Is Imitation Just Flattery?
A musing (read rant) by Carnal Queen.
The old saying “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” was said to me in a conversation I had earlier today, and it got me thinking. Is it really? Where do we draw the line? Because surely there has to be one somewhere, we can’t just be happy to let people imitate us as much as they like, in any walk of life, and just say we’re flattered by their attention. Imitation sucks. Fact.
My mood is pretty sombre today, I’ll admit, but that phrase has been ringing in my ears all day. It’s bothering me, and I just can’t get past it. Imitation can take on many forms, it can be about the way you dress, the things you say, your thoughts or beliefs, your work, or even your choice in partner, plus a million other things. When does it become weird or stalker like?
Growing up, we probably all aspired to be like some of our idols. Maybe we forged our style on them, and got a weird and wonderful hairstyle to pay homage to them. I never went that far, but I know some that did. Maybe it wasn’t so much idolism, but a desire to fit in. You didn’t get very far if you were the odd one out when I was a lass, so fitting in was important. That often meant dressing a certain way, or listening to the right kind of music or whatever. It’s all bullshit.
If I could go back and talk to my spotty, skinny, younger self, one of the main things I’d ram down my own throat, after leave the fucking biscuits alone, is to be true to myself. Who needs to conform? If anything, the older I’ve got, the more I’ve come to realise that individuality is so important in life. Forging your own way, laying your own path, is honestly the only way you’ll ever feel like you’ve truly made it.
As a blogger, I kinda feel like I’m up against the impersonators every day. Some will say I’m asking for it, and some would say I shouldn’t care, but I do. You might talk to CQ, my alter ego, but what people don’t always realise is, I am her. It might be a pen name of sorts, but I lay myself open, I share some parts of my real life, I let barriers down, and I often suffer for it. Some day’s I question if it’s all worth it.
There’s been a blogger (I use that term very loosely) doing the rounds recently, who seems to think it’s ok to make full use of the copy and paste function, blatantly copying whole reviews on her own website without a care in the world. There’s been lots of anger and uproar, and rightly so. We spend a lot of time producing our work, we want it to remain with us, and not be passed off as someone else’s. The reality is though, this is just a mild inconvenience. It can be reported very easily, and the content is quickly removed. She infringes copyright, it’s the law.
Don’t get me wrong, I hate that people think this is ok, but they’re usually quick to be brought to attention, from the (mostly) fabulous community and we deal with it. Her laziness and blatant attempts of stealing content kind of amuse me, she’s copied and pasted some parts which make it super obvious where it originated from. She gives no fucks, and so I generally won’t either. Keep doing it, we’ll keep finding it, and the cycle will continue.
But what happens when the likeness to you, or your work isn’t so obvious? When you know your words are being skimmed and mirrored, in fragments, in order to not draw attention? How do you deal with it? More and more, I’m seeing parts of myself and of others, in the words of other people. Should we just be flattered and get on with it? I have more of an issue with this than I do with the cheeky, lazy bastards who just full on rip out a piece and duplicate it elsewhere. They go to lengths to make it look original, often combining the work of two or three authors as well as some fluff of their own. It’s a kick in the guts, and it hurts.
As a writer, you naturally find your voice. I’ll be honest, some day’s mine is hidden deeply, because I’m trying to force myself to write under pressure. Those day’s I should leave it alone and walk away. But my voice is my voice, and yours is yours. I don’t own a copyright on the dictionary, and of course we will all cross paths and say similar things, it’s life. As a jewellery maker, I was once told that nothing you think of will ever be new, someone will always have already done it. It’s true of course, but I tell you what, when you see your words, jump off the screen at you, with another name attached to them, you know their yours. We become protective of them, like they’re our little alphabety babies. We never really let them out of our sight …
If I wanted a parody of myself, I’d create one. I don’t. Hearing my voice in another accent freaks me the fuck out, I want to run and hide. Why do I spend hours at the computer, just to let someone else reap the benefits? It’s a valid question.
I know heaps of authors with stuff published, in print or on the internet will face this every day too, so I kinda feel like I’m stamping my feet for no gain, because I know it will get me nowhere, but we shouldn’t have to protect our words like they are delicate butterflies. We should be able to send them out into the world and know they’re safe. Don’t clone, leave me the fuck alone.
I think I’ve reached the conclusion that I’m not flattered. Maybe initially, but it soon wears thin. I’ll help anyone out that asks for anything, if I can, and I know people will attest to that, so why do I feel like a mug?
Stop and think next time you buy that top, because your mate wears it so well, or you get your hair cut like Jennifer Aniston, or you share a story on social media because so-and-so got a laugh when they said similar. You’re not being true to yourself. Start thinking for yourself and stop being a sheep. Sheep hurt the feelings of those they try to replicate.