“He may bring you happiness!?” 

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An image of five Sonny Angels on a purple background. There are three on top and two underneath. The top left one is wearing a small purple sweater and a purple cat toque, the bottom left one is wearing a goat toque. The middle top one is wearing a goldfish toque, the top right one is wearing a tan cowboy hat and a sunset orange T-shirt with ‘Sunset Cruise’ as a caption. The bottom right one is wearing a fruit basket on its head.
As much as I love kids, I’m not sure I need one with me 24/7/365. lee lim

What’s the big deal with those cherubs?

Sonny Angel. The tiny – and often nude – plastic cherub designed for working women in their mid-twenties.  

If you’ve been on the internet as of late, you’ve likely run across the viral hit in the form of cherub figurines. The cherubs come in a variety of themes and are known as Sonny Angels. The viral cherubs are international sell-outs with highly anticipated restocks and if you’re asking yourself what could possibly be ‘the deal’ with them, you wouldn’t be alone in doing so.  

Circulating most popularly over social media platforms like TikTok, the cherubs gained notoriety as “#sonnyangel” began to soar.  

The beloved Sonny Angels are collectible figurines created by Japanese toy designer Toru Soeya who based the name of the product from his nickname – Sonny. Each plastic angel boy features a unique design, a set of wings and signature headgear.  

While some angels feature full outfits, most are without pants or clothes and look similar to the popular Kewpie doll.  You know the one on Kewpie mayo? Yes, that’s the one.  

The average size of the Sonny Angels is under three inches and retails anywhere from $16-44 CAD online. As of now, the cost to order a Sonny Angel on Amazon.ca would put you back nearly $50 CAD.  

Each cherub is sold individually in their respective themed collection that can include animals, vegetables, fruits, sea life, flowers, and recently a Christmas collection. Additionally, ‘hippers’ feature an adhesive strip to attach the Sonny Angel to your cellphone or other tech device.  

According to Soeya, who shared this in a past interview, he created the fictitious two-year-old angels to act as companions or “little boyfriends” for working women in their mid-twenties while dealing with the stress of adulthood and work-life balance.  

In fact, the company that Soeya works for boasts the motto “Heal your heart.” While Sonny angels have been on the market since 2005, the TikTok hashtag “#sonnyangel” has upwards of 600 million views.  

Fans of the cherubs have organized Sonny Angel meetups where collectors connect and trade angels from their own collection. As of 2023, there are over 1000 different models of the Sonny Angels to collect while some are deemed more rare and therefore more desirable than others.  

Of particular popularity amongst collectors are the rainbow design, which features a rainbow-coloured angel, and the Christmas tree design, which – you guessed it – is a Sonny Angel dressed as a Christmas tree.  

In a TikTok video uploaded by user @cutesonnyangel, Yunuen filmed a New York Sonny Angel meetup and narrated the footage by saying, “We laugh for each other, we cry for each other, we cheer for each other,” and went on to say, “We literally live for this.”  

Although the collectors of Sonny Angels – mainly young women as the product was intended for – have formed a sense of community both online using TikTok and in-person trading events, something is still off. Why is it that young working women in their mid-twenties are targeted to purchase male baby angelic figurines as a method of coping with work-life balance and seeking out kinship? The irony seems a little on the nose with this one.  

Criticism of the products include the fact that Sonny Angels are male babies in which women in their mid-twenties are targeted to purchase – reiterating pervasive stereotypes about women’s domestic labour in child rearing and familial companions in the form of children.   

Moreover, the packaged companion being used as a method to deal with “work-life balance” perhaps points to ongoing notions of the distinction between personal and public, creating binaries between the realm of childrearing and work. Do women in their mid-twenties really need an angelic baby as a companion to relieve them of the stress of adulthood?  

Although undeniably cute and perhaps sometimes irresistible, this raises important questions about ‘doom purchasing’ and social media’s influence on product consumption.  

Doom purchasing or spending refers to the practice of making purchases as a method of coping with the current state of the world or daily life. It is a form of ‘retail therapy’ and, at times, an emotional response to deal with stressful or adverse events. Moreover, a 2022 article published by Forbes magazine explored the way TikTok has shaped how Gen Z Shops.  

The social media platform TikTok was created in 2017 because of a merger between Musical.ly and Douyin, two pre-existing social media platforms. Since the merge, the platform reached new levels of popularity – notably during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Today, almost all social media networks have a social commerce element and TikTok is no exception. Data has shown that approximately 88 per cent of customers have bought an item after they watched a video from company advertising. However, TikTok users or companies don’t necessarily have to explicitly advertise products. Rather, the creation of conversation and interest surrounding products might inadvertently help to increase sales. Sonny Angels are a great example of this.  

Interestingly, the Forbes article also highlighted the shorter attention span of Gen Z as compared to previous generations. Because of this, they note that Gen Z requires more entertaining content from businesses – and social media platforms seem to be the place to find it.  

In part, what makes Sonny Angels enticing is their collector’s fad wherein each purchase is a surprise. It is impossible to know in advance which model you will receive, and this makes it a rewarding experience with a dopamine hit.  

A New York Times article released early in 2023 reporting on a Sonny Angel meet-up even went as far as to detail how one university student recalled successfully quitting vaping by waiting to open a new Sonny Angel box until she had gone several days without using her vape.  

Whether you love them or hate them, they are worth thinking about in regard to what they mean for the way products are targeted at young working women and the way we consume products through social media.  

 

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