Miladys NFT Community Is the Counterculture to Cancel Culture

The uncanny, anime-inspired, profile pictures invite conversations about whether the sins of the creator are laid upon the creation. That’s why the Miladys NFT community is one of CoinDesk’s Most Influential 2022.

AccessTimeIconDec 5, 2022 at 1:15 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 28, 2023 at 2:23 p.m. UTC

If Bored Ape Yacht Club was the commercially groundbreaking Madonna of NFTs, Milady Maker was the technology's G.G. Allin or Seth Putnam – offending pieties, confounding critics and testing artistic boundaries. (Google those names at your risk.)

Briefly ubiquitous on Twitter in the spring, the Milady avatars, resembling bobblehead anime characters, looked cute and innocent at first glance – though their dilated pupils and raised eyebrows hinted at something off-kilter.

If you only look at the stats, Miladys, minted by a mysterious art collective called the Remilia Corporation, don’t seem all that influential. The floor price, or lowest price in the collection of 10,000 non-fungible tokens (NFT), peaked in mid-April at 1.69 ether (ETH), worth about $5,000 at the time, according to data site NFT Price Floor. At their height later that month, the cheapest Bored Apes traded for about 137 ETH, then roughly $380,000.

But that’s looking at the phenomenon through a pinhole.

Miladys mattered not for any money the collectors made trading them but for what they represented: A counterculture to cancel culture, a sigil for the Extremely Online, an elaborate in-joke among outsiders. They invite conversations about whether the sins of the creator should be laid upon the creation, and whether words posted online can really be as harmful as sticks and stones.

As the uncanny childlike profile pics swarmed social media, Twitter detectives and mainstream journalists homed in on Miladys’ association with edgy, esoteric internet subcultures and right-leaning New York hipsters, particularly the collection’s creator, known variously as Charlotte Fang, Charlie Fang, or Charlemagne. In May, Remilia’s self-proclaimed CEO outed himself as the provocateur behind Miya, a Twitter account whose posts ranged from offensive to inscrutable. In the same post, Fang apologized for “poisoning the vibe” with his “toxic baggage” and said he would leave the project.

While Fang has stated the slurs and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories he posted were just trolly performance art and that he did not hold such views, there were more disturbing allegations that he sent messages to teenagers encouraging them to kill themselves. Those claims were never conclusively proven, and community members rebutted them in great detail on Twitter and a lengthy mid-November Substack post.

Unlike the wealthy NFT collectors who flexed their pricey Bored Apes or CryptoPunks on their Twitter profiles during the boom, Milady owners did not appear to be motivated by status. Fang even encouraged people to use the art without buying the tokens. “if you cant afford it just right click save one who cares,” he tweeted.

Rather, for the largely pseudonymous accounts that display them, a Milady PFP is a license for online mischief and unfettered expression. “You can make statements that don’t represent yourself. You can like every post. You can post two hundred times a day, as many of the members of the Milady community did at the project’s peak,” wrote Ginerva Davis in a critical profile of Fang in Palladium Magazine.

So while the controversy over Fang’s antics tanked the floor price (temporarily), Miladys live on, subversively posting in dark corners of the internet, beyond the comprehension of social media’s hall monitors.

UPDATE (Jan. 22, 20:00 UTC): Adds information and links to seventh and tenth paragraphs.


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Marc Hochstein

Marc Hochstein is the executive editor of Consensus, CoinDesk's flagship event. He holds BTC above CoinDesk's disclosure threshold of $1K and de minimis amounts of other digital assets (details on profile page).