Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Mangatars: Attack of the Clones?

Like something loosed from your anime collection – they’re cute, they're dangerous, they’re massively viral. You wake up and your screen is flooded with them - they're mangatars and you HAVE to have your own!

In fact, I think this particular twitter virus had about a 48-hour lifespan as it's now fading – but two days ago, my 1300+ twitterstream was a summertime scrolling of bright, happy cartoon faces.

I found it intriguing – both from a personal and from a professional point of view. The moment you see one, you absolutely HAVE to try it for yourself - is that indicative of ‘a bit of fun’... or is our view of ourselves all we're really interested in? Do we look to portray an idealised version of our identity online? And if we do – is the manga/avatar only an icon of how we project ourselves across all platforms?

The personas we present online: are we real?

The questions are rhetorical – I’m sure it’s different for every person. Honesty always shows.

From a professional perspective, however, the marketeer in me knows that nothing catches a customer's attention faster than seeing oneself - in reviews, in top tens, in 'my fave' lists - on line. (It's fame, I tell you - fame!) Amazon have been exploiting this successfully for years. That may give us a hint as to how fast it caught on and how widespread it became - but not why it faded so swiftly.

It was very interesting watch how everyone projected themselves within the restrictions of the canvas – the one- and two-finger salutes were very popular (yet always accompanied by a smile), as were cheery thumbs-ups and a plethora of baseball caps. Choices of background were oddly informative – and more interesting of all were the people who chose not to follow the herd...

In Gibson’s Neuromancer, physical perfection is available to purchase – beauty is commonplace. If we had the option, would we take that extra step and be our mangatar? Would we all choose to look that chocolatebox in real life? Cute, flawless, always happy?

I think we're more human than that.

They faded so swiftly because they were, once the initial thrill was over, all the same. So many people said, 'But it doesn't look like me!' and they were right: however pretty our cartoon selves may be - they're not us. In the words of Tyler Durden, 'You are not your fuckin' mangatar!'

We're proud of our individuality. Call me crazy (I prefer ‘quirky’ or eccentric’) but I kind of like people being different.

4 comments:

LinksMonkey said...

Enjoyed your post.

Never was a big Manga fan, so the Mangatars didn't appeal to me. Tried making a cartoony avatar on Yahoo! & getting Simpsonized & they just didn't look like me.

When I have to point the camera @ myself for the Web, I'd rather be creative than normal. Normal is overrated.

Danacea said...

I was very amused to find that, not too long after this post went up, the Twitter backlash against the mangatars really hit home with the arrival of http://stopthemanga.com/

Almost worth another post in itself!!

mousewords said...

I was pleased to realize that after I went cartoony--which I did only because too many good friends asked, I couldn't say no--and because, y'know, it was *cartoons*--after that, I was actually glad to have my own face back. I was happy in my own skin, which is a good thing. :-)

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