Saturday, July 23, 2011
Your Freaks are my Family
I've proposed a number of times in prior posts that there is a connection between the experience of ventriloquism and avatar identity, at least for those of us who perceive their wooden or digital counterparts as unique personalities. Last night I finally had the chance to watch Dumbstruck, an award winning film focusing on the lives of five ventriloquism enthusiasts and their annual convention. Although the movie didn't touch on how ventriloquists experience the personalities of their dummies, it did bring up another correlation between the vent and avatar communities: People outside our respective communities often view us as freaks.
I certainly caught myself making negative judgements about some of the people featured in the film. One reason was the visceral sense of creepiness that struck me from time to time watching some of the less accomplished people perform and interact with their dummies. I think that type of reaction is related to the uncanny valley phenomenon that's been documented in gaming, robotic and animation contexts.
Despite my struggle to empathize with a few of the characters, it was easy to see that the ventriloquist community is close-knit, loving and supportive. Like the avatar community, they stay connected over the course of the year through online communication and come together in person at an annual convention. Like those in the avatar community, their RL friends and family are often perplexed or repulsed by their pursuit, so they turn to each other for support and acceptance.
The movie was a good reminder that your freaks are somebody's family. And vice versa.