If YouTube is big, 1,300,000,000 people watch, then YouTubers are bigger and so too are their stories. One such story, while perhaps a little convoluted at first glance is, on its face, simple: an early YouTube phenom, Mars Argo, left the platform and her creative work after succumbing, she says, to alleged abuse and harassment at the hands of Titanic Sinclair, the guy she’d partnered with to create video content that garnered millions of fans. Sinclair found another protege and, Mars Argo claims, stole the creative persona she’d developed, and helped transform a singer from Nashville into her “carbon copy:” the internet video and music phenomenon Poppy.
But Mars Argo, Poppy and Titanic Sinclair are identities, not the real people. Stay with us.
A young woman named Brittany Sheets met a guy named Corey Mixter in Saginaw, Michigan in 2007. They soon became a couple and worked on a creative projects together. In 2009, they moved to Chicago and later to California. Brittany became Mars Argo and Corey became Titanic Sinclair, both alter egos and creative personas. Together they conceived, created, wrote and produced videos, weird but immensely popular performance art and music videos and with a distinctive look; stark sets and backdrops, and Mars Argo with white-blond hair, a high pitched but lilting voice, and a doll-like appearance, singing or commenting with Titanic Sinclair on everything and nothing, celebrity and popular culture, social media and the internet, technology and fame, money and art and lots of trash talk. But it was Mars Argo who became a YouTube cult figure and internet pop star.
The couple produced scores of videos; she wrote songs, and they performed as a ‘band’ and even worked with a Grammy Award-winning producer. They were on the verge of huge success but Mars Argo (Sheets) says now that Titanic Sinclair (Mixter) had been abusive emotionally, verbally and physically. She’s accused him of stalking, harassment, break-ins (her apartment and her social media accounts) and bizarre threats. She eventually walked away from the career she’d made rather than suffer the abuse. In late 2105, she disappeared from view, as did most of her work from the internet.
In the last year they were together however, Titanic Sinclair met and began working with singer Moriah Rose Pereira, aka Poppy. Originally a brunette that sang alternative country-pop-rock songs, she was transformed into a Mars Argo look-alike and sound-alike, or at least that’s what Sheets claims in her lawsuit against Poppy and Titanic Sinclair and their entertainment companies. The complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California says there’s no shortage of proof and fans have been claiming that Mars was ripped off as far back as 2015.
Sheets is suing for copyright infringement, loss of her right to publicity, for violations of California’s Unfair Business Laws and for domestic violence damages. She’s asked for a jury trial. Poppy recently defended herself and Sinclair on Twitter.
It’s not clear how the case will proceed, but in the meantime, here’s what you need to know:
1.Mars Argo & Titanic Sinclair Began Making Making Music in Their Bedroom in ‘07 & Posting to Their YouTube Channel ‘Grocerybag.tv’
From Saginaw to Chicago, Argo and Sinclair made short deadpan social commentary videos with their original music as background; she sang he played guitar. Their first full album, ‘Technology is a Dead Bird’ saw them gain a modest but growing following on early YouTube. In 2012, they moved to Los Angeles where they believed they’d have greater artistic acceptance than in the Midwest. In an interview posted on Wondering Sound in 2014, Argo and Sinclair admitted they had “created this project without a plan. We were pretty much making fun of hipster culture at the time. Then we got quite a bit of attention and got thrown into a totally new world. At one point, we ended up evolving into our alter egos and had to stop and [rediscover our real selves]. Now, it’s a healthy balance of the two. Though the music has always been real, the acting in the videos — those are characters.”
The interview was likely the last they did together based on the date it was published and now preserved in transcript form on Fandom.
Their Garbagebag.tv channel focused on their ‘Computer Show’ but also their music videos. The Mars Argo video “Using You,” has nearly 7 million views. Today, the original YouTube channel for Mars Argo and Titanic Sinclair, Grocerybag.tv which at one point had more than 90 videos, is scrubbed; all but 3 videos were deleted.
In fact, nearly all the ‘Computer Show’ videos that were removed and re-posted have been restored by people not associated with Argo or Sinclair (Sheets and Mixter).
