Susan Boyle Part 2

48 posts / 0 new
Last post
Maysie Maysie's picture
Susan Boyle Part 2

Continued from here

Maysie Maysie's picture

Unionist, from the closed thread:

Quote:
 Our youngest daughter reported that "it made me cry", which seems to have been true for many many other people. She also praised Tanya Gold's article when I referred her to it. Is this a contradiction? Yes, but it's not inconsistent. There are lots of Hollywood flicks that aim for that same effect. The feelings on the part of the viewers/listeners are likely genuine and human. The manipulators have very different aims. I'd like to see someone (feminist preferably) with more expertise than I have (i.e. zero) analyse this contradiction.

There are tons of feminists who look at pop culture with a feminist lens. Tara Gold's piece is one, and as others pop up how's about we post them here as well?

I don't see that crying, or being moved by Susan's performance, is contradictory to feminism. We are all products of Western media, let's call it razzmatazz. While I may have trained myself to respond less to skinny women singing about lost love in the over-processed way that nusic is presented, I may still be moved by someone who is less polished, etc.

And a point that N.R. Kissed said about public performances, that we rarely hear live singing, with un-enhanced voice software. Rarely does any professional walk out onto an empty and huge stage to sing. It's meant to intimidate (anyone ever try to sing when nervous or tense? Hell, talk?). And reality T.v. has a whole other judgemental thingy about it, which is why people watch it and why it makes "good" (for advertisers) t.v. Doesn't mean that once in a while something "real" will happen, that has enough of a dot of truth and sincerity that will touch and move people.

ElizaQ ElizaQ's picture


Here's a few that I've found. Most from links from feminist blogs and comments in them.


Letty Cottin Pogrebin

Quote:
Half the women I sent the link to cried when they watched the YouTube clip of Susan Boyle on Britain's Got Talent and I think I know why.

-----

After she got her unanimous Yes votes from Simon, Amanda, and Piers, I typed "Ageism Be Damned" in the subject line of an email and sent the YouTube link to everyone on my Women's Issues list and within an hour, more than a dozen had written to tell me that it made them weep. Since then I've talked to other friends who've confessed to the same reaction. What are we all crying about? What is it about this woman that touches us so deeply?

Partly, I think it's the age thing, the fact that a woman closing in on 50 had the courage to compete with the kids -- and blew them out of the water. "Women of a certain age" should be forgiven for finding vicarious satisfaction in Susan's victory. In plain words, it's an up-yours to the cocky youth culture that often writes us off.

Then, too, we were weeping for the years of wasted talent, the career that wasn't, the time lost -- both for Susan Boyle and two generations of her putative fans. If someone with a voice like Julie Andrews' spent decades in a sea of frustration and obscurity, how many other women (and men) must be out there becalmed in the same boat? I believe we were crying for them and for whatever unrealized, yet-to-be-expressed talent may lie within ourselves.

But I'd wager that most of our joyful tears were fueled by the moral implicit in Susan's fairy-tale performance: "You can't tell a book by its cover." For such extraordinary artistry to emerge from a woman that plain-spoken, unglamorous, and unyoung was an intoxicating reminder of the wisdom in that corny old cliché. The three judges and virtually all those who watched Susan Boyle in the theater (and probably on YouTube as well) were initially blinded by entrenched stereotypes of age, class, gender, and Western beauty standards, until her book was opened and everyone saw what was inside.

I think we cried because her story appears to be en route to a happy ending, but also, perhaps, for all the books whose covers have never been cracked.

 

Patricia Williams

Quote:
The first email about Susan Boyle was forwarded to me by a friend who works for a human rights organisation. Her message fumed that Boyle had been "disrespected as a woman". The second email came from a retired neighbour who was unnerved by the ageism on display from Simon Cowell and the other judges. The third was from a vegan who despises the cosmetics industry for experimenting on animals and was delighted that Boyle hadn't worn a speck of make-up that anyone could tell. The fourth was from a law school classmate who saw her success as the apotheosis of a just order, the fifth from an Indian friend who deemed it a liberatory moment for persons of low caste.

---------------

My fairy tale construction of Boyle's performance idealises her as a black American woman revealed as princess. I know that must sound like a stretch, but as a black American woman, I live in a world where the colour of one's skin is at least as powerful an indicator of status as whether Boyle wore open-toed white heels with sheer black hosiery and let her hair go grey.

---
I grew up in a culture of racial hierarchy, where being black and female automatically meant that you were oxen-like, stupid, undesired. Such measures are insidiously, seductively easy and they are powerful; hence I spent my life grasping for that Susan Boyle moment when I might open my mouth and rock the world to its foundations. Yes, I admit, this is an impossibly romantic figuration. But this dreamy yearning for visibility is what purchases communion with those millions of Boyle's other fans, still rapidly increasing.

Boyle's rendering of I Dreamed a Dream was a powerful artistic comeback to the smirks with which she was greeted. But unlike a fairy tale, her story continues to unfold in real time, and whatever magic she deployed to wipe the contempt off the judges' faces for a few seconds began to diminish as they regained their composure.

------------

For all Boyle's success, this relentless narrative of "who'd have thought it" must be painful. One of the loveliest aspects of Boyle's demeanour was how straightforward, lively and confident she was. I should think it might be hard for her ever to be so unaffected again. Cowell and his snarky team hold up a distorting mirror that is often quite irresistible; it invites its victims to internalise the unkind gaze of the supercilious. Thus is born the etiology of embarrassment. Did Boyle really see herself as old, dowdy, unfashionable and undesirable until she was told so, in public, in no uncertain terms?

