The Beautiful People

belf lady

My hair is actually almost exactly the same. But I definitely do not look like a belf.

There’s something strange about getting to know people in WoW. Absent the body, you can be whoever you want in funny ways. Maybe you can’t really change your personality much (although perhaps some do?), but you can side-step all the judgements that come from the physical.

When I first started playing, I was really bothered by this. I had this thing where I just really wanted people to know what I looked like. Not because I thought that would particularly add to my appeal, but because somehow I felt I was misrepresenting myself with out the physical. Honestly, I have no idea why this was. I’m pretty much over it now.

But there are so many things we respond to about people when we look at them. I’m not just talking about how interact with them phyiscally, with all the attendant body language, smiles, eye contact. Those things can change everything about how we interact and respond, most certainly.

I’m talking about what we associate with looks in general. We believe the Beautiful People think they’re too good for us – unless, perhaps we believe we’re part of them. We believe dark skins mean one thing, slanted eyes another; pale skins mean one thing and brown skins something else. We look at people’s hair style, assess their weight, catalog their pimples, their baby face, their choice in clothing. We don’t have to be “racist” or “classist” or otherwise prejudiced against bad dressers and round tummies to react to these things. Regardless of the direction of our reaction, we have one. We’ve been trained by society and probably evolution to figure things out about people based on what our eyes see.

Online, we see nothing. Well, we see a screen name, a bunch of words in chat. In WoW we also see a ‘toon. A WoW friend once derided me for choosing a troll as my main. “A TROLL?” he guffawed. “How could you ever play a troll? They’re so UGLY! Oh my GOD! Their FEET! Those tusks! How could you play that? Why would you ever want to be so ugly?!”

I confess that in picking my troll, looks were a factor. IMHO, trolls are kind of cute. Curvy, mischievous looking, blue…. I like it. I feel cute as Lantana, and that matters to me.

He thought trolls were ugly. I was offended.

Offended! By his judgement of the drawing of the generic cartoon I picked to play WoW.

What is that about? I have no idea.

I didn’t want to be a Blood Elf because the females are too anorexic / prissy* looking. I know the males are pretty silly looking according to some folks as well, but I actually like them. And female trolls look like they can kick ass. And I like that. I’m happy to say, “In RL I’m built like my troll.” I know. I know. That’s probably really, really weird. And I’m not exactly built like her, anyway… okay, moving on.

Getting to know people in WoW, you see their toon(s). Their names. Read their text chat. Listen to their voice on vent. Your brain forces you to create some image of each person. And inevitably, if you ever do manage to see the real person’s image behind the toon, you are probably dazed and confused.

So, when I would get close to people on WoW, I wanted them to see me. Not even me in person, just a picuture of me.  Honestly, I didn’t have as great a need to see what they looked like, but… Maybe it’s that in some ways, some people would treat me as though I really did look like a Blood Elf. Which I don’t. And the idea they had some idealized image of me in their head bothered me. I wasn’t interested in pretending to look like a Blood Elf.

I’m not so bothered by this anymore with most people I become friends with in WoW. I’ve exchanged a few pics since those early days, and met a few folks I play with, but for the most part, I’m fine that people don’t know what I look like.

But recently I have made a few friends I chat with a bit more than others, and some I know what they look like, some I don’t. Does it change things? Well…. I’m not sure, to be honest.

But somehow, getting to know someone without the phyiscal is different. Is it more about the personality? Are we being somehow more “pure” in responding to pure person, not biased by the body? I’m not sure. The body matters. The phyiscal matters. Maybe we are wrongly afftected by the body in many ways. But ultimately, it affects us, which can be a very good thing.

Maybe the physical is just a really good filter. You don’t like that I’m not one of the beautiful people? Good to know.

[Edit: * This comment on female belfs is, of course, doing exactly the same thing as that guy’s comment about trolls. And I confess that I have 3 female belf alts, anyway. They actually are cute.]


