Saturday, March 16, 2013


 I’ve used Lisa Simpson as my avatar online for years. I love her cocky yellow grin, her pearls and her spiky hair. I thought she was a perfect avatar, symbolizing cartoons and smarts on a gorgeous lime-green background.

I paid no attention to those who said they heard my tweets and posts in the youthful, high-pitched voice of actress Yeardley Smith. I ignored those who tweeted down to an eight-year-old cartoon who wouldn’t know a paragraph from a Post-it. I assumed most people would know that the person represented by a cartoon was unlikely to actually be a cartoon, let alone a squeaky yellow girl.

But I underestimated the power of a picture. Worth a thousand words you say? Idiocy, ignorance and stupidity are apparently some of the words conjured up by the image of Lisa Simpson. Which is odd, as she was created by UCLA and Harvard-educated writers who’ve given her a complex and charming character: the talented and smart daughter in a family of dolts. 

Being treated like Lisa Simpson would be rather flattering but many readers, including highy educated people who should know better, seem to confuse Lisa with
Homer, doh! Or, more likely, they don’t know the TV show and just see any cartoon as puerile and gormless and anyone represented by one as equally gormless. 

I worried that, as my book is set in the animation industry (more cartoons!) and I’ve tweeted and blogged quite a bit about animation, perhaps I'm in danger of being taken for a feckless nincompoop by agents and publishers as well

The last straw came when a reader, who consistently talked down to me, told me hautily that 1066 was an important date celebrating Norman the Conqueror, took it upon herself to critique, uninvited, a summary of my book with hilariously incorrect corrections and when I didn't respond, she attacked me on Twitter saying I'd been offended by her "brutal honesty" then she misconstrued my Tweets as being about her when they weren't. After that several followers with PhDs unfollowed me, seeming to confirm the power of an avatar or the opinion of a misguided follower or both.

While my writing and I have our flaws, we are not dolts. So, I decided I needed to put a stop to such misunderstandings and the possibility of more. After much thought and designing, I changed avatar to something more serious, a cartoon pencil. It's my own design, more neutral and without all kinds of inappropriate character associations. 

Goodbye Lisa. I’ll miss you, a much misunderstood avatar.
Yeardley Smith, actor, writer, artist, voices Lisa Simpson.


Emailman said...

I rather liked your avatar :) But I am a Simpsons fan and have the mind set of a ten-year-old haha!!

I hope everything is well in your world Nora. Twitter is quieter without you :)


Nora Lumiere said...

Thanks, Kurt. Don't worry I havent left Twitter, just changed my avatar. Keep an "eye" out for my new picture.
It's been interesting to note that I hear from a totally different group of people now :-)