According to Sheets’ lawsuit, all of the content on the channel was “self-produced and consisted of short films, music videos, and a show called ‘Computer Show.’ The channel was active from 2009 through 2015, and roughly 92 videos were released during that time. The videos were an artistic social commentary on the internet, celebrity, and pop culture, with a focus on the future and technology.” The video below was made in 2010 and restored to YouTube in 2016.
Throughout this time, the lawsuit reads, “Sheets created, developed, participated in, and contributed to Mars Argo content, scripts, directing, lighting, framing, filming, editing, motion graphics, color correction, hair/make-up, wardrobe, styling, sound design, lyrical composition, and imaging and branding for Mars Argo videos, songs, recordings and performances. Ms. Sheets’ photography was largely responsible for the ‘look’ of Mars Argo, and Mr. Mixter continues to appropriate that work to this day.”
“In addition to her creative contributions, throughout their personal and professional relationship, Mr. Mixter was essentially insolvent, relying on constant financial support from Ms. Sheets and her family,” the lawsuit reads. In other words, he was broke. Her father floated them a loan and the apartment they lived in was hers.
In addition to producing and publishing content through their YouTube channel, in early 2012, Mars Argo began performing live stage shows and performing for audiences at venues across the country and was a bona fide pop music and internet celebrity and artist.
Although Mars Argo was growing in popularity during this time, Sheets was ”living a nightmare and, behind closed doors, she was enduring severe emotional and psychological abuse and manipulation” at the hands of Mixter/Sinclair, the lawsuit alleges.
Sheets broke up with Mixter in January of 2014 because of his “recurrent infidelity,” but wanted to continue their professional relationship as Mars Argo was a thing by then with millions and millions of fans and followers. But Mixter didn’t take well to the break-up and her suit alleges, he began to repeatedly harass, stalk, threaten, and abuse her.
“Despite Mixter’s abusive behavior, Sheets was hesitant to end their professional association because she had worked so hard to build Mars Argo, and the project was gaining notoriety,” the suit says. But by the middle of 2014, “the abuse and manipulation … became too much” and she “stopped making new content with him.” Instead of walking away, his “intimidation only intensified.”
In late 2015, believing she had “no option,” she disappeared.
2. Mars Argo Says She Suffered ‘Enduring Severe Emotional & Psychological Abuse & Manipulation’ & Abandoned Her Career to ‘Protect Herself’
Sheets left everything because of what her suit describes as a “sinister campaign of harassment …to drive Ms. Sheets out of the entertainment business – not only stealing her intellectual property but appropriating her entire persona.”
Sheets “had been previously been afraid” to come forward with her story. She feared retribution and retaliation and feared for her own safety “given Mr. Mixter’s violent, menacing, and unstable conduct following their break-up,“ her lawsuit alleges.
Sinclair posted on Reddit that the break-up was mutual.
And while she was starting to make real money and her fame and popularity rising, she was “enduring severe emotional and psychological abuse and manipulation” at the hands of Mixter, she says. There was a pattern of controlling behavior, denigration and degradation, she says and she ended their romantic relationship and asked him to move out. But because of her popularity, upcoming live shows and the recent filling of the music video for her single “Using You” with a Grammy Award nominee for producer of the year and were in the process of editing the video, they worked together professionally.
In February of 2014, Mars Argo released “Delete Your Facebook” on Grocerybag.tv and “continued to gain a cult following.” She performed live at SXSW and other venues including the Nerdmelt Theater in LA. But she says working with him had become “increasingly difficult due to his emotionally-abusive, demeaning, and manipulative conduct,” which she says was “witnessed by others including friends, neighbors, and Mars Argo band members.”
On May 31, 2014, she canceled her show at Belly of the Beast Blowout festival in LA. In June she “put the band on hiatus from rehearsals and performances,” which infuriated Mixter, she says. Sheets says he began “frequently breaking into (her) gated apartment building and would wait for her in the courtyard of the building until she got home.” She told him to stop. He did not. He sent texts, broke into her apartment, threatened to kill himself, and then in September of 2014 she found him at her house, “jittery” and demanding “she delete all of the videos on their YouTube channel,” her suit alleges. She was frightened and “changed the passwords to the Grocerybag.tv YouTube account to protect their work. “ On November 9, 2014, the suit alleges, he broke into her apartment through her bedroom window in the middle of the night “obviously intoxicated or high on drugs.”