7 responses to “The Beautiful People

  1. funny thing :P I had to consciously try to not get offended at your comment about blood elves being anorexic (prissy looking I agree with, but that’s the whole race’s personality)

    my main is a troll. I love the way trolls look, I love their voices, animations, sillies. I love the lore behind the race. but my first character and my former main was a belf. when I started, I wanted my character to be as much of my avatar as i could make her. I chose a blood elf because that’s kinda what I look like in real life (except for the height :P) I gave her my hair, the face looked like the closest approximation of my own.

    BUt I do have some prejudices when it comes to character looks O_O. I confess I think less of people playing human or blood elves males with the dragon ball z hair. its another instance where I have to make conscious effort not to judge them on their character’s hairstyle choice alone :P

  2. Oh you are so right, leah. See, I’m doing the same thing as he was with trolls. Terrible! I want to change that from “anorexic”, now, because that’s not right :) But I suppose it should stay for veracity :) And I really do love my belf alts.

    But my troll is more me, really. As my main, with all that time invested, I have come to associate more with her. And so in some ways I assume people associate with their toons, Dragon Ball-Z and all. But that might be a big leap….

    All of which begs the quesiton that I still am really curious about: when guys play female toons, how much do they see that toon as “them”?

  3. Guys that create female toons use the “well, if i’m gonna watch something run for 40+ hours, might as well make it something easier on the eyes”. also, it makes finding groups a little easier, since everyone knows that girls that play wow will TOTALLY date them if they run them through enough instances.

    seriously, my old roommate made a female night elf, and would dance ontop of the ironforge mailbox on occasion, and he’d pull in about 15g from it.

    i’ve got a female tauren as my bank character (it’s wearing a tuxedo and carries a 15lb. catfish in its hand), made only because i had never seen the female tauren dance/jokes- and between running from the auction house to the mailbox, i had some level 50 hunter talking dirty to me (“check out this big axe baby! you like my boomstick?”). i really, really, really don’t know how stuff like that isn’t mocked into oblivion by female players.

  4. magicandmadness

    Wow. What you write here is a lot of the same thoughts I’ve had during my time in Azeroth. I don’t know if the fact that I’m a girl have anything to do with it, but in the beginning I did think a lot about appearances in the game. “Oh, you made your char look bad? Wonder if you’ve got bad taste in RL?” I’ve grown up fom that now tho, thank heavens.

    My main now is a undead mage tho, and I really love her. People tell me she’s ugly, and rant on about their bouncy belfs. But I like that fact that she’s outside the frame of ordinary “pretty and cute”. To me she’s charming and unique. (That unique part is only in my mind tho, haha. Seen tons of toons quite similiar to her. But still.)

    Ah well. I just wanted to say “good post!” :)

  5. @ B. omg you’re so right! I totally date everyone who runs me through instances. It’s exhausting. And maybe I should try that dancing on the mailbox thing. Even my BEs thus far haven’t gotten any gold or instance runs…. why is that?

    But don’t worry, stuff like the boomstick comments are indeed mocked endlessly by female players. Folks are just persistent, I guess.

  6. @ magic It’s funny how our responses when we first start playing shift as we play for longer :) But i’m totally with you – I feel charming and unique, as well. We’ll just ignore the identical twins.
    (and ty for the kind words :)

  7. Different people see physical attributes different ways, of course. There are those that think “the clothes make the man”, that the way you look is who you are. Of course there are others that think beauty is only skin deep, and that it’s what is inside that is important.

    Now, the former generally think the later feel that way because they are ugly, and are just trying to save their self esteem, and the later think the former are shallow, and have no real personality outside their Armani suites and Louis Vuitton hand bags.

    It’s just differences in personalities. What you find interesting is what you will do, and what you do is what you get good at. Some people get very good at making themselves look good, and some people get very good at writing computer programs. They are both skills, and both take work to master.

    The most interesting thing to me is that you can have each type living in the same household, leading to questions of whether this behavior is learned or inbred. The whole nature vs. nurture debate.

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