Scott McCloud, in his cartoon treatise Understanding Comics, argues that the image you have of yourself when you're conversing is very different from your image of the person you're conversing with. You interlocutor may produce universal smiles and universal frowns, and they may help you to identify with him emotionally, but he also has a very particular nose and particular skin and particular hair that continually remind you that he's an Other. The image you have of your own face, by contrast, is highly cartoonish. When you feel yourself smile, you imagine a cartoon of smiling, not the complete skin-and-nose-and-hair package. It's precisely the simplicity and universality of cartoon faces, the absence of Otherly particulars, that invite us to love them as we love ourselves. The most widely loved (and profitable) faces in the modern world tend to be exceptionally basic and abstract cartoons: Mickey Mouse, the Simpsons, Tintin, and--simplest of all, barely more than a circle, two dots, and a horizontal line--Charlie Brown.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Paragraph of the Week
I would like to try to share with you, every Sunday, the best paragraph I've read in the week preceding the particular Sunday in question. Our inaugural entry is from Jonathan Franzen's personal history, The Discomfort Zone: