Online, Lottie Person is a famous fashion blogger, and every aspect of her life looks perfect. Perfect hair. Perfect clothes. Perfect life. But the Lottie the world doesn’t see, the real Lottie, is deeply unhappy. Her boyfriend has broken up with her and is dating her old intern, she hates her two best (and only) friends, and she’s a mess, thanks to her terrible allergies.
“In 2016, I think we all lead a double life. We all have a secret identity,” co-creator Bryan Lee O’Malley explained in an interview with Image Comics, “You may seem happy on Instagram, you may seem socially active on Twitter, but who are you when you're away from the screen? With Snotgirl, we're trying to explore that split personality”
This duality of personas is something O’Malley and artist Leslie Hung explore in Snotgirl, looking at how social media can be used to curate a fantasy life and how that fantasy can replace reality. How much of Lottie’s personality is performance and how much is the genuine article? Did she wake up like this, or has she spent the last few hours curating her look?
Who Is Lottie Person?
Branding can be used to alter how an audience perceives you. Recently, Taylor Swift recently cleared all of her social media accounts, razing her online presence in preparation for her new album. In the first single from this new record, “Look What You Made Me Do”, there’s a spoken word break where Swift says; “The old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Because she’s dead.” While Swift isn’t literally gone, the Swift that world consumes is. She’s rebranding herself. The real life Taylor might be the same, but the Taylor Swift we consume is different. She’s darker, edgier. She’s the Dark Phoenix to old Taylor’s Jean Grey.
Misty, aka Cutegirl, is the strongest example of how personal branding can determine how everyone perceives you. In Snotgirl #6, Lottie and Meg learn that their close friend’s eternally cute and childish aesthetic is way more fake than they thought; she’s actually 32-years old. Her real name isn’t even Misty, it’s Winnie. Her entire life is an act, where the way people experience her is a calculated exercise in branding. The only people who knew about her true self are her family, who she is estranged from (most likely because any interference from them would shatter her image). Cutegirl’s cherubic face becomes saggy, with Hung adding more linework to her usually undetailed visage; Rachael Cohen’s colors shifting from being bright and poppy to dreary and muted.
Lottie is no stranger to this branding. She’s a fashion blogger; her job is based purely around aesthetics and promoting a look. Her brand is that she’s a fresh, she’s fun; she’s a completely flawless fashion blogger. That’s how she chooses to represent herself online, so that’s how her audience views her. It’s a calculated performance to service her online image. She waits for a text from Caroline by getting completely dressed and ready to go out (“I planned around her spontaneity”), making sure she selects the ideal emoji to go with her selfie. Everything she does is done to further this fantasy. No one sees the real Lottie who spends her Friday night cleaning boogers out of a Dior dress or scrolling through her Instagram feed trash talking other bloggers. In her own words, “This Lottie doesn’t exist. Nobody knows her. Nobody’s seen her.”
You Don't Know Me, But I Know You
The Internet has changed how we interact with celebrities and creators. The barrier between artist and fan that existed pre-internet is still there, but it’s no longer as high. It’s so easy to contact almost any given celebrity at any given time. I can tweet at both Bryan Lee O’Malley and Leslie Hung whenever I want. They might even respond which could lead to a potential conversation. It’s this easy interactivity with a person that’s created a sense of familiarity between audience and creator. These interactions can create a sense of overfamiliarity and over-stepping their boundaries. You’ve no doubt seen That Person in someone’s Instragram comments or @-ing someone on Twitter, talking to someone they’ve never met as though they’re long time friends or messaging them insistently in the hopes that they’ll be noticed.
In Issue #2 we’re introduced to John Cho, a police detective assigned to investigate the incident that occurred between Caroline and Lottie in the bathroom. Cho also happens to be a huge fan of Lottie’s blog, a fandom that borders obsessiveness. At this point, Cho has never met her in person, but that doesn’t stop him from instinctively knowing what she was wearing the night of the incident and having intimate dreams about her. Apparently she’s even perfect while on the toilet. When he finally does meet her, the detective tells her, “I see the you between the lines. The real Lottie Person.” His fandom is an example of that over-familiarity – that despite the fact he’d never met her up until this point in time, he earnestly believes that he knows her on a deep emotional level.
New Year, New Me
Social media has changed our ability to reshape how people perceive us, meticulously curating what we put out into the world. There's a limit though, and that's what O'Malley and Hung are trying to explore in Snotgirl. Your real-life and the fantasy portrayed on her blog can only be separated for so long. What happens when everyone discover who you really are and who do you become when you start to believe your own lies?
Lottie lives a superficial life. While she constant reassures herself that she’s a good person and that her life is pretty much perfect, it couldn’t be further from the truth. She's kind of a bad person, intentional or not. She regularly laments how she doesn’t like her two best friends, Normgirl and Cutegirl, She only knows people by the nicknames she gives that distill their personality down to a single attribute – Cutegirl, Gothgirl, Shoegirl (“I just don’t think I’d be able to tell them apart without nicknames.”) – but doesn’t remember their actual name.
At the end of Snotgirl #5, Lottie's ex-intern Charlene tells the fashion blogger that she idolizes her, but the more she tries to be like her, the more miserable she feels. Lottie isn't the fresh, fun person she thinks she is. She's buying into her own branding just as much as everyone else. If your entire life is a lie, what happens to the truth? That's the question Lottie -- and far too many young people in the real online world -- must struggle to answer.