A few weeks later, he broke in again when she was out and, she alleges, “went onto her computer to log into her Facebook account and block new friends of hers. Ms. Sheets discovered this only later when she tried to communicate with the blocked individuals. Because Ms. Sheets had worked so hard to create the ‘Using You’ music video as Mars Argo, on January 13, 2015, she released the video. That same day, Mr. Mixter also posted the video on his Instagram.”
He again broke into her apartment she claims, “while seemingly intoxicated and began smashing her wine glasses one by one. He said he was angry that Ms. Sheets had joined some Facebook group and repeatedly asked her for the name of the group.”
He also allegedly stalked her on all her social media accounts, the suit claims.
In April of 2015, she says he sent “another seemingly suicidal message” saying he wanted to see her one more time before ‘I go.’ Later, when he learned she was preparing to record some music on her own, “he became violent,” and in May of 2015, “viciously punched her in the face,” she alleges, and the harassment continued: “Mr. Mixter took numerous actions aimed at isolating and intimidating Ms. Sheets, including but not limited emailing and texting her disturbing messages, writing additional lyrics about her, copying her ideas and work as Mars Argo, and posting photos he knew she would recognize. If he could not work with her, he did not want anyone else to either.”
May turned into June and the “threatening emails …along with demeaning and untrue messages about Ms. Sheets to other people with whom she was in communication,” continued. In September of 2015, the lawsuit charges, Mixter posted a “creepy, distorted drawing of Ms. Sheets’ mother, Diane, to his Instagram, saying: ‘I drew my mom Diane tonight. I miss my mom.’ Mr. Mixter’s mother is not named Diane.”
“Finally, in December 2015, feeling not only harassed and in danger, but that all of her creative output was being sourced for Mr. Mixter’s projects and the Poppy storyline, Ms. Sheets largely stopped posting online as Mars Argo, including Instagram and Facebook, which had been her direct avenue to communicate with her fans,” her lawsuit says and by then, she “believed that the only way for her to avoid Mr. Mixter was to hide her whereabouts from him, isolate herself from former friends and acquaintances that Mr. Mixter kept in contact with, and essentially ‘disappear’ so that Mr. Mixter could no longer belittle, abuse, stalk, threaten, harass, or find her.”
3. With Mars Argo Out, Titanic Sinclair Groomed & Helped Produce & Create the Artist Known as Poppy. And She Blew Up The Internet
Moriah Rose Pereira, from Nashville, grew up as a dancer and then turned to singing. Petite with long dark brown hair, early in her career as a singer, she started with a genre flipping of alternative country, rock and pop. Most of her early videos were scrubbed from the internet soon after meeting “my friend Corey” Mixter, aka Titanic Sinclair.
But her early songs and videos do crop up now and again on the internet, YouTube especially, though they don’t often remain up for long. Here’s Moriah/Poppy’s cover of The Lumineers’ ‘Flowers In Your Hair,’ from an unknown date but at least prior to late 2014 when they first began to collaborate.
Soon however, there was a change in Poppy. Mixter and Pereira (Sinclair and Poppy) began to produce short segments on a YouTube channel that were “set against substantially similar backdrops and in a deliberately similar format to the Mars Argo project,” the lawsuit says.
And since by then, Mars had disappeared, Poppy’s career took off with Mixter by her side. She signed with Island Records. Her songs are popular but it’s her bizarre videos that are off the charts. Her ‘I’m Poppy’ video, which is her repeating “I’m Poppy” for 10 full minutes has 15 million views.
To date, Poppy has 421 videos with nearly 300 million views. She has more than 50 million subscribers on YouTube, 750,000 Instagram followers, and an upcoming YouTube Red original.
