The following is an excerpt from my larger paper, “Snapping, Tumbling, and Sticking: The
Public and Private Affects of Sel...
implication of the caption is that someone has indeed found unicornjezus’s skin color
“offensive;” not knowing him persona...
and potentially healing—which they are—perhaps because their captions are not usually
so blatantly defiant. Or perhaps bec...
of 3

PRICE-nprkroc-sample

Published on: Mar 4, 2016
Source: www.slideshare.net


Transcripts - PRICE-nprkroc-sample

  • 1. The following is an excerpt from my larger paper, “Snapping, Tumbling, and Sticking: The Public and Private Affects of Selfies.” Scrolling through Tumblr one day I came across two selfies of one of the most beautiful human beings I have ever seen in my life. In the photos, a young man with glasses, wavy black hair, and delicate features vamps for the camera. In the first, he brushes his hair back from his face and tilts his head so that his neck looks long, elegant, and exposed; in the second he brings his hand to his lips and looks soulfully back at the camera. The subject, Tumblr user unicornjezus, captioned his original post of the selfies with the question, “**Does my dark skin offend you?*” It didn’t, possibly because I was hardly able to stop staring at his neck and jawline, and thinking about how traditionally feminine both poses are, and how strange it was to see a male subject inhabiting them. The poses are feminine because they are vulnerable, deliberately so; one could imagine a knife pressed to that neck as easily as a kiss. Yet the caption is a direct challenge to the spectator. He wears a white, long sleeved tee shirt, and the white wall and cabinets behind him are undecorated, a choice that I might have thought was unconscious in any other situation. I was reminded of Susan Sontag writing on photographs of war: “While the image, like every image, is an invitation to look, the caption, more often than not, insists on the difficulty of doing just that. A voice, presumably the artist’s, badgers the viewer: can you bear to look at this?”1 In the context of war, Sontag is questioning the ethics of looking at suffering that we cannot or will not do anything about, and what sort of pleasures are involved in looking. The atrocities pictured are offered to the spectator at the same time they are denounced by the caption describing them. In these selfies, unicornjezus offers the spectator his own image to enjoy, while simultaneously challenging them to find it distasteful. The unspoken 1 Sontag, Susan. Regarding the Pain of Others. New York: Picador, 2003.
  • 2. implication of the caption is that someone has indeed found unicornjezus’s skin color “offensive;” not knowing him personally I can’t say whether he is referring to a particular individual or incident or to systemic racism in general. In either case, the spectator is now not simply looking at the image of an attractive man, but also at a potential site of violence, and of pain. The invitation to look, with its concurrent contradictory caption, suddenly does not seem so far removed from Sontag’s war photos. Can I bear to look at him? Can I bear to look away? Fig 1. unicornjezus’s skin. unicornjezus; “**Does my dark skin offend you?*”; BRUH BRUH BRUH BRUH BRUHHHHHHHHHH.; Tumblr; 10 April 2015; web; 10 May 2015. I believe this is how many selfies, on Tumblr in particular, function, especially when they depict minoritarian subjects. Fat positive bloggers invite spectators to find their images attractive while daring them to empathize with the subject, to feel the weight of a body marked by society as wrong. And yet I had always viewed their selfies as celebratory,
  • 3. and potentially healing—which they are—perhaps because their captions are not usually so blatantly defiant. Or perhaps because, when they do have more of an aggressive element in them, I don’t feel that aggression is directed towards me, both because I usually agree with the sentiment and because I am not male—not to say that women don’t police one another’s bodies (they do), but the gaze women are expected to perform femininity for within the heteropatriarchy is male. I feel similarly about #BlackOutDay, a recurring Tumblr event organized specifically Black Tumblr users to post their own selfies and repost selfies of other Black bloggers, in order to celebrate Black beauty and self- representations, and to challenge the supremacy of white beauty standards. Most #BlackOutDay selfies emphasize celebration and self-empowerment, but normally leave the provocations implicit. As a white spectator, I feel compelled enough to agree with their message, and reblog some of the images in the interest of helping the cause, but rarely feel as though I was being directly confronted. So to read a challenge that was explicitly directed at me, as a white spectator, alongside two images of a brown body I found extraordinarily attractive, was something of a shock. It felt personal. It wasn’t, of course, and with the seventeen thousand plus likes, reblogs, and comments the original post has received I doubt my own reblog was even noticed. Nonetheless, it was a reminder of selfies’ affective and political power, something I have long believed in, but rarely take the time to feel.

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