Thanks to a 13-year old niece of Boing Boing, I found Badass Buddy. It's a site with 1,200 AIM free buddy icons, a collection which, over 2+ years, has evolved from simple riffs on the little AOL dude (you know, the one who hooked up with Sharon Stone) into a unique medium of its own.
In addition to the predictable ones--Fart, Spongebob, Jackass, School Sucks-- BAB has created little narratives that are HI-larious, timely, touching, and pretty damn cool. To tell these tiny stories, BAB sometimes treats the icon window as a screen, or as a camera. And they adapted some recognizably cinematic visual language, including "camera" angles and movement (e.g., pans, zooms), lighting effects, editing (shot/reverse-shot, establishing/close-up, jump cuts), even Bullet Time.
But they also play off the unique characteristics of the medium--a medium which was probably never intended as one, but which has been embraced and exploited to express the worldview of an IM generation.
The problem is something new to me, age-appropriateness. According to Honda, the Element was designed as a "dorm room on wheels." According to the auto industry's demographic master strategy, I shouldn't want a "dorm room on wheels" any more than I want a "living room on wheels." But even if there were a "loft on wheels," my indignation at being so target marketed would probably keep me from buying it. (It's a Gen-X thing, you wouldn't understand. Unless you read Newsweek.)