Guest Post: The Hidden Magic of Avatars (& Funko Pops!) by Gypsy Thornton

March 9, 2021

And How to Use Them To Become Your Best Self
A Guest Post by Gypsy Thornton of Once Upon a Blog

noun: an icon or figure representing a particular person in video games, internet forums, etc.

I want to introduce you to “Hermione with Feather”.

She’s one of my favorite little objects to have around right now as I work through Carterhaugh’s latest offering, Spellcraft: Write Like A Witch. For some reason, little plastic Hermione in mid-incantation just seems to “fit”. Because Spellcraft is helping me think in different directions, I sat down to try and figure out exactly why I’m so attached to this little figure at the moment and it wasn’t as hard as I expected. To me, that feather she’s floating represents the magical writing I’ve always wanted to create and her success in doing so, despite not having that “pedigree” so many wizards (writers) deem important, speaks volumes to me of the importance of persistence and in exploring your potential, no matter where you’re from, or what other people around you say.

Right now, this little figure represents me.

I’ve always known people use avatars as a representative of themselves; they echo an aspect of their person they want seen or represented. An avatar is a representation of that person’s truth, but it also distorts the image of that person to the world, amplifying just one part of a multi-faceted human above all the others. I’ve recently realized, though, that it also often serves to reinforce the part of the person they wish was more of themselves than it actually, currently, is.

You could even say “my avatar = #goals”.

It’s a useful tool for people to reinvent themselves, and is, I suspect, a tool often employed without individuals realizing what they’re doing. It not only shows (sometimes betrays!) how those people want to be seen but it’s also a tool, a “vehicle” even, for personal change. It can help you amplify what you see as your strengths, and help reinforce aspects of your character or person you wish you were stronger in. It can give you confidence, and be a symbolic reminder of who you want to be.

That positive comes with a flip-side though. What is easily forgotten is that such a specific avatar can also betray your flaws, and possibly your vulnerabilities. This is especially the case if you do, indeed, transform to embrace your avatar as the “greater part” of the real you. An avatar can illuminate newer -now bigger- issues you may have to deal with.

The good news about this “flip-side”? It means that, for those who are paying attention, you can give yourself a heads-up on what to guard against, what you need to protect yourself against becoming, and what new weaknesses you may become vulnerable to developing. 

I will – GULP! – use myself as an example. Which avatars do I use and gravitate toward and, more importantly, why?

One of my very first avatars, as social media become the norm, one I still use, is an absinthe fairy. She dominates the background of my Twitter profile. She represented many things I aspired to, and still does: she’s magical, creative, slightly dangerous, alluring but can’t be caught and owned, she’s nature-with-teeth, she’s fairy in an urban context… But on the flip side, I now realize she’s also a muse people often resent; a creature who exposes things people wish had been kept hidden. It was… more accurate than I realized.

And then there are Funko Pops. You think of yourself as immune to pop-culture marketing; you’re not a consumer who is easily taken in by merchandise… but then you see a particular “Pop” that switches on that “ahh!” button in your brain and BAM! Those things are suddenly irresistible.

Image by Xander Brown

Again, it was only recently I realized that the Funko Pops I choose – be they characters or creatures – are really avatars of myself in some way. The ones I’m drawn to collecting always reveal themselves to sharing an aspect with me. It can be an aspect I aspire to or one that resonates with me, good or bad, even though I wasn’t obvious at first, yet I was doing this for years before I realized! 

When I look at figures I’ve acquired over time I realized it’s almost like having a 3D diary on my shelves that everyone can see! (It’s just that most people don’t know it’s my diary and have no idea how to read it, thank goodness! If someone cracks that code though…eep.)

Early on – when Funko Pops were brand new to the universe – I chose Merida from Brave, for multiple reasons. Her heralding the “new” fairy tale generation of stories and heroines was definitely a part of it (remember when she wasn’t a stick figure and opted out of her princess-dress?) and I accepted the good and the bad associations as being fairly true reflections of myself – reflections I’m still working on. She also connects me to my central interest of how fairy tales are living things that continually evolve while remaining rooted and recognizable. Just catching sight of her sitting on my shelf helps me refocus; lumpy little plastic Merida keeps me real. (You’ve got to love the paradox – another reason it appeals to this fairy tale girl!)

Here’s a quick breakdown of 5 other Funko Pops I’ve latched onto in the past:

  • Cheshire Cat (Alice in Wonderland)
  • Apprentice Mickey (Fantasia) with sloshing buckets
  • Eliza (The Shape of Water)
  • Baby Audrey II (Little Shop of Horrors)
  • Dumbo (Dumbo) in clown paint holding his feather

Once I realized what I’d been subconsciously doing, it didn’t take much thought to connect why I zeroed in on these over other “pops” available from their franchise.

Here’s how those characters resonate with me (which may be very different from anyone else):

  • Cheshire Cat – is a Trickster Guiding Spirit, literally lives in Wonderland, random magic appearing and disappearing, changes form at whim, appears crazy but might just be the sanest character, asks “Which way do you want to go?” (This one has lived on my keyring for many years now.) 
  • Apprentice Mickey – learning magic, potential, creation, the wish to learn magic (and temptation to take shortcuts), out of his depth, rebelling against the system. There’s the Harry Potter tie-in here for me too – Mickey is the cautionary tale (“don’t be like Mickey”), while Harry Potter is the successful apprentice who succeeds despite making similar decisions. Mickey has the potential to be Harry when he’s carrying those buckets but will he repeat his own story as he lurches out on a fit of creativity or will he fail again?
  • Eliza – scars are (really) evidence of her ‘other’ nature and not just trauma (though even she doesn’t know that for most of her life), uses her feminine power without having to be kickass or seen as sexy, learns to use her power when she has no voice, has a natural affinity for nature
  • Baby Audrey II – is magic and Other, has growth in unnatural circumstances, potential to destroy if allowed to feed and grow into its dark side, looks benign but really -really- isn’t
  • Clown Dumbo w/ feather – has belief despite bullying and belittling that there’s real magic inside, holding onto small symbols to help you reach your potential (Dumbo would totally have the feather as his own avatar online!), bravery, people laugh at and easily dismiss him but he’s about to get some serious respect if he can just take that leap of faith

The selection as a whole is interesting too. There aren’t many main characters or, at least, not the main “Pop” you’d see representing the movie they’re from, but all of them in my little collection have to do with transformation, magic, changing circumstances, and especially, potential – both the bad and the good. Overall it’s a pretty accurate set of themes for me and a fair representation of who I am.

So now, when I sit down to work through the next section of Spellcraft, it’s not just because I’m vaguely wishing I could join all the other Carterhaugh Word Witches in an amazing castle somewhere as I work on my writing dreams, that I prop that little plastic Hermione and her floating feather next to my laptop (though, this is 100% true – Castle Carterhaugh will totally be a thing one day!). Right now, my little avatar is reminding me of what’s possible when I apply myself to working that magic I know is possible. 

[ I just have to remember: “it’s LeviOsa, not LeviosAA”. 😉 ]

P.S. You can get your own copy of Spellcraft: Write Like a Witch by clicking here!

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