Identity And Appearance, Redux

Mera seems surprised at her reaction to her new look. While I was among the most startled by her new look, which appears to almost completely eschew the color for which she is best known, her reaction got me thinking: How much of our Second Life’s identity is defined by our appearance?

This isn’t the first time this topic has come up; Tateru actually wrote about this last month. In her posting, she mainly dealt with the way people expose aspects of themself through their choice of appearance in SL. There’s a flip side to this, of course; how does our appearance influence other people’s perceptions of us…particularly when some aspect of that appearance becomes iconic of us?

Iconic appearances are certainly common among SL personalities. Of course, everybody knows the first example to cite: Torley. Torley is actually a unique case, because she changes her appearance so frequently. (Of course, this can also be interpreted as bringing out other members of the “Council of Torleys” to play in SL…which leads me to wonder if there is not in fact an eternal Torley-spirit, which chose to give its name to the young man who became the Torley we all know and love. Kind of like Pater Pan describing how “the spirit of the name chose me” in his name tale, in Norman Spinrad’s Child of Fortune. But I digress.) One constant is always present, though…the colors of the watermelon, bright pink and green. Anywhere I see those colors juxtaposed, I suspect Torley’s influence…and without them, Torley would not be, well, Torley.

There are other good examples too…Tateru’s Victorian-Gothic attire, Travis Lambert’s “Brian from Family Guy” avatar, Akela‘s white wolf, Dolmere‘s skeleton, Aimee Weber’s butterfly wings…the list goes on. And, for Mera, the iconic aspect of her appearance is…the purple. She herself has encouraged it…witness her blog tagline, her group title, her “typing” animation override. For her to turn around and seemingly abandon it…well, it just breaks our metaphors. Looking at Mera and not seeing purple has, in effect, changed her identity in our minds.

By the way, Mera, that’s the answer to your question about “why didn’t anyone notice my lack of glasses?”: When you change something as fundamental as the purple is for you, all other changes become trivial by comparison, and easy to miss. Besides, glasses, or lack thereof, are easy to miss anyway. I wear them myself on occasion–I was wearing them when I spoke at Chris’ memorial service, as the photograph will attest–and I don’t think anyone really notices one way or the other. (I wear them to give myself a slightly older and more distinguished appearance on occasion…they make me look more like my father, I think. In RL, I only wear glasses when I don’t have my contacts in.)

Do I have any iconic appearance qualities? Probably just my own face; I set it up to resemble my RL face, and haven’t changed it since Day One. (I adjusted my height…but that’s not the same thing.) There is my “Default Erbo” outfit, but I don’t always wear it…and Danielle would probably prefer I wear it as little as possible. Sometimes, too, I switch out the Bent for the Superman pendant that was a gift from Danielle, or I wear that pendant with other outfits as appropriate.

What would have to change about us before we’d no longer be recognizable as us? That’s a good question to keep in mind…especially in SL, where we can all look like anything imaginable.

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9 Comments

Filed under Appearance, Identity

9 responses to “Identity And Appearance, Redux

  1. This is really profound. I don’t have anything else to say but I am really touched.

    One reason I went with pink-and-green colors so prominently, and maybe I’ll explain this in the future more, is that regardless of what form I take, it’s recognizable as me.

  2. Which brings up a very good point, Torley…do people deliberately create these “grace notes” of identity for themselves, and if so, what is the correlation between this recognizability and fame? Does one imply the other, and, if so, which way does the causality run? This is potential fodder for a number of blog posts…

  3. My lack of glasses comment was actually a joke. 🙂 I’m going to be elaborating further on the whole purple thing in my next post.

  4. I was there during the transformation. The very first thing I noticed was the lack of glasses, not the lack of purple.

  5. I would have to agree that this is very profound. I myself have found that there are very few times that I am without some form of black on, but then again it is one of my favorite colors (I have 3, black, dark red and forest green) but I would refrain from saying they define me. My favorite colors tend to change with my mood and right now those are the colors I chose to wear (even though they change black is always in there somewhere). I would also think that it is my personality moreso than my AV that defines me and makes me who I am in SL. I never set out to MAKE Dani any certain way and was pleasantly surprised with the way she has turned out. But if I felt that she was defined by a certain look then I would not have as much fun as I do donning a furry or the Marvin costume that I have.
    I prefer to think of Dolmere as a nice person to chat with and Akela as the wonderful friend he is. So what Dolmere is a skeleton or Akela is a wolf? I have seen Akela in human form and while I wish he would do it more often it does not define to me who he is, his sincere and sweet personality defines him. I would not care if Akela chose to be a giant lobster he would still be Akela. I call him my favorite wolfie because that is what he chooses to be. I can’t really speak on Mera because I don’t really know her but if she chose to lose her purple then maybe it was time for a change.
    I can’t really say that I have anything signature about my AV other than my red hair and green eyes but then again even they have been known to change on occasion. Knowing that, I have to wonder, how am I defined?

  6. Shockwave Plasma

    I just thought Mera was wearing contacts.

  7. Erbo, you’ve unearthed something good here. I’m going to post about it on SLI and see if I can get more thoughts on it! Full credit to you, of course!

  8. If you do, Wolfmeister, don’t ignore Mera’s and Tateru’s posts on the subject, as well as my followup post, and Danielle’s comments too…a lot of good material in there.

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