They often had an individual modus operandi and style that, while unique to them, focused on the same contrast between cute and morbid. In addition to the photographs was music, with Nicole Dollanganger being the most influential, both in music and in visuals. See the section below for specific influencers.

Part of the popularity and the reason why the aesthetic looks the way it does is from influences from other aesthetics concurrent to the beginning of Morute. For example, Tumblr has a large Grunge community, which explains the link towards grunge music and the fashion style of Kinderwhore, which is characterized by vintage nightgowns and tattered motifs. 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.[1] Delicate Sweet, which was an aesthetic popular at the same time as Morute, can be interpreted as a non-dark version of the aesthetic, with both communities reblogging from each other, along with the Babycore aesthetic, which developed after both Morute and Delicate Sweet.

The darker components of the aesthetic could come from Balkan Violence Tumblr, where male users posted photos of guns, soldiers, BDSM, and blood. Another darker community that often overlaps in motif was Nymphet, which also romanticizes dangerous men, as well as Babygirl which centers on the DDLG kink dynamic. However, different community members disagreed on this and often came into conflict with themselves and others in the context of Morute being an aesthetic to engage and heal from trauma, rather than re-traumatizing themselves. A later influence was that of the Regional Gothic aesthetics, which led to Tumblr users posting an influx of abandoned churches, highways, suburbs, etc.

As the community grew, there was interaction between different members, such as in tumblr asks, comments in reblogs, etc, sometimes leading to photoshoots done together. And with concerts from Nicole Dollanganger and grunge bands being possible, there was an in-person component since their concerts would be attended by those in the community.

However, the community also had negative interactions because those both within and outside of the community disagreed with a number of controversial actions, as seen in the Criticism section.

In the late 2010s, the community began to wane in popularity because of the conflict, as well as some photographers (i.e. Jess Woods) deactivating. This was likely because of hateful comments, but the exact reason is unknown.

The community especially took a hit during the Tumblr purge[2], done in December 2018, which 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 bondage and the Nymphet community. Many blogs were also removed because they contained pro-Ana and self-harm content. 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.

Another factor of the decline is that a community member was murdered by an ex-boyfriend in 2019 after a Nicole Dollanganger concert[3]. This made the aspects of Morute romanticizing serial killers, age gaps, kidnapping, etc. more controversial, as there was a person directly affected by this. A different reason why some members moved on from Morute is that the claim of the aesthetic being a tool for moving on from trauma may either be successful or a failure. With the users recovering, they would see less of a need to participate in the community, or they may realize that the aesthetic is harming their personal recovery and leave.

Meanwhile, in the late 2010s (approximately 2018), Traumacore became an aesthetic. Like Morute, this aesthetic draws from the juxtaposition between cute visuals and decay and claims to be a tool to move past trauma. However, these aesthetics differ in many of their influences and visuals. Traumacore involves text edits, cartoon and anime visuals, and lacks a fashion component, while Morute is more Gothic and involves more motifs. Traumacore's popularity led to this aesthetic replacing Morute as Tumblr's primary creepy-cute aesthetic.

Because of the greater interest in tumblr aesthetics during the pandemic[4], users on TikTok who did not experience the aesthetic firsthand began to find the aesthetic, partially because of the existence of this page. However, there were multiple changes as a new group of users reinterpreted the aesthetic. For example, there is less emphasis on Nicole Dollanganger's music and more emphasis on faster paced electronic music which is more popular on the platform in general. The makeup and fashion is also more over-the-top and exaggerated, often taking inspiration from Lolita fashion, Dollette, Dollcore, etc.

Influencers[]

Nicole Dollanganger[]

Nicole Dollanganger art

Watercolor on a doily by Nicole Dollanganger

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, 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[5]. 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.[6]

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 which decorate her vintage bedroom. 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.[7]

Allison Harvard (Creepy Chan)[]

Allisonharvard

Allison Harvard’s iconic “Creepy Chan”

Allison Harvard Burke is an American model and known internet celebrity. She started officially modeling in 2009, however debuted her career in America’s Next Top Model in 2005, and was a runner-up in that same contest in season 12 and 17. Before she debuted, she became an internet meme recognized as “Creepy Chan” on 4chan when a photo of her wearing a pink dress in a dim room spread around. [8]

Many Morute bloggers are inspired by her “Creepy Chan” look, even if she isn’t Morute-esqe herself.

Jess Woods[]

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, Delicate Sweet, Pink Parisian, Babycore, and Kawaii. She deactivated in 2014, but a fan blog has archived most of her photography here.

Under construction

Milliedollgraves[]

thetorturegardens[]

feral-violet[]

Melanie Martinez[]

Tumblr a6efe54f955602a212fa05b446c35f9f 56b6590e 1280

Photography by Jess Woods.

