Lolita, The Tumblr Trend

Like many people, my first encounter with Vladimir Nabokov was through his infamous and controversial book Lolita. Contrary to what one may think, I did not first encounter Lolita in the adult fiction section of my local library, Barnes and Nobles, or even the dusty personal library of some elderly extended relative. I found it through (wait for it...) the internet-- the one and only, almighty Tumblr.

An avid reader since I was a toddler, middle school me was of course searching through the internet to find writers above any popular YA novelist I was reading, literature hidden from my generation, and quotes or words that I could hold onto and learn from instead of living by my copy of The Perks of Being A Wallflower I had gotten that year for Christmas.

When I came across Nabok​ov’s Lolita, I was intrigued by its one­-word, simplistic title, and Nabokov’s astounding ability to cause such contentiousness and controversiality across America within the mere pages of a book. Without exactly understanding what the book even was about, I was fascinated by it. It was not until I deeply explored the effects Lolita had on the American internet youth that I began to realize the point of the novel and the several ways people have misunderstood and mistranslated it.

Anyone who is a devoted Tumblr user or is apart of the youth’s internet trends has mostly likely come across the utter mistranslations of Lolita. If you don’t understand what I’m saying, just type in the word “nymphet,” a word that was popularly used by Nabokov in his book, on Tumblr. What we get is a mess of blogs posing as what they think is the epitome of a nymphet: white, female, mousy­-haired, clad in light ­pink and heart­-shaped sunglasses. To a lot of these proclaimed​ modern­ day​ ​Lolita fans, ​Lolita is more of a dreamy fable of misunderstood love and flirtation than a story of desperation, a “mess of thorns” as the narrator describes it, and (possibly) a satirical piece on Western civilization’s habit of prizing and sexualizing the “virginity” and youth of girls.

 There is nothing wrong with fashion trends that allow people to accentuate their admiration for something, but this Tumblr trend has proved itself to be more than a fad. There is something rather ironic about the whole thing. The internet youth’s perception and c​omprehension of ​Lolita has in fact seemed to be in favor of this nefarious relationship between the narrator and Dolores Haze. These youth, using Lolita quotes as captions for their pictures and adopting a Lana Del Rey starlet aesthetic, seem to not have read the book, blindly adopting the visuals, not the lessons, that the 1997 film adaptation brings to life.

I cannot help but wonder: if Nabokov was alive and well, scrolling down the Tumblr tag of #nymphet, what would he think

text: angelina coronado
visual: stanley kubrick's "lolita"
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