I got links from several friends recommending I watch the inspiring video, something really beautiful. I did. And yes, I found her singing quite beautiful, and she seemed a real character. But I wasn’t left with a feeling of inspiration – at least, not unadulterated inspiration. Actually, I was – well – enraged.
I gather this has been so popular because her voice is not what one would expect from someone with her appearance . No one expected it, and they (everyone?) were brought to an abrupt and profound realization their own prejudice based on appearance.
As a woman who has never really fit the standard definition of beautiful, and who has chosen (I admit it – from laziness, among other things) to leave my eyebrows wild and woolly, my first question was, if she had been beautiful, would she have made anywhere near the splash she did? Or did her combination of “frumpiness” and talent just create in people a combination of guilt (“I pre-judged her wrongly!”) and self-importance (“But now I realize how wrong I was, and how wonderful she is, and I’m not prejudiced anymore!”)? How long will the enlightenment last? Can we look forward to a new era of average-looking people, or even ugly people, being more generally noticed for their talents and other good qualities, the way movie stars have been?
That would surprise me a lot more than the beautiful voice that came out of Susan Boyle’s mouth. This is one of the reasons for my reaction.
Did no one in her 47 year lifetime realize she could sing? Or did they just not care? This is another reason for my reaction.
And does this mean that the spectacle of cruelty, which is part of the appeal of shows like Britain’s Got Talent and American Idol, will now be passe? That people who are average to frumpy, moderately or not at all talented, will now be shown a larger measure of respect, because we now know they probably have wonderful qualities we’re just not aware of yet?
That would be very gratifying. But I’m not holding my breath.
Now, she’s dyed her hair and had her eyebrows shaped, and people are frantically worrying that she won’t seem as authentic, and will lose her popularity. Or is it that they may no longer have the frumpy/talented dichotomy to bolster their feelings of virtuousness? Why is it such a big deal?
Unfortunately, it all seems to be a piece with, and not a break from, our society’s fixation on appearance. I would love to continue to see and hear Susan Boyle, as she develops her talent and goes through whatever changes this experience will bring to her. I would also love to see and hear other people, who don’t quite look like Angelina Jolie or Britney Spears or Jamie Foxx or any of the other good-looking and talented people, develop their own talents. And I’d like to see it all treated with respect, not like a freak show. As my former boss used to say, “Don’t act so surprised.”