In subsequent television appearances, Boyle has been made up, gussied up, fluffed, coiffed and crimped. Debates rage about whether she should stay the way she was at the magic moment of first discovery, forever the ugly duckling on the cusp of swanhood. I am not one who believes that she must never change - it seems rather inevitable, for better or worse. But the reason Boyle is a heroine has little to do with her transforming any aspect of herself. Rather, it was she who transformed the audience, it was she who challenged their beliefs.

Boyle's lesson is not that she is a book whose "cover" deceived people. That's as crass as the supposedly well-meaning comments I sometimes heard growing up: that I might look black on the outside, but I was nice and white inside. Rather, the problem was the audience's self-deception. Dismissing her - or anyone - based on careless expectations about what age or lack of employment supposedly signify is the habit of mind common to all forms of prejudice.

 

Feminist Law Professors

Quote:
It wasn't singer Susan Boyle who was ugly on Britain's Got Talent so much as our reaction to her"

 Long Quote from Tanya Gold Article

--------

I wouldn't have articulated it in quite the same way, but I think Gold is essentially correct. When Simon tells Susan Boyle she is a "little tiger" I really wanted to throw up. She rolls it off with a lot of equanimity and class. The only thing that makes watching the portions of the video clip in which the judges are speaking tolerable to me is the utter joy the entire experience seems to bring to Susan Boyle. Listen to the clip without watching it by burying it behind other windows, and see if it sounds different to you then when you watch it. (Incidentally, unlike Golden I did think the judges were condescending toward Paul Potts, particularly when Amanda Holden refers to him as "a little lump of coal" that's "going to turn into a diamond." But I agree that Susan Boyle got far worse.)

 

The Susan Boyle Phenomenon

Quote:
Don't get me wrong: I love Susan Boyle. I love her story, I love the phenomenon, I love the comments around the world from people tearfully rejoicing in the triumph of a "normal" person. I hope she sells a million CDs. I guess I'm just wondering what it all means. As Tamar Abrams observes in the HuffPost, "the problem is that recognition of her talent is directly proportionate to her lack of good looks and youth...what does it say about the civilized world that our expectations for greatness are diminished when people are unattractive and/or old?"

Well, I'm going to take a wild swing here and say that it means our civilization is shallow and superficial and crap. It's also sexist. Abrams asks, "when did looks and age become the bar by which we are each judged?" which of course is a rhetorical question, unless Abrams has just arrived here as an exchange student from the Andromeda Galaxy. Looks and age have always been the bar by which women are judged, at least in male-dominated societies. The only thing that's changed in my lifetime is that the bar has gotten higher. The pornification of our culture means that we are surrounded by a nonstop effluvient of plasticized fembot imagery, beside which any normal human being looks like Gollum. No wonder real live women are having their parts changed out for artificial bits; they're just trying to look more like what's on the Spice Channel.

The double standard is especially obvious in the performing arts. Of course beauty is a big plus for anybody, male or female, but the fact is that men with talent and ability have never been held back by ugliness, chubbiness, hairlessness, or any other -ess I can think of. Pop music, for example, is full of deeply ugly men - and I mean scary ugly - as well as average blokes with paunches and receding hairlines (hello, Elton John and Phil Collins). And can anyone imagine a woman of Meatloaf's heft having the kind of career he had? My youth was haunted by videos of Meatloaf sweating and howling through 8-minute songs in heavy rotation on MTV, but when Ann Wilson put on a few pounds she was practically banned from the channel. America had to be protected from the horror.

I don't see things changing anytime soon, but at least the wonderful Susan Boyle has given us a brief bit of breathing space. Enjoy it while it lasts.

 

 Jezebel

Quote:
The party line on "unlikely sensation" Susan Boyle is that we're all obsessed with appearances. But if that's true...why do we all love being wrong so much?
--------------
The media furor surrounding Susan Boyle is noteworthy: today alone she appeared on CBS's Early Show, and was lauded by Patti LuPone for her rendition of "I Dreamed A Dream." Having only appeared in the qualifying round for Britain's Got Talent, it's already assumed that Boyle will receive a lucrative recording contract. The blogs are a-twitter with this Magical Woman, come to teach us Lessons. What fools we are! we self-castigate. Here's a dowdy lady who doesn't look like an American Idol contestant and we judge! Because she hasn't received validation from the patriarchy, we assume she's unworthy! And we were wrong! Stupid, stupid, shallow idiots! We judge! And are found wanting! Ad nauseam! For the record, I do believe the outpouring of emotion elicited by Boyle's bravura performance was completely genuine; it's our critical reaction that gives me pause.
------

Sure, part of it is probably novelty. It's not just Boyle's unmanicured appearance, but the fact that, to Americans especially, she's one of the few exotics left to us: a figure seemingly from another era, not merely old-fashioned in presentation but in her total disregard for norms. For let's face it: it's not just Boyle's appearance that generated skepticism, but the fact that she wouldn't realize it to be a deterrent. It seems to me disingenuous and simplistic to keep harping on our judging Boyle because she was "ugly" - which she is not - when the issue seems more one of juxtaposition than anything. To attempt this sort of show, but not to buy into the accepted mold, was an act of impunity that seemed to disregard of all the rules of the game, and made one fear that here was another deluded, oblivious person being exploited for laughs. Our joy was as much relief as surprise. And that joy is very real.