First published in July of 2015, around eight months after her first collaboration with Titanic Sinclair, ‘Lowlife,’ has 43 million views.
The video for the song, set to a pop reggae beat, includes a ‘devil’ that came up in the Mars Argo lawsuit; she’d previously shared a very similar image and concept with Sinclair, the suit alleges and is another illustration of one count in her lawsuit; the loss of publicity based on her intellectual property.
Poppy has dozens of other music videos that have several million views but it’s the short videos that mock society and culture and celebrity, precisely what Mars Argo and ‘Computer Show’ on garbagebag.tv did, that millions and millions of people from around the world are watching, like ‘Am I Okay?‘ with more than 7 million views. In the 52-second video she asks if she’s “okay” while telling the world it’s “okay” and “perfect” in her monotone, emotionless voice.
Sheets’ lawsuit alleges : “…Mixter calculatedly transformed …Poppy into a Mars Argo knock off.” Pereira, who had dark brunette hair, “dyed her hair a specific platinum blonde and, in character as Poppy, started to alter her voice to be a pitch higher to mimic Mars Argo’s distinctive speaking voice,” the lawsuit says.
4. The Similarities & So-Called ‘Poppy Copies’ of Mars Argo Are Voluminous & Have Been Shared & Debated by Fans of Both
The first Poppy and Sinclair collaboration was the November 2104 video “Poppy Eats Cotton Candy.”
With platinum hair, a pitched voice, stark white, sterile backdrops, monochromatic tones and audio, Sheets lawsuit says Poppy didn’t just assume the Mars Argo aesthetic, she and Sinclair outright ripped off Mars Argo. There are compilation videos that show the copies as does the lawsuit.
Examples of the evidence of what Sheets calls copyright infringement is included in the lawsuit; image after image of Mars Argo and the “Poppy copy.”
Mixter posted a photo of Poppy “wearing Ms. Sheets’ jacket. Poppy now not only looked and sounded like Mars Argo but was wearing her actual clothes,” the suit reads.
As Poppy’s fame grew, there was more discussion of the apparent cloning of the Mars Argo persona. Sheets says “Mixter transformed Poppy into a new Mars Argo, and directly copied her content, style, aesthetic, sound, and expression of ideas,” specifically related to “the internet, celebrity, and pop culture, with a focus on the future and technology.”
The 2014 Mars Argo “Delete Your Facebook” video on her Grocerybag.tv YouTube Channel was copied by Poppy in January of 2017.
And Sheets claims, that it’s no coincidence that the name of the original Mars Argo project was called the “Computer Show” and Poppy’s debut album and tour were entitled “Poppy.Computer.”
In 2016, a friend of Mixter’s and the team’s videographer, Tony Katai, uploaded a video entitled “Everybody Wants It All,” a 2013 ‘private’ video of Sheets shot by Katai. The lawsuit says Sheets had made it “for a provocative art event in downtown Detroit in 2013, and was never intended by her to be put online, “especially not in 2016 when there were so many questions surrounding Mars Argo’s absence from the internet.” She asked it to be taken down from YouTube and it was not.
In the video, Mars Argo has a gun to her head which caused alarm among fans who thought “Mars Argo was dead and replaced by Poppy, or that Mars Argo was working with Poppy and Poppy was the continuation of the Mars Argo project. On information and belief, Mr. Mixter, through his friend, purposely posted the video online to link Mars Argo to the Poppy project and/or to wrongly imply that Mars Argo chose to end her character so that Poppy could continue it. Ms. Sheets, of course, never consented to Poppy appropriating her persona or stealing her intellectual property,” the lawsuit reads. A note about that video which is clearly performance art; at the end Mars Argo (or Sheets at that time perhaps) mumbles something with a mouthful of blood, presumably fake and then there are weird sounds that when listened to in reverse give existential-sounding advice that people can only have it all when they let their minds go silent and let go of their desires; money, fame and fortune. It sounds like Sinclair’s voice.
The video is exactly three minutes and 36 seconds long. Poppy posts a video, ‘3:36.’
