Boneless Girl – by Carrie Monahan – FELINE ACNE
Between 2004 and 2005, I spent 15 minutes a day dragging a falling bikini-clad blonde woman, nameless and limp, between taut gray orbs on a pop-up ridden gaming site called Miniclip.com. I was in third grade, tired of mopping up pixelated vomit on Rollercoaster Tycoon or tossing pizzas for emotionally abusive tree stumps on the Zoombinis, when someone, an older cousin, I think, showed me Boneless Girl.
Thin and white and faceless, she fell for reasons and to depths unknown. Boneless Girl, I gathered, had been born of pixels (or maybe she’d died?) for my sadistic enjoyment, to be contorted and pulled through crevices on my desktop screen. Enjoyed after school with a strawberry-kiwi Snapple and a bowl of Pirate’s Booty, Boneless Girl’s plummet relieved me from the stress of dividing mixed numbers or the urge to sexually harass a chatbot named SmarterChild on AIM.
A threshold between CD-ROM games and the multiplayer online worlds of Club Penguin and Neopets, sites like Miniclip, RobotDuck and AddictingGames gave me games like “Stan Skates,” in which I made a thumb-shaped boy with eyebags do kickflips over tires and fire hydrants, and “Hotdog Bush,” in which I was the 43rd president trying to make it as a fast food vendor outside Yankee Stadium.
Bạn đang xem: Boneless Girl – by Carrie Monahan – FELINE ACNE
Meanwhile on eBaum’s World, a YouTube prototype crawling with viruses, I could watch a moody Belgian teenager with spiked hair and Minnie Mouse sheets croon the Algerian pop song “Aïcha” or flash animation clips of Osama bin Laden getting blasted into hell by Uncle Sam’s fart. It was all very edgy stuff.
That was my Internet just before the fall: when we, children of the early aughts, stood on the precipice but didn’t see our cyborg selves below: dry-eyed and hump-necked as we stared at filtered strangers, our wrist sensors urging us to trudge another thousand steps. The future seemed sexy then, and I was still happy.
That was when I started playing Boneless Girl: when screens, still relegated to desks or their very own “computer rooms,” offered escape instead of entrapment. Fifteen or so years ago, I could finish playing and power down when it was time to do homework, head to a playdate, ride my Razor scooter to the park, clean my guinea pig’s cage, or copy Seurat with magic marker dots at the Met. Easily and instantly, I could exit that universe and be back in mine.
But outside the game world, my girlhood interests were shifting. With my love for Kirsten, the Swedish pioneer girl whose bestie dies of cholera on the riverboat to Minnesota, suddenly lost, I stuffed my American Girl Dolls high up in my closet and turned on the TV. Desperate to consume what my cool older sister, then in early high school, watched, I managed, as a third-grader, to spend Thursday nights coveting Marissa Cooper’s hip bones and drug-dependent coolness on The O.C.
At 9, I thought Jessica Simpson’s confusion over Chicken of the Sea (“Is this chicken that I have, or is this fish?”) was understandable, and imitated her soapy, rump-shaking rendition of “These Boots Were Made For Walkin’” in the shower. Meanwhile, exposure to E! fostered dreams of living it up with Holly, Kendra and Bridget at the Playboy Mansion, but the realization that I’d have to kiss (or worse, hump!) Hef promptly put an end to those aspirations.
Nicole Richie was about to die, according to photos of her concave chest and sagging blue bikini bottoms on the beach in Malibu. At the pharmacy with my babysitter, I saw Nicole running forward, fixed between Keira Knightley’s sharp vertebrae and Kate Bosworth’s hollow cheeks, on the cover of People. The text above asked, “Is the celeb obsession with weight loss out of control”?
Ever tiny and fragile, they’d made themselves more visible, especially Nicole. Thirty pounds lighter than her early “Simple Life” self, who taught me to say “That’s hot,” “Loves it,” and “Sup, sexy?” to my classmates’ brothers, Nicole looked much prettier to me than before.
