In art, a caricature is a portrait that exaggerates the prominent physical characteristics of a person to the point of ridiculousness, often for comedic purposes.

…At least that’s what Ms. Olivera’s sixth grade art class taught me. I could be completely wrong.

Anyhow, one thought that has been in my head for a while now is the idea of real-life caricatures. That is, people who purposely emphasize one aspect of their personality (as opposed to a physical characteristic) so much that it becomes their only identifiable characteristic.

That wasn’t a very well-written sentence. Forgive me, it’s summer break, and my brain has already begun to atrophy.

What I mean is: What would happen to a person who purposely made themselves one-dimensional? Would it benefit them or hurt them?

Your first reaction is probably the latter. There are a lot of problems with becoming a caricature, and it’s not unreasonable to suggest that these outweigh any positives that might exist. But the more I think about it, the more I think that becoming a caricature could work to a person’s benefit if done correctly.

There are a few stipulations, of course:

First of all, the characteristic you choose to emphasize has to be a charcteristic you already possess. To illustrate my point, I’ll use myself as an example. I couldn’t go out and become The Militant Vegan, because frankly I don’t give two shits about animal rights, and the cow I ate today was fucking delicious. Two things I could pull off are The Flames Fan and The Misogynist. Which brings me to my next point:

Your chosen characteristic needs to be something that’s either approved of by most people or else seen as neutral by most people. If I were to go out and do nothing but make sexist comments, I probably wouldn’t have too many fans, since sexism is generally frowned upon. Hockey, however, is something which is seen as neutral by many people and approved of by others. I wouldn’t lose or gain favour from those who don’t care about hockey, but I would gain favour with like-minded individuals.

There are an infinite number of caricatures that you could become. You could be known as The Clumsy One, or The One That Always Loses Her Keys, or The One That Trips Over Herself, or The One That Believes In Aliens, and so on.

The question is, does becoming a caricature help?

Well… I don’t know. I’ve never really tried it. I’ve emphasized my Flames-fandom in the past to the point where I was known to be a Flames fan by many, but I’ve never gone to the extreme of making my Flames-fandom my most obvious characteristic. Not too many people would hear my name and instantly think "Oh, the Flames fan!"

It seems to work reasonably well on the Internet. When people can’t see
you, they’re forced to identify you by personality characteristics. As a
result, they may view you as a caricature even when you don’t intend to
be one.

The problem with testing this idea in the real world is that it’s hard to find the perfect environment to do it in. It needs to be an environment where very few (if any) people know you, but where you’ll be spending a significant amount of time around the same people. But, the amount of time you’ll be around these people can’t be significant enough that you’ll screw up your life if the experiment goes pear shaped. Queen’s would have been a great place to try this out, but that ship has sailed.

The best I can do is hazard a guess as to how well caricatures work. I think that becoming a caricature can be incredibly useful in the early stages of a relationship. It makes you more memorable, and provided that you choose a good characteristic to emphasize, you’ll be remembered in a good way by people. Once you gain the trust of the people around you, you can begin to let other aspects of your personality show. According to my former psychology professor, people are less likely to judge you once they already know you well, so it’s safer to reveal your true self later on.

If I’m right (and psychology would suggest that I’m at least on the right track), it sort of speaks poorly of human nature, doesn’t it? The whole "Be yourself" mantra is bullshit. It should really be something like "Be yourself, but only after you’ve convinced people that you’re a good person by hiding all of your negative characteristics."

But whatever.