We are Snotgirl
QUIET COMPANY - Carina Santos (The Philippine Star) - August 26, 2016 - 12:00am

Snotgirl is Bryan Lee O’Malley (of Scott Pilgrim fame) and Leslie Hung’s newest creation. Although it sounds like an alt-superhero character along the lines of Marvel Comics’ Squirrel Girl, Snotgirl actually revolves around something a little closer to home: social media. More specifically, social media and Internet fame. Even more specifically, the illusory nature of Internet fame, the unappealing fakeness of it that we can’t seem to get enough of.

The titular character’s actual moniker is Lottie Person, premium fashion blogger since 2008. “Snotgirl” is a self-deprecating nickname she gives herself in private, along the lines of her similarly reductive nicknames for her peers such as “Normgirl,” “Cutegirl,” “Trashboy” and “Scandigirl,” but her nickname also alludes to a deep secret. See, Lottie’s online persona — stylish, poised and perfect — is just that: a persona. “The illusion is seamless,” she declares. “I’m fresh. I’m fun. It’s just who I am.” In reality, she is Snotgirl: allergy-ridden and a social pariah, as far as meaningful friendships are concerned. Early on in the first issue, No New Friends, Lottie shows up to a “haters brunch” months in the making, but none of her friends do.

On the surface, Snotgirl explores the fakeness of social media, seemingly criticizing the business of making your life look perfect when it’s far from it, but seen through the eyes of someone who is hopelessly and so completely steeped in it. No New Friends probes Lottie’s all-consuming sadness and loneliness, looking at how inescapable these become when you keep everyone far away from your real self, projecting only a careful reconfiguration of what you think are the best parts of you. Lottie is obsessed with comparison; in the throes of an allergy attack, she locks herself in her room, glasses (consistently absent from her OOTDs) sitting on the tip of her nose, as she scrolls through endless posts of bloggers of her ilk, declaring herself the best, in spite of her snot-covered sadness.

Fresh from a breakup with her ex-guy, Sunny Day, swooning over Charlene, a younger girl who is her complete opposite, Lottie’s life changes a little bit. This change comes in the form of “Coolgirl” Caroline, an effortlessly cool girl (with the je ne sais quoi of actual cool girls), who’s thinking about giving blogging a shot. They bond automatically over their conspicuously identical tedious coffee drink. Caroline has no gimmicks or hidden tricks to boost her clout — she’s inherently magnetic, sweeping Lottie off her feet and the boring cycle of internally hating her sham of a life. Lottie thinks she’s found a new best friend, and she celebrates briefly, only for their first outing to end in disaster due to a combination of Lottie’s internalized rage, new allergy meds, something she drank only to look cool (Lottie Person on whiskey: “tastes bad, but I feel so cool”), and a good dose of heartbreak.

Teamed with Leslie Hung’s super-glossy, anime-like style — a perfect companion to depict those self-involved enough to think they deserve more than they have; a panel showing Lottie giving her substitute doctor, Dr. Rick Sussex, the perfect pouty face is proof of such — O’Malley uses the atypical subject matter of a “vapid” image-obsessed girl to push forward a storyline that seems irreconcilable, or at least, far away from it. Snotgirl is thematically similar to the ABC sitcom Selfie, though it veers away from your usual social media commentary. No New Friends opens with an ominous panel: Lottie crying (in a crop top and shorts set and fuzzy heels, of course), snot dripping down her nose, beside a discarded jacket stained with red. Lottie Person is the person you love to hate on principle, except she already hates herself.

As of writing, the second issue of Snotgirl is called Worse Problems Than Boy Problems (a nod to Carly Rae Jepsen, Queen of Everything) and came out this week. After one hell of a cliffhanger, Bryan Lee O’Malley and Leslie Hung have set Snotgirl onto a pretty exciting trajectory.

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