Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Avatar Generators, Body and Gender Normativity

So, having too much time on my hands and possibly some bizarre form of narcissism, one of the things I like to do is make cartoon avatars of myself.  If I stumble across a cartoon generator, I have to make a version of myself.  I just have to.

And since I am somewhat of a chameleon, changing looks fairly often, I sometimes have to update them.  But some examples:

Myself, as a Pickle. 

Sadly, there's more where that came from.  I'm not sure why the need to cartoonize myself.  Maybe it's because I see myself as vaguely cartoonish to begin with. Maybe, like I said previously, it's some bizarre manifestation of a narcissistic personality disorder.  More than likely, I'm just bored and spend too much time on the intertubes.

What I've found that irks me somewhat is that, with the exception of the Simpsons generator and the South Park generator, it's very difficult to find my body type represented in these generators, so a certain suspension of disbelief is required.  I'm sure it just comes across that I totally see myself as some skinny broad but no, truth is, the cartoon generators don't give me much choice but to be some skinny broad.  The Simpsons generator, if I recall, did allow for a choice of two female body types.. a slim build, and a slightly thicker build (as shown in my own av above).  The South Park generator is the only one (that does a full-body av) that I found that doesn't default to a slim female body, mainly because it defaults to the short, dumpy form that everyone in South Park Colorado is blessed with.

Being recently shorn, I found it less difficult to find my hairstyle represented as well.. Most generators have a wide assortment of long hairstyles for female-presented characters, but not so much for the short styles.

I'm also perturbed that one generator, called Rebel Girl, didn't have an option for glasses.

Anyway, that's a few observations I found.  In all honesty, I'm sure a book could be written on the ways some of these sites, like and enforce a whole whack of gender and heteronormative crap onto the young, web-savvy preteen girls which seems to be their market.  Likewise, generators like the Marvel Make-Your-Own Superhero enforce their own ideals on boys and girls (when you choose your initial character shape, you have three choices.. a huge muscly dude, a grotesquely huge and muscly dude or a slim, large-breasted woman).

It'd be kind of awesome to see avatar generators that are capable of incorporating a wide array of body types, shapes, colours, hair types and less gender-normative options as well.  Does anyone have any examples of good sites like that?


  1. I remember there was (or is) an M&M generator, which was pretty good, but would only address some of your issues, haha.

    There is (or was) a Mad Men generator, but I don't have the link to it anymore. I never played with it, so I can't testify as to its capabilities.

  2. I feel slightly (not at all) offended you didn't include the pickled version of yourself.

  3. Oh Pickelope! That was a gregious oversight on my part, indeed. I'll have to rectify that.

    I've seen the Mad Men one, and I have one in my album, but I found it was one of the least fun ones I've used.

  4. Okay Fixed.. you know, you should consider designing a pickelope generator

  5. Oh and for the Ninja, funny you should mention the Mad Men generator as now that I think about it, it was one of the ones that, although they didn't give you many options for anything, you did get two body-type options.

  6. Frankly, if I'm going to cartoon myself I want to look like an effing bombshell.

    My original avatar for my blog only showed my head but the full body shot made me look like Halle Berry as Cat Woman, only with my head.

    On a more accurate note, I was surprised at how close to yourself you could come using the Mii feature for Wii.

  7. A silly woman with too much time on my hands, Pearl.

  8. how about from boys +follow

  9. I've never made an avatar of myself! But I love that you have one of you as a pickle. I'm here visiting after you stumbled upon my blog. Love all the stuff you are talking about as far as weight and rhetoric dealing with body image and weight and health. I skate for Houston Roller Derby and one thing I really appreciate and love about the women who skate is that we are all in great shape (you can't NOT be if you are skating 3 times a week for 2 hours) but we are ALL different sizes and shapes. Great skaters can be teeny weeny petite people or medium or super tall amazons and every shape imaginable. I think that it's a great display of the fact that weight does not always show health. Anyway, enjoying your site!


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