--------------------------
There is indeed something worrisome about plucking someone from obscurity and feting them for a week or so to make the rest of us feel better, reducing her to a two-dimensional character who reaffirms our belief in the Power of Dreams, never mind that Boyle seemed neither miserable before, nor particularly turned by the attention. (Indeed, she seems insufficiently willing to play the role for many of the interviewers, who seem reduced to portraying her as "lovable character" rather than "tragic redeemer.") It is a relief to know that Boyle's precursor, the opera-singing mobile-phone salesman Paul Potts, has actually gone on to a recording career and has not been abandoned by a fickle public, after having briefly Saved Us From Shallowness.

Why are we so delighted to have been mistaken? Why are we so happy to have the joke be on us? However manufactured and edited the shock of Boyle's performance - surely a producer's dream - we clearly choose to accept it at face value and cast ourselves as the villains needing to learn Important Lessons. It could have something to do with a deep-seeded sense of societal self-loathing, and a frustration with a pre-programmed and air-brushed world. It could be rooted in a sense of collective guilt, or identification. I think we just want to believe that cliches are true - and that we, too, are capable of Learning and Growing. Said Boyle, "Modern society is too quick to judge people on their appearances... There is not much you can do about it; it is the way they think; it is the way they are. But maybe this could teach them a lesson, or set an example."

 

There's also quite a few articles/comments from women and people with disabilities about it. Some of those links can be found in the comment section of the Letty Cottin Pogrebin piece.

 

 

 

 

remind remind's picture

Thanks eliza,  and they are basically what I was saying, but more wordy.

aka Mycroft

I don't think it's at all inconsistent to be pro-Susan Boyle and anti-Britain's Got Talent (and the genre in general).

Unionist

Thanks so much for this collection, ElizaQ. I especially appreciate the attempts to understand why we (all of us - me included) react with the complex of emotions that this incident elicits. Jezebel was my favourite - this is just one excerpt worth repeating:

Jezebel wrote:
Why are we so delighted to have been mistaken? Why are we so happy to have the joke be on us? However manufactured and edited the shock of Boyle's performance - surely a producer's dream - we clearly choose to accept it at face value and cast ourselves as the villains needing to learn Important Lessons. It could have something to do with a deep-seeded [sic] sense of societal self-loathing, and a frustration with a pre-programmed and air-brushed world. It could be rooted in a sense of collective guilt, or identification. I think we just want to believe that cliches are true - and that we, too, are capable of Learning and Growing. Said Boyle, "Modern society is too quick to judge people on their appearances... There is not much you can do about it; it is the way they think; it is the way they are. But maybe this could teach them a lesson, or set an example."

Oh, and this refutation of the "can't tell a book by its cover" is excellent:

Patricia Williams wrote:
Boyle's lesson is not that she is a book whose "cover" deceived people. That's as crass as the supposedly well-meaning comments I sometimes heard growing up: that I might look black on the outside, but I was nice and white inside. Rather, the problem was the audience's self-deception. Dismissing her - or anyone - based on careless expectations about what age or lack of employment supposedly signify is the habit of mind common to all forms of prejudice.

Daedalus Daedalus's picture

Quote:
Sure, part of it is probably novelty. It's not just Boyle's unmanicured appearance, but the fact that, to Americans especially, she's one of the few exotics left to us: a figure seemingly from another era, not merely old-fashioned in presentation but in her total disregard for norms. For let's face it: it's not just Boyle's appearance that generated skepticism, but the fact that she wouldn't realize it to be a deterrent. It seems to me disingenuous and simplistic to keep harping on our judging Boyle because she was "ugly" - which she is not - when the issue seems more one of juxtaposition than anything. To attempt this sort of show, but not to buy into the accepted mold, was an act of impunity that seemed to disregard of all the rules of the game, and made one fear that here was another deluded, oblivious person being exploited for laughs. Our joy was as much relief as surprise. And that joy is very real.

Yes, there's that aspect to it too. Perhaps the surprise is not really that she could sing well so much - after all, Canadian audiences at least are familiar with older women who lack conventional good looks being talented performers (eg Rita MacNeil) - as that she turned out not to have been put on the show for the purpose of derision. Usually these shows start off with a few people being introduced specifically to be mocked and the audience is intelligent enough to know that they were selected out of the candidates for precisely that purpose. In a way, that lets the audience, at least, off the hook - maybe it's not just a simple case of a shallow and superficial audience being surprised and confounded that such a woman might be able to sing, but that it would occur in the context that it did.

It gives evidence of something else disturbing, too, though. The whole thing, I am sure, was vetted by the producers beforehand and they pretty much knew what sort of spectacle it would produce and what the reaction would be. I am sure other Susan Boyles have auditioned for these shows and been turned away in the past. What that means is that entertainment bigwigs know full well that audiences do not demand a shallow, vapid, superficial, throw-away crap culture at all, and it doesn't really sell - unless it's all that's on offer. Mass audiences are in fact starving for even just the smallest taste of real culture. Not that alot of us didn't know it already anyway, but it demonstrates that the banal superficiality of popular culture has been imposed, and is sustained, from above rather than by popular demand.

