Michelle Ephraim is Associate Professor of English at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Along with fellow Shakespearean Caroline Bicks (Boston College) she writes a humor blog called Everyday Shakespeare. It's delivered fresh Monday-Friday at www.everydayshakespeare.com.


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SEPTEMBER 6, 2010 10:11PM

How I Became a Stock Character

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How I Became a Stock Character

It all started when I got the email with the pictures. Like other faculty members with an outdated online profile picture, I was asked to make a visit to the university photographer. Given that I’m sporting a sweatshirt and damp hair in my current photo, this request seemed reasonable.

But the problem is that I actually like my current picture because I look like I don’t care. I tried to go for this look again, showing up for the photo session in a ratty black shirt. Kind of an edgy, anti-The Man look.

The end result, as I just discovered, are photos that capture a middle-aged woman trying to look cool. There’s me in a ratty black shirt against a blue marbleized corporate backdrop. I’m trying not to smile too hard, but it just looks like I’m emotionally wounded.

What bothers me, I think, is that I recognize the person in the proof sheet as a Type, drawn in Shakespeare’s pre-Cougar ladies like Cleopatra, who like to preen and be affirmed as all that. A woman whose age makes vanity a little embarrassing.

Now we’re familiar with this person in a regular comic context: Cougartown, Stephanie Dolgoff’s My Formerly Hot Life: Dispatches from Just the Other Side of Young, Tina Fey’s bit with Justin Bieber on SNL, etc., etc.

There’s nothing funny about those pictures of me. But I think I’ll send them to my friends just to make sure.

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