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May 15,2020

by Laura Pitcher

Exploring Digital Escapism Through the Internet’s Cottagecore Obsession

If you’ve found that your feed is becoming increasingly filled with prairie dresses, picnic baskets, and pressed flowers, you’re not alone. These posts, spanning across Instagram, Twitter, Tiktok, Reddit, and Tumblr are part of the growing internet community “cottagecore”, an idealistic aesthetic inspired by a romanticized nostalgia for pastoral life (think Pride and Prejudice). 

While cottagecore is having a digital moment in a time where venturing into digital escapism has never felt more appealing, the roots were set long before the current global health crisis. Tracing back to late 2018, when prairie dresses also had a major moment in fashion, the trend sits alongside other fantastical aesthetic communities: grandmacore, faeriecore, and goblincore. All of which have become subsections of an already niche genre. They also share the same dissatisfaction with late-stage capitalism and longing to live in a reality outside of our current one. 

Stained glass by Illumination Art & Design, photo by Sean Michael Felix

“Deirbaby”, the Wyoming-based cottage-core enthusiast behind the Instagram account @cottagecorehore, describes the movement as “your grandma’s life”. “Cozy sweaters, comforting foods, fresh herbs, authenticity, things that most find to enjoy when they become older,” she says. But while that would seem to ground the trend in nostalgia for the past, “Deirbaby” explains that this isn’t the case. “This is an idolized future world, money is such a huge greed right now and we need to slow down,” she says. “With everything that’s been going on right now, cottagecore allows people to explore their interests and find their passions, it allows them to escape.” 

Reimagining a slower-paced world set in the future differentiates the trend from being part of the traditional movement, which reinforces gender roles. In fact, there are cottagecore accounts that reimagine a safer, more inclusive space for the queer community. Many of the Tiktok videos include hashtags like “wlw” (women who love women). This reflects the fact that the trend focuses largely on traditionally “soft” content, like baking scones, centring female and non-binary people to reimagine a world where men are an afterthought. 

This future-focus, however, doesn’t exclude the trend from drawing issues with glamourising colonialism. “Cottagecore aesthetic photos are really nice. Cottagecore in general? Very much a colonizer fantasy and it makes me feel pretty uncomfortable,” wrote Hawke on their Tumblr “Finding My Culture”. “You can’t ‘reclaim’ and ‘reconnect to’ land that doesn’t actually belong to you.” 

“Too bad cottagecore is full of so much anti-Indigenous racism because this is such a dream,” Tweeted 22-year-old Ivy Carter when sharing a series of cottage-images. “I love cottagecore but I always have to check if I'm reblogging from Nazis,” another Twitter user replied. Carter clarified that while cottagecore “Isn’t inherently anti-Indigenous, there are many people into it who are and who believe in the settler colonial mindset that all land is up for grabs”. 

bertrand-bouchez-DAHXjK2NeDM-unsplash

This brings the larger topic of digital escapism into question. As many of us turn to the comfort of digital escapism, like the popularity of Nintendo’s latest release of animal crossing, could surrounding yourself in unrealistic depictions of a future world leave us more disconnected to the systematic oppression happening in everyday life? It’s also important to factor in that the current cottagecore community is largely white, and that having access to the technology required to “digitally escape” is not a privilege all have access to. 

“Escapist fantasies give us hope under capitalism, but we need to be critically aware of how escapism affects the most marginalized communities under capitalism,” one person replied to Hawke’s Tumblr post. Balancing this awareness with fantasy is where the community's growing focus on inclusivity comes in, acknowledging that much of the inspiration comes from a period where violence towards the queer community and people of colour was rife. 

 It does seem that to most cottagecare enthusiasts, it’s the escapism element that makes this subculture so attractive. “I think that I would describe cottage core as a forest fantasy, where you just imagine a life where there’s not much to worry about,” says Sai, behind the Twitter account Cottagecore Whore”. “I think cottage core has and always will be an escape for different reasons, from politics to urban life. Maybe right now people are seeing it as the safe place where a global pandemic isn’t happening.”

