Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Beauty good, homely bad.

Everyone is agog lately over the Susan Boyle video on YouTube. This dowdy, unmade up, steel wool hairdo, 47 yr old in her (British equivalent of) Sears Roebuck dress comes out to a sneering audience and unbowed and unafraid knocks their socks off with her wonderful voice and singing talent (they don't always go together.)

The first link I saw was on my Macintosh forum and the post was entitled "A grown man cried." And I have heard over and over again at how emotional people got at seeing this nobody come out and show the world her stuff to such great acclaim.
The incredulity of the judges, the sneers of the audience, the seeming ridiculousness of her desire—all swept away with a sudden "Wow! This is great!" realization.
It is truly inspiring. Even your curmudgeon got a little damp around the eyeballs and had to put aside his natural cynicism while watching that video—for a while at least. No cynicism for Ms. Boyle—she has got the goods and can deliver. But I wonder at what our reactions show about us, about our inability to separate appearance from reality. I have questions.

Honestly now, if it had been that blond judge (I didn't get her name but if anybody knows her phone number…) who came out and sang like that, would we have reacted the same way? Sure we'd applaud talent, but would those great fuzzy warm feelings from seeing someone defy expectations successfully have been there?
And doesn't this all show how we are all in thrall to the idea of visual beauty and its inherent superiority to plainness? That we still expect frumpy to be frumpy to the core and have no redeeming values? Why did everyone in that audience have this "Oh, god now what?" reaction to her appearance and desire to be a professional singer? Now I didn't, but then I was forewarned by the post and the article it linked to before I saw the video, so I cannot claim any superiority of vision here (darn it). Would they have greeted the blond with that same skepticism?
The feeling I noticed in myself, which I find a little discomfiting, was that somehow the approval of the blond judge made it all seem so much better. There she was with her beauty, decolletage and shiny cheeks (flushed with excitement or perhaps a stray tear of joy?) smiling and surprised and approving. And I wonder, did it all make the whole thing seem so much cooler because the cool dame loved the uncool dame? Would the video (and it was well-constructed for maximum effect) have been as effective if that woman looked like, oh, Eleanor Roosevelt for instance? I'm speaking as a male, I mean. I won't speak for the females among my readership.

Such as it is.

One of the two of you.

This event has a lot for people to think about in terms of their expectations, world view and prejudices. I like that the good-looking judge said "It was the biggest wake-up call ever."
That was true, but it shouldn't have been needed, for all of us.
But for the moment, for her, there was revelation. I hope it lasts.


dogboy443 said...

This just means that there's hope for you yet. I see the leather pants and 7 inch heels in your future. Don't forget I've heard you sing.

Oh Mamma can this really be the end...

curmudgeon said...

…to be stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis blues again.