Because Chad just ordered a giant (three feet long) bright yellow fiberglass duck for Mulberry’s Home, and because we’re all reeling from a bitter election season that has descended so far into satire that a Missouri senate candidate’s poll numbers are surging due to an ad featuring him assembling an assault rifle blindfolded, I’m turning this week to lighter, more duck-oriented topics from July of 2015. I planned to write about the long-lost principle of representative government, and how the whole point of voting used to be selecting the candidates who you felt were best prepared to represent your interests and values. Then came PussyGate on the national front and ominous warnings from Those-Who-Won’t-Be-Named about ‘special interests’ taking over the PUSD on the local front, and it all started to seem as ridiculous as, well, a duck face.
When, exactly, did it become mandatory for every female under the age of 25 to purse her lips in a bizarre imitation of an about-to-be-kissed duck in photos? You may think this is a rhetorical question, but it is not. I looked it up. I found that the first Urban Dictionary definition for what was then called “myspace face” but quickly evolved to the site-neutral “duck face” was submitted on May 13, 2006. So this is already a decade-old phenomenon – that’s why it’s so profoundly tiresome. But why exactly do they do this baffling duck face thing? According to one delightful anti-duck face site (there are dozens), the point is to ‘make it look like you’ve got big pouty lips, a super-defined jawline, and model-quality cheekbones.’ Does anyone really believe that happens?
Speaking of posing, I clearly missed the meeting when every female on the planet except for me was told that when you’re standing for a picture, you must strike a red carpet pose called the ‘knee pop’. This involves turning a bit sideways, putting one leg in front of the other, pointing your toe at the camera and bending your knee slightly, shifting your weight to your back leg. I kid you not. It sounds like a yoga pose to me, but somehow 50% of the population is instinctively knee-popping in every social media photo in existence.
There’s more, of course. There’s the ‘skinny arm’, where you rakishly place your hand on your hip in order to ensure your bicep looks as lean as possible. And the ‘ankle crossover,’ which has the twin benefits of making you look thinner and less aggressive. Beyond making slow-learners like me look like the Incredible Hulk as we stand there, looking straight at the camera with arms hopelessly squished and legs firmly planted on the ground because, well, we’re standing – what’s the harm in all this posing? No big deal, right?
Except I’m not sure anyone thought through the social experiment of handing everyone a camera at the tender age of 10 or 11, then giving them a platform upon which they can endlessly publish photos of themselves and their friends at the most intensely self-conscious phase of life. Traveled with a teenager lately? We visited the Grand Canyon last year with family friends, and we four parents had to physically restrain each other from grabbing our teens’ phones and tossing them in. They were so busy deciding where they’d take pictures, taking pictures, commenting upon those pictures, revising and filtering, and then posting the pictures, to actually look up at the Grand Canyon.
At its extreme it gets way, way worse. This summer has seen a disheartening number of reports of tourists taking selfies of themselves in front of their initials etched into the Colosseum in Rome or the Pyramids in Egypt. Worst still were the groups who took cheerful photos of themselves in front of the East Village gas explosion site in New York in March, while firefighters were still searching the building for survivors. In Malaysia, a group of tourists were even blamed for causing a deadly earthquake after they posed naked on the top of Mount Kinabalu. Want to truly get depressed? Do a quick google search for ‘holocaust selfies’. Yep, it’s a thing.
Long before social media was invented, Madonna told us all to ‘strike a pose.’ There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look your best in photos. I just hope young people (and older ones who really should know better) remember that the point of life isn’t to be cute, or alluring, or interesting, on a 4” screen. Even an actual duck knows that.