It might not be so much that the average viewer was like a haughty aristocrat witnessing a peasant do something considered surprising, as that the average viewer was like a prisoner locked in a dungeon who is unexpectedly allowed to go outside for a few minutes for the first time in years. There's nothing surprising or miraculous about the yard outside his prison; the surprise is that he's been permitted a brief taste of it, and the tears and relief are just a natural reaction to a moment of normalcy after long deprivation.

remind remind's picture

"but it demonstrates that the banal superficiality of popular culture has been imposed, and is sustained, from above rather than by popular demand."

Exactly, and why is this?

ElizaQ ElizaQ's picture

Unionist,  it took some time and not what I was planning to do this morning until you mentioned it in your post,  but I did find it really interesting to do.   So I thank you for providing the motivation.  :D  I also appreciated coming across all of the attempts to try to explain it all not just for my own personal answer but all of the other people out there looking at why as well.  I do know that there have been some comments here and elsewhere about how it's all just manipulation and people being taken in by it but I can't help but feel that there is something more to it, which some of these musing attempt to talk about. For whatever reasons it has hit some sort of widespread nerve and I do think from some sort of mass cultural perspective it is fascinating.

 The youtube videos and other videos of it are now setting up to be the most viewed videos on the worldwide net, ever, all within just over a week. 

 From three days ago:  The Biggest You Tube Sensation Ever?

                                 Boyle's Got Viral Video Talent

 From yesterday:    Susan Boyle's Video set to Exceed 100 million views

 The other big video that those posts talk about 'The Evolution of Dance' took over two years to reach this point. I had never heard of it before and before I clicked on it I expected it to be some sort of big amazing dance production or something like that and it's ends up it is just one guy, a comedian, on stage running through a medly of songs and the dance styles that stereotypical went with the songs.  I did enjoy it and laughed a lot at it, mainly though (I think) because it made remember days gone by when I knew people and yes unfortunately myself for some of them, danced like that and it was just silly. I was able to relate to it from the position of my average life.  Maybe that's part of it's appeal? I don't really know.  Still I was surprised that a video like was one of the most viewed ever.   The other most viewed is Avril Leveigne song, which I also thought was strange for other reasons.

While looking for views primarily from a feminist perspective I of course came across many, many others.  The weirdest ones being from those of a right wing relgious viewpoint who talked about her being a prophet from God and the most crazy ones that she is 'good Christian woman' who is speaking out against the moral decay of western civilization or  has appeared as part of the setting of the stage for God's return and the demise of the world or something along those lines. I didn't stick around to read those ones in depth. :)   I did mention some links to how some people with disabilities view it.   Then there are the numerous and very partisan political sites like FR which on quick perusal were mostly positive and the people on them said much the same as very many other people are.   I also found a whole bunch of sites from non-western countries, some in english and many not  so unfortunately couldn't read all of them.  It really is all over the place though. If I read/see correctly it's been played on Chinese tv and has shown up in tv or news shows in South America.

If I was to make any analysis of the 'why' is that there seems to be no one reason that people find it appealling. In the into to Patricia Williams article she relates some of those perspectives.   The only across the board reaction I found wherever it was posted was that it hits many people, no matter where they seem to be from,  in the heart for personal reasons and this sort of reaction does cross gender lines.  I did come across a site that translated some of the comments from China and there were many that said that they didn't even understand what she was singing but it made them cry or get all emotional about this 'Auntie'.

 

 

 

 

the truth

The Susan Boyle story has nothing to do with feminism. I am a man and I cried, and I am not ashamed to say so.

We have all been so affected for many different reasons, but I think in many ways it is because she represents the "average" person who finally recieved recognition. She personifies all of our own dreams and aspirastions for oursleves. Add to that the very emotional song that she sung. That song always brings tears to my eyes regardless.

Anyway, I pray that her cinderella fairy tale story continues and that she finds fame, fortune and happiness.

GOOD FOR HER !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Unionist

Bullshit. Sorry, I mean: I disagree with every single thing in that post, including the prayer part. God has a lot more to do than make Susan Boyle wealthy.

 

remind remind's picture

I agree unionist wth, pray? It always amazes me when people say pray shit about winning Big Brother, or some other contest. Like who the hell to they think they are kidding other than themselves, if the was a God, said God would not be concerned about their puny little actions when they are already in a state of privilege compared to the majority of the rest of the world. And the heights of arrogance that they believe "God" would be more concerned with their little efforts at winning a game, as opposed to millions dying from starvation around the world, or in capitalist wars, is mind boggling.

aka Mycroft

Daedalus wrote:

 to it too. Perhaps the surprise is not really that she could sing well so much - after all, Canadian audiences at least are familiar with older women who lack conventional good looks being talented performers (eg Rita MacNeil) - as that she turned out not to have been put on the show for the purpose of derision.

See that's the thing - there are middle aged performers who are heavier, haven't had plastic surgery and don't look like models- and Susan Boyle is only about 20 lbs or so overweight. However, generally, they have their hair done professionally, have make up professionally done and are well dressed. If the purpose of a show like Britain's Got Talent was to showcase unknown talent at its best you'd think they'd have professional hair and make up people on staff and perhaps even have wardrobe available (though that might be pushing it). Either they don't, or they didn't allow Susan Boyle to benefit from it, because it is something of a freak show and among the narratives they are looking for is "commoner who think they are better than they are and makes a complete fool of themselves" as well as "ugly duckling/rags to riches" so of course they have someone who comes in from the village with bad hair, no or bad make up and a bad frock and the last thing they think is "well, let's see what we can do, dear, to showcase you at your best". And let's not forget that the show was actually taped several weeks before it was aired so obviously they had the opportunity to choose shots that underscore the narrative they decided upon - eg derisive looks from the audience beforehand.

