This article originally appeared on VICE US.
We learned with coronavirus porn that people will get pretty creative when stuck inside for days on end. And as with the sneeze fetishists, everyone's minds are wandering to the edges of their isolated and horny imaginations right now. The only logical endpoint to this descent into our quarantine madness? Waifus.
Born on 4chan image boards and thriving on Reddit, Corona-chan is the embodiment of COVID-19. She wears a cheongsam, or traditional Chinese form-fitting dress, and her hair buns are shaped like round spiky balls—renditions of how the coronavirus looks under a microscope. She's usually drawn holding a Corona beer, and apparently in a lot of people's headcanon, is drunk all the time.
Other online fan art communities are finding their own ways through an unprecedented time of stress and boredom. So far, we've seen nurse-furries, toilet paper monsters, and hand sanitizer creatures.
Furries, to be specific, are coping however they can. A scalie artist (someone with a fursona that's a reptile or amphibian) whose fursona is a crocodile and goes by Fivel posted their creation to Twitter: a sexy pile of toilet paper rolls.
"I’m just really fascinated by this sudden craze over hoarding toilet paper, which has led to mass-shortage and price-gouging," the undeniably hot TP lady's creator told me. "Living in the Seattle area has made it especially hard to find the sacred bath tissue. I just wanted to mock the fact that during this outbreak, one of the things most obsessed over is toilet paper; something that effectively has nothing to actually do with the virus."
In response to their sensual stack of Charmin, another scalie who goes by Iggi posted their own horror: a hand sanitizer waifu (or, soapsona?) with the pump protruding from its crotch and the spring inside its clear, bubbly torso:
Iggi said they "whipped it up" in about 15 minutes before bed. "I saw the previous toilet paper creation girl and thought about the other thing that is in short supply right now in the same vein," they said. "Hand sanitizer seemed a logical choice."
According to Know Your Meme, Corona-chan was born on 4chan in mid-January as the personification of a deadly virus. Corona-chan isn't the first pandemic virus-based waifu: During the 2014 West African Ebola outbreak, "Ebola-chan" spread across English-speaking image boards and forums, with a similarly emblematic virus-shaped hair and sweet personality.
Ebola-chan took a more sinister tone, as people started using her to make racist jokes about the deaths of West Africans. Corona-chan, which is clearly presented as Chinese despite the fact that a virus can't have a nationality, is similarly offensive. 4chan tends to bring out the more toxic sides of any meme, so there are definitely racist, cruel posts surrounding this waifu and the pandemic in general.
Turning a virus that's killed nearly 8,000 people, especially in China and Japan, into a cute anime girl is insensitive to that reality... but it's also a way people have chosen to cope using gallows humor and a horny anime drawing. Maybe people need that right now.
On forums like Reddit, however, Corona-chan is mainly a lighthearted reprieve from the news. The subreddit r/coronachan has almost two thousand members now, with people posting illustrations of their viral waifu.
Fivel's last viral illustration was of a curvaceous, anthropomorphic Tide Pod, so they're used to this sort of internet fame. "I really only draw these things because I love people’s reactions to them!" they said. "The insane, confused, disgusted, horny responses to these cursed creations is what fuels me to draw them more."
On Furaffinity, plenty of furries are quietly making art that addresses the pandemic. Davide, a 19-year-old furry in Italy who goes by dado463art on Furaffinity, illustrated his fursona wearing a healthcare worker's scrubs and mask and holding a sign that says "The virus is a serious thing, don't underestimate -from Italy."
Davide told me he's taking the opportunity to draw in between online school lessons, while listening to the teacher give video lectures. "I'm currently focusing on art more, I got more time but it's also harder in some ways," he said. "You risk getting a bit lazier than usual."
He chose to spread this message using his fursona because it felt more personal, he said. "And I'd love more people seeing my fursona that isn't just a sexual doggo too haha."
Like the Italians singing and dancing on their balconies during the lockdown, Davide said, creating these illustrations is a response in times of hardship.
Iggi, who lives in New Jersey and is isolating at home, told me they believe if someone has the energy to lift another person's spirits right now, they should. "I see a lot of my friends quite stressed out right now, and I at least have the luxury of working from home like I always do. I personally feel like it is important to spread humor and fun things as a way for us to collectively cope," they said. "In a time of crisis like this is where many of us artists can shine and brighten other people's days."
"During times of crisis, art can be a good momentary distraction and lighten the mood. Humor has always been an effective coping mechanism for me," Fivel said. "While art/humor can be used to call out absurdities and make commentary, I think it’s important to be mindful of the reality of the situation and who is being affected."