Visuals[]

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 typically either shadowed and reminiscent of vintage photographs and advertisements or over-exposed, creating a white haze over the photo. The most popular colors in the aesthetic are pink and white, but gray and black contrast the cute images. The tumblr blogs in this aesthetic also commonly reblog photos with two different aesthetics in succession. For example, a blog may have one post be a purely Delicate Sweet collection of dresses and then have the next photo be of a gun collection from a violence-themed blog. Bloggers often post pictures of themselves wearing doll-like and feminine clothing and holding a rifle, or wearing a gas mask.

The most feminine visuals take inspiration from vintage 1950s boudoir/bedrooms. Many Morute bloggers owned lingerie, old perfume bottles, jewelry, and various vintage knickknacks from that period. These items were typically found in thrift stores or passed down, and share visual similarities with Shabby Chic. This also creates overlap with the Trailer Park Princess aesthetic.

Christianity in general is heavily referenced throughout this entire aesthetic. Angels and cherubs appear in artwork, with the semi-naturalistic art being put on stickers, trinket boxes, and wall art. Feathered white wings frequently appear as decoration or worn as a fashion accessory. Crosses and crucifixes are another reference to Christ as well as other religious talismans, such as candles, statuettes, and relics. These are often spread on a bed, collected on a wall, or made into a shrine with an alarming amount of religious paraphernalia, showing the obsessive dedication and fascination with religion. Vintage photographs of religious ceremonies, such as weddings and baptisms, which feature women or little girls dressed in pale, feminine clothing, are also popular and reference the feminine beauty and purity of some Christian traditions. Nicole Dollanganger often references religion in her music, with songs like "700 Club" and "Tammy Faye".

The aesthetic also heavily plays off of the idea of "home," which would not exist for a victim of domestic abuse and sexual trauma. Many images are of abandoned and decaying houses that have either clear signs of destruction or outdated feminine features. These often overlap with Southern Gothic and Grandparentcore. Torn floral wallpaper, piles of broken wood, graffiti from trespassers, and patches of broken plaster are almost always in these photos. However, non-destroyed pastel suburban houses from the 1950s-1970s in hazy photography are common too.

Graveyards are another common photo subject that includes images of these places, girls in Morute clothing being in the space, and specific gravestones carrying a touching message (typically for a child or baby).

Another location that is connected to the vintage, youthful, and feminine aesthetic is carnivals, with rides and stands such as carousels, horror-themed funhouses, and sweets stands. These can be fully operational or abandoned.

Antique baby and children's paraphernalia is another common subject, specifically around practices that were normal/considered sentimental and cute in the past, but are now seen as creepy. In the past, parents would collect cut locks of hair, baby teeth, and gift their children porcelain or bisque dolls and stuffed animals. Many photos show the OP's collection of such objects in a box or arranged in a shrine-like fashion. There is a lot of overlap with Babycore.

Another Victorian-inspired visual of the aesthetic are medical tools and asylums/hospitals from that era. These instruments are often collected, and images of medical procedures, organs, and bloodied objects are included on blogs. Similarly, severe mutations, especially conjoined twins, are commonly seen in both daguerreotypes and animals.

Building off on this, vulnerable animals such as rabbits, lambs, kittens, and deer, are frequently featured, often decorated in ribbon similar to vintage card illustrations. Bugs related to decay, such as maggots, cockroaches, and worms are also included because of their relationship with death and abandonment.

Blood, bruises, and cuts are present, always on a pale young woman's body. These have multiple reasons; self-harm scars and cuts, menstruation, BDSM injuries, abuse, and bumps and scrapes are explained in the caption of the post.

Imagery related to BDSM is common, but not always. Rope bondage, choking, duct-taped women, knifeplay, gags, pretend kidnapping, etc. can appear. The woman is dressed cutely in a DDlg manner, and contrasts the male dominant, who is typically in black, sometimes with a full-faced mask (balaclava, gas mask, etc.) Some of the appeal is that being bound by an ominous male dominant resembles kidnapping or being murdered, which matches the aesthetic's relationship with true crime and morbidity. Another big appeal is that CNC (consensual non-consent) is a kink that is often used as a way to help overcome past experiences of sexual assault, which is a big theme within Morute.

Fashion[]

The look takes a lot of inspiration from Kinderwhore, as well as Coquette.

  • Gunne Sax-style prairie dresses
  • Pastel vintage baby clothes-inspired dresses with heirloom sewing details. Common elements include:
    • Floral print
    • Lace
    • Peter Pan collars
    • Ribbons
    • Pastel colors
  • Black Mary-Jane shoes
  • Doc Martens
  • Saddle shoes
  • White frilly socks
  • Rosaries
  • Gimp masks, Bondage harnesses, and rope bondage
  • Lacey sock garters
  • Distressed/tattered dresses
  • Vintage nightgowns

Music[]

Under construction

Mid-2010s Tumblr[]

As said in the Influences page, Nicole Dollanganger was the largest influence, 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 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 were commonly referenced in the 2010s community. For example, merchandise and posters of influential bands such as Korn, Nirvana, Marilyn Manson, and Insane Clown Posse were common, especially when juxtaposed with soft or feminine decor and attire, such as a Nirvana poster on a pink bedroom wall.