Of course the big question is did Simon Cowell, the owner of the show as well as a judge (no conflict of interest there) have any clue what was coming?

That being said I don't think the whole thing is a con job. The reason it's moved so many people (and I cried when I saw it as well) is because Boyle is a real person with a heart breaking story who any person with a modicum of humanity would sympathise with and want to see succeed. She is not the fraud here. But that doesn't mean that her real story is not being exploited and manipulated by Cowell (who is reportedly trying to sign Boyle to a record deal with *his* label) as well as the entertainment industry and media at large who recognize that in the midsts of a massive economic downturn and growing anti-establishment sentiment a "working class hero/rags to riches" story is exactly what people will respond to.

Here's John Doyle's take

Quote:

The Boyle phenomenon has been a great, heartwarming experience for tens of millions of people. They feel vindicated every time they see the video. They empathize and connect with Boyle; they do a mental tut-tut when the judges roll their eyes and the audience sniggers at the middle-aged, plain woman. They are conning themselves that in the same situation they wouldn't react exactly as the judges and the audience did before Boyle began singing in that stunning voice.

See, the Boyle phenomenon is well and good, but the problem with it is that it reveals our collective hypocrisy about reality TV, beauty and talent.

If American Idol and its many imitations actually featured a lot of people who looked like Boyle, then hardly anybody would watch.

What we want is young, pretty people to gaze at. We think we root for the underdog, but we don't really. We are a superficial, catty and vapid culture. We aren't interested in authenticity. We mainly watch TV shows featuring people we'd like to date, touch and have sex with.

It's true. Why on earth do you think every supposedly serious crime drama on prime-time TV features a young woman in a tight top who is obliged to run at least once an episode, just so her swaying bosom becomes the focal point on the screen? Because broadcasters study what we want and give it us - youth and beauty. The broadcasters know that men won't bother watching a show if it doesn't feature a woman the male audience can fantasize about.

The attention given to Boyle is the exception that proves the rule - we are relentlessly superficial. This isn't the fault of television. It's a collective weakness, and we get the popular culture we deserve.

In the Boyle case, though, the true irony is that it's possible we have been expertly manipulated. There is something far too slick and staged about the clip of Boyle on Britain's Got Talent. Simon Cowell is one the great Svengalis of popular music. The idea that Cowell was completely taken aback by Boyle's voice is simply too far-fetched.

Pop music - especially British pop music - has a history that evolves in back-and-forth shifts of surface glamour being replaced by an arch version of street-level authenticity. The pomposity of 1970s art-rock was replaced by the cultivated ugliness of punk. The fashion-conscious new romantics music of the 1980s was replaced by no-fashion grunge. And so the wheel turns.

In this instance, it is entirely plausible that Cowell and his cohorts deliberately set out to replace all those young, chirpy, flibbertigibbet singers with their own version of grunge: Susan Boyle, the middle-aged, plain-looking lady who knows little of romance or glamour, but acts as a beacon, a signifier for the next phase of the reality-TV genre encapsulated in American Idol. Here come the middle-aged, ordinary-looking people. Here comes the next manufactured trend.

So far, it's working. By the time you read this, more people will have seen that Boyle clip than watched the Academy Awards this year.

She's a phenomenon, but it's perfectly possible that she is a phenomenon foisted upon us.

It's not that we're facing up to the collective hypocrisy that Boyle reveals to us. We're congratulating ourselves for cheering her on and having the cockles of our hearts warmed by her. We're deluding ourselves about our honesty and fairness. Simon Cowell knows this, too. Everything is illusion.

And every time Ellen DeGeneres grins and says, "Inner beauty is important. But not nearly as important as outer beauty!" we know we agree. We know it's hypocritical but we enjoy the joke. Now we will delude ourselves that we believe in inner beauty, too. At least in certain cases, like when the person has a great voice and deserves a break in the showbiz racket. We've probably been hoodwinked into this. We are hypocrites. We are idiots.

Daedalus Daedalus's picture

aka Mycroft wrote:
Here's John Doyle's take

Quote:

It's not that we're facing up to the collective hypocrisy that Boyle reveals to us. We're congratulating ourselves for cheering her on and having the cockles of our hearts warmed by her. We're deluding ourselves about our honesty and fairness. Simon Cowell knows this, too. Everything is illusion.

And every time Ellen DeGeneres grins and says, "Inner beauty is important. But not nearly as important as outer beauty!" we know we agree. We know it's hypocritical but we enjoy the joke. Now we will delude ourselves that we believe in inner beauty, too. At least in certain cases, like when the person has a great voice and deserves a break in the showbiz racket. We've probably been hoodwinked into this. We are hypocrites. We are idiots.

Hmmm ... I don't know if I find that explanation satisfying. I mean, maybe it is for some. But what if I'm overweight or I have bad hair or can't afford nice clothes? Am I, then, some sort of hypocrite cheering her on because I'm trying to prove to myself that I'm not superficial? Or is it me I'm seeing up on that stage?

