It’s tough to stand out in the crowd. It’s also necessary. You have to prove you’re in the same business as your competition, and, at the same time, show people what makes you different. Sociologists call the proper balance between fitting in and standing out the “acceptable deviation from the norm.” We just call it brand positioning.
But I wanted to tap into that feeling. That primal feeling of just wanting to love something so much that you’re willing to destroy it so it won’t go away.
My inspiration mainly came from my own life. Growing up I was that overprotected little dumpling for my Chinese mom. I was an only child living in Toronto with my parents, and they’ve always kind of watched over me and made sure I was safe — kept me really, really close. And I just wanted to explore that relationship between an overprotective parent and their child with a dumpling as a metaphor, as weird as that sounds.
“The phrase ‘Be the cowboy you want to see in the world’ has been an inside joke between me and myself,” Mitski says. “I would always kind of say it to myself in situations where I feel like I’m sort of trapped in my own mind. Like, ‘Oh, what would a swaggering, western movie cowboy do in this situation?’ In college there was this live performer who was just very swaggering on stage, very cool and he was just such a cowboy figure to me—cowboy in the very kind of semantic sense, not in like the real cowboy sense.”