And just days after the lawsuit, Poppy tweeted it. In this tweet it’s not clear if she’s posting as Moriah or Poppy.
Poppy has “used the disappearance of Mars Argo” by making “subtle references to Mars Argo in Poppy projects, the suit says.
This will be construed by some as either mocking or threatening Mars Argo. And other elements of the video too will be directly lifted and used by Poppy in her own videos including the mouth-dripping-blood bit in this image:
And in the “Oh, No!” Poppy video, some see an admission that Poppy has replaced Mars Argo.
Despite Sheets disappearing and swirling controversy around the question of whether Poppy had stolen the persona as directed by Sinclair, or if the two artists were one in the same or if something had happened to Argo, Poppy’s fame rocketed. But Mars Argo fans noted the copies.
That said, Mars Argo may have created the persona, but Poppy perfected it.
5.Poppy, With Hundreds of Millions of Followers & Fans, Broke Character on Twitter & Blasted the Lawsuit Claiming She’s The Victim & Sheets is Seeking ‘Publicity.’ Meanwhile, She’s Invited Fans to Her New ‘Poppy.Church’
“Part of what has made Poppy so successful is the mystery surrounding her. That mystery would not be possible without Mars Argo’s disappearance,” Sheets’ lawsuit claims.
Countless videos and news articles have pointed out that while Poppy is no doubt huge, she’s a Mars Argo “carbon copy,” that Mars Argo was a “Poppy Prototype” and Motherboard noted that the remaining Mars Argo videos (all but three have been deleted) “bear a striking resemblance to the videos on Poppy’s YouTube channel. In fact, it seems as though Poppy’s character is directly based on the character of Mars Argo. . . .”
Many Mars Argo fans and others are convinced Poppy, with the direction of Sinclair, co-opted the Mars Argo persona. In 2017, at at least one Poppy performance, audience members yelled “Where’s Mars Argo?” Poppy threatens to “end the show early.”
But Poppy (or Moriah) alleges that she’s the victim not Sheets.
“It’s been very painful to read the lawsuit and to see the word ‘abuser’ and my own name in the same sentence,” the personality tweeted. In this case, as herself it appears though one cannot be certain. “… something very few people know is that one of the reasons I work the way I work and why I had made such efforts to conceal my identity is because I have my own history as a survivor of abuse. This trauma is something that I never wanted to be made public.”
Poppy claims on Twitter, again out of character, that Sheets is “well aware of the anguish I went through so in attempt to manipulate me psychologically she’s now collaborating and maintaining an ongoing relationship with the exact man who took advantage of me when I was young and vulnerable…” She posted a video of a man who visits Sinclair and then starts hitting him. Poppy’s tweet suggests this is the man she claims abused her.
Poppy posted on Twitter just days after news of the lawsuit surfaced that she was abused and that’s why she hid her identity and claimed Sheets not only knew but had developed a relationship of some sort with the man Poppy (now posting as Moriah) claims abused her. A guy by the man of Joshua Moran.
Moran says the accusations are at best, untrue: “It’s a desperate ploy to detract from their own pending legal issues, which I have nothing to do with.” He says he hasn’t spoken to either in three years and allegations of abuse are baseless; requests for restraining orders were not only dismissed, he says police never spoke with him about any allegations of abuse.
Meanwhile, Poppy has moved on promoting Poppy.Church. Previously, some had accused her of being a member of the Illuminati or being a cultist; she addressed the accusations that she and Sinclair are cultists with a short video, “I Am Not An A Cult,” where she claims not to be a cultist while telling viewers to repeat what she says and follow her.
Now, comes Poppy.Church where she asks fans, “Are you ready for your salvation?” She’s already uploaded Poppy.Church videos including “Crystal” that is both suggestive and possibly metaphorical. Other Poppy.Church videos are more opaque and hard to fathom but fans either get it and are enthralled or or don’t care and are enthralled.
And what’s with the slowly-spinning black pyramid and countdown clock? “Are you ready for your salvation? 336 blessings released every 3:36 PST. One hand beckons every 336 seconds.” There’s that 3:36 again. A taunt or a genius way to promote new music?