The prophecy of the forgotten 2002 Al Pacino movie S1m0ne has seemingly come to pass. An Independent article discusses the swift, sure rise of Miquela, an Instagram model who amassed 123,000 followers in a matter of months, despite the fact that she may not actually be real. Part of Miquela’s appeal lies in the fact that observers can’t agree whether the person who regularly posts “perfect” pictures of herself at parties and gallery openings is an actual, flesh-and-blood person, or just an elaborately designed simulation. Heated debates about Miquela’s existence or nonexistence continue to rage in the Instagram comments section.
Her pictures document a young woman whose bobbed hair and bright clothing are always immaculate, but whose eyes appear glassy and skin has a plastic-looking texture. Her face registers absolutely no emotion, positive or negative, at any time. If the uncanny valley needs a spokesmodel, here she is:
Her skeptics say she’s obviously artificial; her supporters believe she’s just a visual-arts student staging a project. Without coming to a definite conclusion, The Independent’s Maya Oppenheim agrees that Miquela’s symmetrical features are sim-like, but she also asserts that “there is an undeniably human-like quality to her appearance.” One prevailing theory, as espoused by CGI expert Dougie Cross, is that Miquela is a combination of 3-D modeling with photos of a real person. He explains:
She looks so realistic. I think what’s throwing everyone is the facial details are so good. But the hair has got to be computer generated because the roots do not look real and the T-shirt is definitely a photograph because there is no contact shadow at all.
In other words, these images could have started out as real photos, then underwent post-production tampering to achieve an artificial appearance. Whatever the actual explanation, the effect is disconcerting.
On the other hand, how much does an Instagram star’s corporeal “realness” truly matter? They exist primarily as meticulously staged images that have only the slightest relationship to authenticity, and if Miquela’s aesthetic seems too eerily perfect, that’s just par for the course. You can scrutinize and decide for yourself here.