Unionist

Another excellent commentary:

[url=The">http://blogs.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-literary-mind/200904/the-stagi... Staging of Susan Boyle[/url]

Quote:

There's a Shakespearean purging here. We see an auditorium full of shallow people reject someone ugly. Then, we see her perform well. Then we, by way of independent judgment, embrace her. We feel proud of ourselves.

But let it be known that this is exactly the sort of purging--like eating the Eucharist or pledging routine apologies--that allows us to return to former patterns.

For context, remember that--without a doubt--Simon Cowell had seen this women sing before. He and his crew had vetted her in multiple pre-T.V. auditions. Know that he also had a plan: He would stage her as "ugly." He would not dye her hair, gird her with make-up, or suggest a more flattering dress before this international T.V. performance. He would encourage her to confess her virginity. As the TV's rolled, he did roll his own eyes in faux-doubt, a drama of his classic cynicism. But Simon Cowell knew exactly how this woman would sing before she opened her slightly mustached mouth. [...]

In this light, the whole Susan Boyle incident can be read as a sort of "bread and circus." That was the phrase that Romans used to explain the trickster power of their empire. It meant that if you throw the masses some occasional crumb--some food or joy--you can get away with tyranny. That's how I see this Susan Boyle thing. Our media is a factory and government of the superficial: They've gotten rich by valuing, and having us value, simple, sensational stuff. They can only get away with this behavior if they occasionally throw us a crumb--if they say, "Look, some ugly people happen to sound pretty!!" (Get out!! Can you believe it?!) This crumb comes with the message that "we respect nuance; we respect personality."

But do they, really; or is this just some ritual penance on their part?

 

remind remind's picture

That is not the way got talent shows occur, people line up, take a number, and then perform when it is their turn, there is no pre-vetting/pre-seeing of the contestants.

Unionist

Laughing

remind remind's picture

Laugh all you want it is a fact.

Unionist

LaughingLaughing

So it really was an Epiphany! A Miracle! Redemption!

 

remind remind's picture

never called it a epiphany redemption or anything else, as a feminist, I applaud Ms Boyle's out of character actions, and care little for the exploitation of her by others, no matter who they are in the scheme of things.

Cueball Cueball's picture
al-Qa'bong

the truth wrote:

Anyway, I pray that her cinderella fairy tale story continues and that she finds fame, fortune and happiness.

 

Maybe pray that God do something about her looks while you're at it.  Oh wait, God gave her those looks.  Hang on, are you saying you aren't happy with God's creation?

Ktown

Unionist wrote:

Bullshit. Sorry, I mean: I disagree with every single thing in that post, including the prayer part. God has a lot more to do than make Susan Boyle wealthy.

Damn. The all knowing and powerful unionist has now taken it upon himself to tell people who or what they can pray for and what they must be thinking when posting.

Ktown

.

Daedalus Daedalus's picture

It seems to me that alot of us are talking at cross-purposes here. The spectacle presented to us symbolizes one thing (that, to me, seems fit for criticism), Ms Boyle as an individual symbolizes something else (that, to me, seems fit for admiration and respect). Can we reconcile the two? Must they be in competition?

Refuge Refuge's picture

Daedalus wrote:

Hmmm ... I don't know if I find that explanation satisfying. I mean, maybe it is for some. But what if I'm overweight or I have bad hair or can't afford nice clothes? Am I, then, some sort of hypocrite cheering her on because I'm trying to prove to myself that I'm not superficial? Or is it me I'm seeing up on that stage?

Maybe if I  am overweight or have bad hair or can't afford nice clothing I should be questioning why it is I am not only buying into societies notion that this person is worth less because of her outside appearance (with or without the redeming increase in value of her with her voice) but identifing so strongly with someone who is being characterized as worth less.  Why do I think that being overweight decreases my value.  Why do I think having bad hair  decreases my value?  Why do I think that because I can't afford nice clothing it decreases my value?  Hypocrite, no, but it does say something about what I think of myself and maybe I should be questioning that.

Feather Sky

I haven't seen the video, and I don't care to.

All of those 'talent' shows are reallty asking the question:

"Of the beautiful people, who has the best voice". The filter that they put in, is absurd. I believe that in the US version, you have to be under 30 or something as if no one wants to see someone over 30, or their music won't sell.

For one moment, they take someone who looks ordinary, and let her sing, and world stands up, as if to say that this one token success offsets all the superficial bullshit that our society dumps on people. It's like the classic, highly marketed rags to riches story that would seem to suggest that capitalism works because Joe Schmoe came from nothing, and made it big.

If you are a real feminist, turn the reality bullshit off. Stop reading celebrity gossip magazines, and stop going to restaraunts where 80% of the servers are young, attractive women. Feminism is more than chatting on forums and at dinner parties - it's a lifestyle that involves making active consumer choices.

Also, Susan Boyle is beautiful, not ugly and it sickens me that all these 'feminists' think it's OK to put ugly in single quotes when describing the phenomenom, as if that disclaimer makes their subsequent analysis of the ugly person defying odds alright.

The only thing surprising here, is that she wasn't discovered sooner, and she didn't have any singing lessons. That should be the only story.

remind remind's picture

Ya, I noted the  use of "ugly" before in another thread feathersky. Wish people would think that their use of such a labelling term is indeed buying into the objectification of women and that  so called "good looking people" are "more than" those who are considered not to be, by their own standards of course. They are still making it all about body image, while supposedly decrying against it.

