Project On Me Harder, Daddy
do NOT perceive me, simply invent me
As per usual, the internet at large is starting to catch up to me, the main character, your humble zeitgeist, who boldly penned hot takes before they were lukewarm. Such as: did you know Elijah Wood is not The Lady In The Water? That’s Bryce Dallas Howard.
Ok I’m kidding what I mean is: seems like everyone is talking about projections. The fantasy we build around others, the shapes we haphazardly slap over their “actual” form. The strange interplay between our self formation and the palimpsest-like layering of narratives others bestow unto us. That pesky trap of potential, not knowing whether you are seeing a hopeful glimmer in someone, who they could be, or who you think they ought to be. Questioning whether your disappointment should be with them when they don’t live up to said potential—or with you, for burdening a person with the impossibility of being infallible.
I write and draw about this phenomenon a lot: the way this functions in our most intimate relationships, the way this spins out and creates narratives between us and complete strangers, the basis for so much toxic “stan” culture.
In many ways, my whole book is about this. But a few obvious parts are when talking about my favorite movies (not actually) Ex Machina and Her and also my casual obsession with the myth Pygmalion. I dedicated two chapters to what I call “Pygmalion” and “Reverse Pygmalion,” i.e., the very literal sculpting and molding of others into a receptacle more suitable for your needs, and the inverse of this. The self mythologizing, the rewriting, the overwriting. All of it: very bewitching to me.
At the end of my book, I also questioned why I personally am so obsessed with the narratives people tell about me, and what it meant that I sought to change them, in the book and my work itself, the sort of eternal feedback loop of letting my own story unfurl while trying to rewrite the stories others carry of me. A fascinating layer is I am still exploring is the projections people thrust upon me as a Public Person, and my reactiveness to ensure that even strangers got it right. Why did it hurt so much that some people were convinced I only drew about bad dates, which on face value is patently untrue? Why did it hurt when people said I drew what I did because I am undateable, not only false because I am lovely and loving, but because my work contains so much more depth, empathy, and humor than that? Why did I need strangers who had clearly never engaged thoughtfully with my work to resist deciding who I was? I noticed long ago my work functions like a mirror, and that a strange side effect is that often people do not want to see the familiar reflected, instead refracting, avoiding looking inwards by deciding who I really was, what I really meant, who I was really talking about. Though intellectually I can see this clearly, emotionally it is heavy, it has hurt me in ways I am still untangling.
All that to say: my book is still very relevant, you should read it and I’ll remind you it exists until my next book comes out. Until then, here’s a roundup of cartoons about projections.
Celebs R Us:
Digital Pygmalion (from book)
The Void Beckons
If you’re new to Please Clap, let me direct you to some of my favorite pieces before you invent a version of me that is hotter, cooler, calmer, and more collected. Please still invent that version of me after, and remember her. For both of us.
Shelby and Clem