Boneless Girl, whose body type and haircut most closely resembled Paris Hilton’s, was the postfeminist fembot my younger self was taught both to hate and want to be. She was probably on Atkins, spoke in a baby voice and always had a fresh Brazilian wax. Maybe she spent her nights bumping ketamine at Les Deux, trying to forget the sex tape, years old and filmed in night vision, that her ex leaked online.
(Or she could have been Marissa Cooper, minus the low-rise jeans and blood-soaked hair, moments after death by vehicular homicide. Toxic bad boy Volchok has already fled the scene, leaving Ryan to pull her out of the burning wreckage and carry her long, size zero corpse down a desolate freeway to the tune of Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah.”)
If Boneless Girl is somehow awake, she may look up to find Jen Lindley, Sporty Spice, Dana Scully, Left Eye and Sleater Kinney peering down at the edge of the abyss, growing smaller as she plummets. Softer and softer, Carrie Brownstein’s dirge rings out: “My whole life… looked like a picture of a sunny day.”
Will our dumb little damsel ever hit the bottom to meet her postlapsarian fate? Roofied, dying or dead, will she land in Room 607 of the Hollywood, Florida Hard Rock Hotel? Will an EMT find her, splattered over pill bottles and stuck to the carpet as he straps an unresponsive Anna Nicole to a gurney?
Or, will she splash and sink into the turquoise waters off Aruba, circled by divers searching haplessly for Natalee Holloway’s remains?
At best, Boneless Girl will strain to open her heavy eyes and find herself with cotton mouth in a gray hoodie, slumped in the passenger seat of Samantha Ronson’s car. She will realize it was all just a
dream and go back to sleep knowing, according to the host of “The Apprentice,” being “deeply troubled” means she is “great in bed.”
By the time I reached middle school, the sight of young girls losing themselves, and sometimes their lives, provoked schadenfreude over sympathy. Many falling starlets, including Spears and Lohan, had once meant everything to me, until I learned from Perez Hilton, Us Weekly and E! to mock their plight. We might ascribe such cruelty to the way the Internet, combined with the paparazzi machine of the early 2000s, compounded the production and consumption of these young women’s images.
Thirty years before the world laughed at Britney’s shaved head or Lindsay’s vacant mugshot eyes, Susan Sontag warned us that photography was “turning living beings into things, things into living beings.” In other words, image-making and image-viewing had converted our 21st-century world into Sontag’s feared “department store or museum-without-walls in which every subject is depreciated into an article of consumption.” Repeated exposure to their suffering-whether self-starvation, addiction, depression or mania-anesthetized us irreparably, making their torment feel less real.
Boneless Girl, of course, existed only as an image—legs, arms and breasts made of pixels made of subpixels of varying red, green and blue light. Someone created her for a game with no scores, its only goal to abuse a parody of a woman who, beyond the screen, did not exist. Though Lindsay, Britney, Paris, Nicole, Mischa, Ashley and Mary-Kate were real, our constant viewing of their images (mugshots, drug shots, crotch shots and court shots) untethered the person from her picture. It thus seemed that they too did not exist offscreen.
By 2008, the public’s dissociative seeing of celebutantes mirrored my own unmooring of image from self. That January, I turned 12, having just gotten my first period and a Facebook account within weeks of each other. Progressively, I was looking at screens (namely my new MacBook and swiveling LG TV phone) more than real life, seeking out friendships with glamorous girls from other all-girls schools whom I’d never met in person.
In pictures, they looked so much older than me, their legs tan and long on the sands of Nikki Beach, their breasts pushed up in bandage dresses beneath the awning of the Ritz Tower on 57th and Park. In the span of a few months, I’d moved on from Club Penguin to constantly taking pictures of myself using my Mac’s Photo Booth app, learning to suck in my nostrils and purse my top lip so that my face would look less fat online.