Unionist

Remind, you have an uncanny ability to turn any thread into allies vs. enemies.

 

Ghislaine

Excellent commentary by John Doyle, mycroft - thank you for posting that. Simon Cowell is the master of deception and manipulation.

I liked this [url=http://www.nypost.com/seven/04182009/postopinion/opedcolumnists/fairytal...

piece of commentary [/url] as well:

 

Quote:

 

The crowd laughs at her, and Boyle - how devastating - laughs along. She says she wants to be a professional singer; people laugh harder and louder. They point. It's grammar school and the Roman coliseum combined. Simon Cowell - panelist and show creator - rolls his eyes. And then Susan Boyle sings.

...

But there is something disturbing about the collective rejection-embrace-elevation of Susan Boyle. There is the element of self-congratulation in the viral spread of this link around the Web, the idea that we, the secondary viewers, the judges of those who are judging, are far more evolved. There is the clip itself, suspiciously ready-made for online consumption: A 7-minute movie, slick and pithy in its perfect execution of the underdog narrative. (That something like "Rocky" took two hours to tell now seems antediluvian.) There is the classic David vs. Goliath subplot, the primal satisfaction of seeing the bully (Cowell) slain by such a seemingly inferior force. And there is the profound desire for this entire thing to be authentic, which in and of itself suggests that it probably isn't. Not since P.T. Barnum has there been a show business master of the trompe l'oeil like Simon Cowell.

 

...

 

Most disturbing of all, perhaps, is that not since Saturday has Susan Boyle been Susan Boyle. It's a permutation of the Heisenberg principle: That 30 million people have heard her, seen her, embraced her has already changed who she is. The shy churchgoer who said that her recently deceased mother encouraged her to "take the risk," who admitted in her audition that she has never been kissed, who has forever lived as something of an accidental outcast - she now seems too much of this world. "I've been for a meeting with Sony BMG, but I can't say much about it," she said this week. "It's early days." Susan Boyle is now one of us. And that is really a shame.

 

Daedalus Daedalus's picture

Refuge wrote:
Maybe if I  am overweight or have bad hair or can't afford nice clothing I should be questioning why it is I am not only buying into societies notion that this person is worth less because of her outside appearance (with or without the redeming increase in value of her with her voice) but identifing so strongly with someone who is being characterized as worth less.  Why do I think that being overweight decreases my value.  Why do I think having bad hair  decreases my value?  Why do I think that because I can't afford nice clothing it decreases my value?  Hypocrite, no, but it does say something about what I think of myself and maybe I should be questioning that.

Does it? Perhaps the overweight, bad-hair, poorly dressed etc viewer does not value herself one bit less. But every day she gets treated as less, and then she sees this: someone getting recognized despite these things. That person isn't necessarily buying into anything at all - she's vicariously living out a fantasy of one day, not being treated like sh!t, not being dehumanized but treated as a person.

Edit to add a bit: Alot of my life, I've been poorly dressed due to circumstance. That gets you treated in certain ways, regardless of how you feel about your personal qualities. Assumptions are made. You might go into an employment office and get handed brochures on illiteracy that aren't handed to others. Do I think I'm illiterate and stupid? Hell no. I'm intelligent and capable, more so than many who are better dressed than I. I've read Chaucer in Middle English without the benefit of translation, for Pete's sake. Please don't assume that those who can relate to Ms. Boyle are suffering any crisis of self-worth. Some may. Others are simply coping with irrational treatment at the hands of fools who cannot see past stereotypes - fools who unfortunately happen to be the gatekeepers to success, to employment and education.

remind remind's picture

Got anymore personal comments to make  about me, as opposed to what my observations are on the topic at hand, unionist?

Refuge Refuge's picture

Daedalus wrote:
Alot of my life, I've been poorly dressed due to circumstance. That gets you treated in certain ways, regardless of how you feel about your personal qualities. Assumptions are made. You might go into an employment office and get handed brochures on illiteracy that aren't handed to others. Do I think I'm illiterate and stupid? Hell no. I'm intelligent and capable, more so than many who are better dressed than I. I've read Chaucer in Middle English without the benefit of translation, for Pete's sake.

So are you saying that you deserve to be treated better than someone who is normally poorly dressed because of illetaracy and stupidity?  Or do you deserve to be treated better than someone who is better dressed but illeterate?  You surmise that you don't deserve to be treated like someone who is poorly dressed, illeterate and stupid because you are only poorly dressed.

When someone judges me to be something else - stupid, illiterate, poor I don't care because I am the same as a stupid person, an illiterate person and a poor person in my value.  I would be proud to say that I am stupid, illiterate, poor and badly dressed.  If someone handed me a brochure on illiteracy I would thank them.

 

Daedalus Daedalus's picture

Refuge wrote:
So are you saying that you deserve to be treated better than someone who is normally poorly dressed because of illetaracy and stupidity?  Or do you deserve to be treated better than someone who is better dressed but illeterate?  You surmise that you don't deserve to be treated like someone who is poorly dressed, illeterate and stupid because you are only poorly dressed.

I'm not sure where you're getting that from. I think presumptions shouldn't be made about people based on those things. Being poorly dressed isn't indicative of illiteracy. That's a stereotype - well, you're poor, so obviously you're not very sophisticated. Perhaps a bad example of that, but I can demonstrate that stereotype in other ways if you doubt it.