It’s also easy to see the appeal to take a break from the current rate countless concerning headlines, especially considering many people are also finding virtual distractions such as Animal Crossing and Sims beneficial to managing anxiety during this time. However, this escapism can’t be a substitute for the work to dismantle the systematic oppression of our capitalist system, the very thing that’s sparking the desire to explore digital escapism. 

cosmic-timetraveler-pYyOZ8q7AII-unsplash

May 15,2020

by Laura Pitcher

Exploring Digital Escapism Through the Internet’s Cottagecore Obsession

If you’ve found that your feed is becoming increasingly filled with prairie dresses, picnic baskets, and pressed flowers, you’re not alone. These posts, spanning across Instagram, Twitter, Tiktok, Reddit, and Tumblr are part of the growing internet community “cottagecore”, an idealistic aesthetic inspired by a romanticized nostalgia for pastoral life (think Pride and Prejudice). 

While cottagecore is having a digital moment in a time where venturing into digital escapism has never felt more appealing, the roots were set long before the current global health crisis. Tracing back to late 2018, when prairie dresses also had a major moment in fashion, the trend sits alongside other fantastical aesthetic communities: grandmacore, faeriecore, and goblincore. All of which have become subsections of an already niche genre. They also share the same dissatisfaction with late-stage capitalism and longing to live in a reality outside of our current one. 

Stained glass by Illumination Art & Design, photo by Sean Michael Felix

“Deirbaby”, the Wyoming-based cottage-core enthusiast behind the Instagram account @cottagecorehore, describes the movement as “your grandma’s life”. “Cozy sweaters, comforting foods, fresh herbs, authenticity, things that most find to enjoy when they become older,” she says. But while that would seem to ground the trend in nostalgia for the past, “Deirbaby” explains that this isn’t the case. “This is an idolized future world, money is such a huge greed right now and we need to slow down,” she says. “With everything that’s been going on right now, cottagecore allows people to explore their interests and find their passions, it allows them to escape.” 

Reimagining a slower-paced world set in the future differentiates the trend from being part of the traditional movement, which reinforces gender roles. In fact, there are cottagecore accounts that reimagine a safer, more inclusive space for the queer community. Many of the Tiktok videos include hashtags like “wlw” (women who love women). This reflects the fact that the trend focuses largely on traditionally “soft” content, like baking scones, centring female and non-binary people to reimagine a world where men are an afterthought. 

This future-focus, however, doesn’t exclude the trend from drawing issues with glamourising colonialism. “Cottagecore aesthetic photos are really nice. Cottagecore in general? Very much a colonizer fantasy and it makes me feel pretty uncomfortable,” wrote Hawke on their Tumblr “Finding My Culture”. “You can’t ‘reclaim’ and ‘reconnect to’ land that doesn’t actually belong to you.” 

“Too bad cottagecore is full of so much anti-Indigenous racism because this is such a dream,” Tweeted 22-year-old Ivy Carter when sharing a series of cottage-images. “I love cottagecore but I always have to check if I'm reblogging from Nazis,” another Twitter user replied. Carter clarified that while cottagecore “Isn’t inherently anti-Indigenous, there are many people into it who are and who believe in the settler colonial mindset that all land is up for grabs”. 

bertrand-bouchez-DAHXjK2NeDM-unsplash

This brings the larger topic of digital escapism into question. As many of us turn to the comfort of digital escapism, like the popularity of Nintendo’s latest release of animal crossing, could surrounding yourself in unrealistic depictions of a future world leave us more disconnected to the systematic oppression happening in everyday life? It’s also important to factor in that the current cottagecore community is largely white, and that having access to the technology required to “digitally escape” is not a privilege all have access to. 

“Escapist fantasies give us hope under capitalism, but we need to be critically aware of how escapism affects the most marginalized communities under capitalism,” one person replied to Hawke’s Tumblr post. Balancing this awareness with fantasy is where the community's growing focus on inclusivity comes in, acknowledging that much of the inspiration comes from a period where violence towards the queer community and people of colour was rife. 

 It does seem that to most cottagecare enthusiasts, it’s the escapism element that makes this subculture so attractive. “I think that I would describe cottage core as a forest fantasy, where you just imagine a life where there’s not much to worry about,” says Sai, behind the Twitter account Cottagecore Whore”. “I think cottage core has and always will be an escape for different reasons, from politics to urban life. Maybe right now people are seeing it as the safe place where a global pandemic isn’t happening.”

It’s also easy to see the appeal to take a break from the current rate countless concerning headlines, especially considering many people are also finding virtual distractions such as Animal Crossing and Sims beneficial to managing anxiety during this time. However, this escapism can’t be a substitute for the work to dismantle the systematic oppression of our capitalist system, the very thing that’s sparking the desire to explore digital escapism. 

cosmic-timetraveler-pYyOZ8q7AII-unsplash