As previously discussed, part of the origin of Morute was in female-led grunge bands that wore the Kinderwhore aesthetic. They were also included in aesthetic posts and playlists. Hole, Jack Off Jill, and Daisy Chainsaw among others were common. Hole's album Live Through This was also popular, as it contained many dark themes juxtaposed with metaphors of dolls, little girls, and innocence.

Some artists may also share some commonalities, such as the dichotomy between creepy and cute, but were not shared among the tumblr community during the time. They may sonically sound different, such as Jazmin Bean's use of electronic music or Melanie Martinez's more pop-oriented sound, the latter of which being more associated with the Soft Grunge circle rather than this one.

Late-2010s, early 2020 Tumblr[]

Some artists, namely Cozy St. Jean, Ethel Cain, Mercy Necromancy, Bambi Baker, and Elita, have produced music after the aesthetic's peak, but directly cited Dollanganger and the tumblr community as large influences on their music.

TikTok[]

Morute experienced revival on TikTok that contributed to changes in what music was considered Morute. Dark electronic songs, such as After Dark by Mr. Kitty and Oblivion by Grimes, were often used in morute TikToks, leading to people's idea of what music was morute becoming more relaxed.

There were also various other artists who produced music before, during, and after the peak on Tumblr that, rather than drawing inspiration from the Morute aesthetic, simply made music that juxtaposed the morbid and cute without being aware of the tag "morute". Other artists used the tag "morute" but are not as widely spread in the Morute community of today. These artists include:

  • Cake Bake Betty
  • Elvis Depressedly
  • Lana Del Rey
  • Ruby Throat
  • Lalleshwari
  • Flower Face
  • Honey Gentry
  • Dollie Rot
  • Princess Chelsea
  • Fiona Apple
  • Sophie Woodhouse
  • Dan Darrah
  • Babuchan
  • Kelsi Kross
  • Baby Bugs
  • Yetaxa
  • Rosie Diamond
  • Solya
  • Doyle Valentine
  • Milly Sweetly
  • Jazmin Bean

Grunge and Metal Artists[]

  • The Smashing Pumpkins
  • angelic milk
  • Babes in Toyland
  • Starcrawler
  • Queenadreena
  • The Birthday Massacre
  • Scarling.

Literature[]

  • Flowers In The Attic by VC Andrews
  • Carrie by Stephen King
  • Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Criticism[]

The main criticisms of Morute is how the depiction of the dark subject matter is romanticized and/or minimizes the actual pain and trauma that happens to the victims of abuse. This can also make the internet experience triggering for victims. Because Morute previously wasn't a tag, the images of abuse and self-harm would be seen in innocuous tags such as #pink or #cute, which can make a person healing unnecessarily see imagery that can make them relapse or hurt.

For example, many content-creators of Morute photographed their self-harm scars and bruises, often juxtaposed with pink ribbons and other girly accessorie. While for some, this is an expression of their past pain and moving on from it, others may see it and think self-harm is a beautiful and normal expression of pain that should be emulated. Critics also are skeptical of the claim that posting the aesthetic is healing, as linking trauma with lifestyle and identity can make healing more difficult.

This aesthetic is also criticized by people for its depiction of violence. Some people in this aesthetic are adjacent to the true crime community, which on Tumblr, often centers around admiring and having crushes on serial killers and school shooters (also known as hybristophilia). Many songs in the Morute community reference this romantic fascination with killers, which has led to some incidents such as one in which many people began "cancelling" an artist who made songs of this nature.[9]

Additionally, domestic abuse is a frequent motif that is framed in a romantic sense. For example, captions under photos include "He hit me, and it felt like a kiss." He Hit me (And it Felt Like a Kiss) is also a song by Nicole Dollanganger and a lyric used by Lana Del Rey, leading to the heavy usage of the phrase among Morute bloggers. Music and photos also include this romanticization, with photos of framed domestic violence, such as choking a woman being popular; however, this also ties into the BDSM connection, which is a culture that emphasizes consent.

The Morute community also has many users who make and reblog pro-Ana/thinspo content. Many bloggers both have Morute images on their blog and text posts documenting their anorexia in a positive light and blog posts depicting how little they eat. The images associated with Morute also allude to pro-Ana in that the women idealized in this aesthetic are often unhealthily thin, and some commonly reblogged photos serve a double function as "body checks" (small tests that confirm skinniness) such as thigh gaps and tiny wrists. This often led to conflict in the Morute community, as many enjoyers of the aesthetic use it to move on from their past eating disorders and perceive people encouraging disordered behaviors as bad representatives of the community.

Resources[]

External links to help get a better understanding of this aesthetic.

Playlists[]

Vendors[]

Gallery[]

References[]

7. https://www.tumblr.com/pain-station/717432611731128320?source=share

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