Having gotten their attention with designer handbags pilfered from my mom’s closet and frequent photo comments like “omg ur soooo pretty i wanna die,” I endeavored to look like my new friends by eating only yogurt, apples, rice cakes and single daily slices of provolone cheese. I was tired and hungry, getting a C in biology and missing my period, but I’d made myself thin and pretty to the boys I knew from Thursday nights at cotillion.
On vacation with my family over Christmas, I took hundreds of pictures of my new body in a bikini on Photo Booth in the hotel bathroom, choosing one where my ribs looked most prominent as my iChat icon. Immediately, blue, gray and green (i.e. male) bubbles popped up with messages like “suuupppp,” “nice pic,” and “is that u?” One was from my soon-to-be first kiss, a boy who’d called me fat the summer before and would later dump me at his Bar Mitzvah.
On sleepovers, my new friends and I, deemed “fast girls” by the anxious moms at my school, put on lip gloss and tight tank tops for hours-long video chats with our shorter male peers. More often than not, they had us watch pornographic videos like “Two Girls One Cup” while they watched us, terrified, on their own screens.
If we were feeling particularly adventurous (or bored), we would play Chat Roulette, inviting disembodied dicks from Bucharest to Cleveland into our pastel-painted adolescent bedrooms. Every so often, a fuzzy baby chick standing on a tabletop with a coiled python behind him would appear in the window, accompanied by the message “boobs or I move him closer.” The first several times this happened, we spent minutes agonizing over what to do, until I took one for the team and flashed my barely budding breasts as fast as I could. It turned out to be a pre-recorded video, designed to dupe dimwits like us into exposing ourselves to faceless men who jerked off and laughed at their very own Bimbo Summits of foolish teenage girls.
Looking back, I wonder how many incels in the making went from dragging Boneless Girl through bubbles to scaring us into flashing them on Chat Roulette. Was Elliot Rodgers, born the same year as my sister, folding Boneless Girl into nooks and throwing her across his desktop in California while I did the same in New York? Years later, did part of him think of her when he threw coffee at girls for not smiling at him? Did he see her in the “hottest sorority girls” he killed? The ones who “gave their affection, and sex and love to other men but never to (him)”?
Maybe Boneless Girl gave imminent incels, before they knew the language for it, the chance to play Chads, dominating Stacys (or Parises) by grabbing their pussies when they felt like it. Or maybe Boneless Girl, with her short hair and flat ass, is more of a Becky, pretending not to want attention and daring to think guys like her “natural” look. That may have been her fatal flaw.
A few days ago, when I showed my friend screen recordings of someone playing Boneless Girl, they said she looked like an image from our early childhood: the people on 9/11 jumping from the upper floors of the Twin Towers, lest they die from smoke inhalation or the weight of falling steel instead. Six miles north, I was in my second week of Kindergarten that day, sitting with my sister in our school gym. Among the only girls left waiting there by the afternoon, our babysitter was still trudging uptown from NYU while our mom was on air at Rockefeller Center.
I think I saw those falling people on TV that night, their dress shirts and blouses catching air like sails. A few years later, I spent several hours watching YouTube clips of the victims falling. There were no bubble clusters to catch them. No one to click and drag them through the particulate matter over Vesey Street.
Googling Boneless Girl the other night, I found a playable knockoff called “Ragdoll Physics Game” on a sketchy site called Y8.com. With a thinner waist and Bar Method-sculpted legs, she was higher def than the fallen girl I once knew-tits and ass made of more pixels per inch. Her short brown hair pulled back in a ponytail, she was a ringer for Hilaria Baldwin, black lingerie and all, during a rare moment between gestations. Ragdoll’s drop was slower than Boneless Girl’s, and the bubbles she hit were iridescent and sparse. Her black stilettos, which never slipped off, appeared fused to her size 6 feet.
Lying in bed, I suspended her in the air with my mouse, then placed her body flat on a shelf of rainbow orbs. Moving from computer to phone screen, where @emrata’s ab crack would consume the next 10 minutes of my life, I let the ragdoll rest there until I went to sleep.