The Schaal Effect

Kristen SchaalA while ago I was idly browsing the AV Club homepage, when I spotted a photo of a cute woman… she sort of reminded me of Regina Spektor, who I’d just “discovered”, so I clicked the link out of curiosity, and learned that she was a stand-up-turned-actress named Kristen Schaal. The full version of the photo, reproduced here, was mesmerising for reasons I can’t quite explain. To be reductive, let’s just say I found her super-cute… the lips, the eyes, the nose, the chin, the curls… and yes, maybe the boobs… they all add up to Cuteness. Always hard to explain to others, because these things are often entirely subjective, but you know it when you see it. The interview itself was quite amusing, but also very self-deprecating, since so many of her anecdotes involved nervous nausea! What really caught my attention though was the comments section below the interview where a fierce flamewar raged between those who could see the Cuteness, and those who saw only Ugliness. As noted in previous posts, I hate it when people take their own preferences and extend them into a universal definition of beauty or funniness or Art or whatever: “I don’t find this funny, therefore no one else is allowed to!” I know, I’m guilty of that too sometimes, but when it comes to human beings rather than cultural artefacts, I get a bit protective. And I know this isn’t the most flattering way to put it, but as a cartoonist I feel that “pretty” faces aren’t always the most interesting… there’s no challenge in drawing a conventional pretty face, so I always tend to look for the so-called “flaws” that give a face character.

Kristen SchaalI’d probably have thought no more about her, except that last night Schaal was a guest on the music-based panel show Never Mind the Buzzcocks… and I was smitten all over again! Granted most of the show was fairly Brit-centric, so she wasn’t given much of a chance to contribute, but she knew how to work the contrast between her deadpan delivery and her high-pitched voice to maximum effect. Much like Jennifer Tilly, she is obviously a very smart cookie, fully aware of how people perceive her and how to play with those perceptions for comic effect. One of the most frustrating comment that came up in the flamewar was when someone suggested that nerds were only attracted to Schaal because she was “attainable”… as if! Women with that aura of adorability and comic quirkiness aren’t exactly ten-a-penny, y’know! They are, if you’ll indulge me, limited editions, hand-signed and numbered by God. Another ludicrous flame thrown by the haters was that we were only attracted to her because she was famous already… that if we met a non-famous woman like Schaal in a bar, we’d think nothing of her. Which, as I said, is straight-up ludicrous. First of all, I thought she was cute before I even knew who she was, and second of all, whether she’s famous or not, she’d still be just as cute and funny as she is now. I’ve never met a woman like that before, but if I ever did I know that I would be just as crazy about her, regardless of the context. That’s “the jackpot”, as far as I’m concerned. The thing I dread to dream of, because it seems so impossible!

About Dee CrowSeer

A comic-book writer with an interest in philosophy, equality, and diversity. He/him.
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