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Avatars

Avatar-makers are fun little tools that let you make a representation of yourself to use online, usually for icons. I haven’t used many, but I did make use of the South Park studio a couple years ago to make a lil’ PastaQueen to use on my return address labels.

Heidy Ho!

I read a journal entry a couple months ago by lizardek where she compiled all the avatars she’d made over the years. Looking over all her mini-me’s she realized that they “adhere to a standard ideal of beauty that includes high cheekbones, heart-shaped faces, round and doll-like eyes, and skinnyness. They’re little mini-me’s without the freckles and barky hair and untidy eyebrows. It’s like being a virtual Barbie Make-Up Head!”

Whenever I’ve used avatar-makers I’ve never gone out of my way to make my twin fat, though typically that’s not even an option. It’s not like there’s much demand for the “add acne” button either. The South Park PastaQueen is rather squat, but so are all South Park characters. Strangely, I forgot to put glasses on her at first even though those are the first things I put on in the morning.

Everyone is prettier on the Internet. I know my younger brother who has met up with many girls from Yahoo! personals would testify in court to this. Online we can all exist in soft lighting with Vaseline smeared on the camera lens. I think this is just an extension of our natural desire to put our best foot forward. Before a date you’d probably put on a dress and make-up, unless you’re a guy in which case you’d be going a very different kind of date. We send the prettiest, most lovely versions of ourselves out there, online or off. Yesterday, Big Fat Deal even posted about a digital camera that can make you look thinner.

The Encyclopedia Dramatica documents the fat girl angle shot (not safe for work, there are boobies). Classic signs: looking up at the camera to hide a double chin, high contrast, no full body shots. I cracked up laughing when I read that entry (even though it’s kind of mean) because the first icon I used online was a textbook fat girl angle shot and I didn’t even know it:

Me, fat? Of course not!

Notice the high camera angle, the hair across my face, the cave-like lighting – all obvious attempts to hide my fatness. That or I was a poor student who couldn’t afford light bulbs. I didn’t know someone had coined a term for this phenomena. Once something has a name it seems to have more power, as if the fact that someone has defined it and acknowledges its existence makes it more real.

Which is why I think it’s kind of brave for weight loss bloggers put all their weight issues online for everyone to see. Not storming-the-beaches-of-Normandy brave, but still braver than your average cowardly lion. I know when I designed my blog template, I decided to screw all that pretty business and just put up huge pictures of my huge self. Partly this was part of the process of accepting the reality of my situation. Partly it just fit well with the whole “half of me” theme to put up big pictures of half of myself.

I know that not everyone wants to post pictures because they want to remain anonymous, which is completely understandable. You never know who’s watching. Last week I found out my mom reads this blog. But when I do see a picture of someone posted that is “real” it’s a nice reminder of the fact that we don’t always have to pretend to be the best versions of ourselves and can sometimes just be ourselves, fat rolls and all.

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12 Comments

Annie • September 19, 2006 at 11:56 am

I had done the same thing, mainly because the webcam was made to sit on top of the montior and it naturally points down. I never really thought about it like this…very interesting.

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Heather • September 19, 2006 at 4:49 pm

:) I used to not do it so much, but I do take special pics for online now to make me look better— just to put me on level footing. I can’t even count the number of guys I’ve met from online who said I was a lot better looking than they expected because of my photos… (Well, and I’m just not photogenic at all.)

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JJ • September 19, 2006 at 6:57 pm

Your mother reads your blog? How did that go?

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Marly • September 19, 2006 at 7:05 pm

It’s the exact opposite with me. I’m the least photogenic person I know- people often think that I’m about 180 pounds, manly with some sort of mental disorder that causes me to smile blearily and have wandering eyes, when in reality I’m 5″21/2, 125-130 lbs and, well, still pretty insane.

It’s true. I CANNOT take a good picture.

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Tonibaby • September 19, 2006 at 11:06 pm

Amen sista! Amen!

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Greta • September 20, 2006 at 1:48 am

When I was a beginning wedding photographer in 1985, I went to a seminar and in the Q&A period asked what to do to photographe a fat bride (and not have her look so fat). The lecturer’s first comment was to put half of her behind a column and lean her face forward around the column. Second suggestion was put her behind a high-backed chair and lean her forward across the chair back. The leaning forward also thins the face by getting rid of double chin(s). I discovered on my own that every bride’s house has a front door, and there’s nothing like looking at just the face and a face-width swath of body through a cracked open door to make ANYONE look really slim. Even thin brides like that shot especially if Mom and Dad have a nice looking front door. About 6 months after that first seminar I learned the high camera angle trick. I actually use the high angle shooting on EVERY SINGLE wedding somewhere along the way because if the bride isn’t heavy then her Mom or G’ma or sister or friend is heavy. If you use a wideangle lens AND a high camera angle not only do you lose the double chin but the body gets smaller due to the perspective of a wide angle lens. If I am doing a dancing photo of fat Mom and fat Dad I hold the camera over my head wide-angle lens on and WOW they lose 50 pounds each. Amazing. Plus you get to see some of the fun party-stuff around the edges. Then there is the trick of putting the skinny-minney slightly in front of and overlapping the heavy person. Then when all else fails get out the PhotoShop liquify tool. You might like reality, but most brides prefer fantasy. I often do a sample “Liquify” with a client present to get their permission and input. Most brides say “MORE MORE MORE YESSSSSS!!!”

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shauna • September 20, 2006 at 9:48 am

great entry PQ :) i remember a moment when i realised i had to do something about my weight because not even the fat girl angles could make me look smaller!

greta – your comments have me worried about my wedding pics now, all this time i thought i looked naturally alright. hehe!

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PastaQueen • September 20, 2006 at 10:56 am

JJ – Evidently my dad found the blog a couple months ago probably by googling me. He mentioned it to his brother-in-law who mentioned it to my mom, who quite remarkably was able to find it on her own. My mom’s got mad google skillz! Anyway, it went fine. I was a bit embarrassed to be outed, but when writing the blog I’ve always kept in mind that anyone might find it, so I’ve never spilt anything I’d be completely uncomfortable with my mom reading. I’ve also learned that even if you’re embarrassed about something it’s best just to pretend you’re not embarrassed and it will go over much easier. So, it was fine, though I think someone should come up with a word that refers to the event of your mom finding your blog since it’s a pretty common thing.

Greta – Wow, thanks for all the tips! The only other slimming tip I can think of is that if you’re on TV you should stand at about a 30-45 degree angle to the camera because that’s the angle at which your body looks the least wide. If you watch female TV hosts who stand up on camera, like on “Extra,” you’ll notice they almost all do this, though I’m not sure how much it helps fat people.

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christie • September 20, 2006 at 3:05 pm

Wow – hilarious. Fat Girl Angle Shot. It is kind of mean, but also way too true!!

I was pleased that Yahoo! avatars now include some “plus size” options. Now, it still doesn’t look anything like me – it looks more like a NORMAL person, but it’s an improvement over the regular ones for sure.

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kalmia • September 20, 2006 at 3:27 pm

There may not be a word yet for the motherly discovery of one’s blog, but there is an IDKYMB2 acronym (“I Didn’t Know Your Mom Blogs, Too”). :-)

For a good laugh, check out other “Acronyms 2.0” here:

http://blog.outer-court.com/archive/2006-08-29-n42.html

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Laurie • September 20, 2006 at 11:58 pm

You could say you’ve been detected on Momdar. Like radar- for Moms. They see everything, ya know.

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K • September 22, 2006 at 9:30 am

My mum not only blogs too, she pesters me to update mine… (Gently.)

I’ve never had a fat-girl-angle avatar, but I did deliberately pick a black-and-white shot because I often look oddly pink in photos. But I think I’ve got a certain reality level beyond which I don’t think an avatar looks like me any more. I gave up on a “Meez” avatar I was trying to make, because the “curvy” option was still cartoonishly thin and fragile, and, well, I’m just not.

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Comments are now closed on all PastaQueen entries. The blog is an archive only so I don't have to deal with spammers. For fresh discussions please visit my new blog at JennetteFulda.com.

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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