Quote:
When someone judges me to be something else - stupid, illiterate, poor I don't care because I am the same as a stupid person, an illiterate person and a poor person in my value.

Yes, and thanks for pointing that out, its very true. It's not a matter of anyone having less value because they are less intelligent. It's this notion that the people at the bottom of the pecking order are incompetent. Whether or not you value the incompetent as much as the competent, it is an unfair stereotype that presumes social mobility is exclusively based on competence. In fact, social mobility is very complex and competence plays only a small role - the availability of skills training, the advantage (or lack thereof) provided by the socioeconomic group you are born into, gender and race, disabilities, charisma, addictions and mental health issues etc all play a role. There are many very talented people at the absolute bottom of the pile. The panhandler or the prostitute might, under different circumstances, have been entirely different people. Helping them realize their potential isn't necessarily a case of a person of superior talent or competence being charitable to one of inferior talent or competence. Perhaps that panhandler would've been your boss if he wasn't struggling with schizophrenia; perhaps that prostitute would've been the CEO of your company if she hadn't been forced into prostitution to pay the snakehead gangs who brought her to Canada, but just born here.

al-Qa'bong

So, have the ratings for this TV show changed at all lately?

Refuge Refuge's picture

Daedalus wrote:
I'm not sure where you're getting that from. I think presumptions shouldn't be made about people based on those things. Being poorly dressed isn't indicative of illiteracy. That's a stereotype - well, you're poor, so obviously you're not very sophisticated. Perhaps a bad example of that, but I can demonstrate that stereotype in other ways if you doubt it.

If you are not sure where I am getting that from maybe you should think about your attitudes towards illiteracy and why you keep mentioning words like not very sophisticated and stupid as a synonym to being illiterate.  Think about what it is that you really think about illiteracy.  A wise man once said I can't make a man learn but I can make him think.

Daedalus wrote:

Refuge wrote:
When someone judges me to be something else - stupid, illiterate, poor I don't care because I am the same as a stupid person, an illiterate person and a poor person in my value

Yes, and thanks for pointing that out, its very true. It's not a matter of anyone having less value because they are less intelligent. It's this notion that the people at the bottom of the pecking order are incompetent. Whether or not you value the incompetent as much as the competent, it is an unfair stereotype that presumes social mobility is exclusively based on competence. In fact, social mobility is very complex and competence plays only a small role - the availability of skills training, the advantage (or lack thereof) provided by the socioeconomic group you are born into, gender and race, disabilities, charisma, addictions and mental health issues etc all play a role. There are many very talented people at the absolute bottom of the pile. The panhandler or the prostitute might, under different circumstances, have been entirely different people. Helping them realize their potential isn't necessarily a case of a person of superior talent or competence being charitable to one of inferior talent or competence. Perhaps that panhandler would've been your boss if he wasn't struggling with schizophrenia; perhaps that prostitute would've been the CEO of your company if she hadn't been forced into prostitution to pay the snakehead gangs who brought her to Canada, but just born here.

Wow that was a big post but I have no idea what social mobility and incompetence has to do with my reaction to someone judging me to be something else and how it effects how I feel about myself.

Daedalus Daedalus's picture

Refuge wrote:
If you are not sure where I am getting that from maybe you should think about your attitudes towards illiteracy and why you keep mentioning words like not very sophisticated and stupid as a synonym to being illiterate.  Think about what it is that you really think about illiteracy.  A wise man once said I can't make a man learn but I can make him think.

Ah, ok, I see now where you're getting it from. I didn't articulate myself very well and I see where you got that impression, but I'm fully aware that illiteracy is not a synonym for lack of sophistication, stupidity, etc. The stereotype is that the poor are illiterate, unsophisticated, stupid, incompetent, and generally less talented than their social superiors. These things go together as part of that stereotype; I meant no other relationship between them.

Quote:
Wow that was a big post but I have no idea what social mobility and incompetence has to do with my reaction to someone judging me to be something else and how it effects how I feel about myself.

You had said: Maybe if I am overweight or have bad hair or can't afford nice clothing I should be questioning why it is I am not only buying into societies notion that this person is worth less because of her outside appearance (with or without the redeming increase in value of her with her voice) but identifing so strongly with someone who is being characterized as worth less. I was basically questioning whether a person with appearance issues was buying into anything at all by identifying with Ms Boyle. What if they're identifying with her on the grounds that they too are unfairly stereotyped by their appearance?

I think I can see what you were driving at, though, and I think it's a good point: people shouldn't be devalued because of a lack of talent, either, we're all worthy of respect, period. That's what you're trying to get at, right? My point is just that assumptions shouldn't be made about people's capabilities on the basis of appearance, gender, social class, etc. The ideas aren't irreconcilable, I think we're just talking at cross-purposes. Language is imperfect.

Sorry for the length of my posts; someone more skilled than I could probably say the same thing in a sentence or two, I tend to be long-winded when I'm trying to express what I'm thinking.

Refuge Refuge's picture

Daedalus wrote:
 people shouldn't be devalued because of a lack of talent, either, we're all worthy of respect, period. That's what you're trying to get at, right?

No actually my point is that people themselves shouldn't devalue themselves because of any trait. When you say things like "someone getting recognized despite these things" it buys into the notion that these traits are bad.  I say she was recognized because of these things, because she would not be who she was, funny, smart, fearless in front of an audience without these traits because all these traits are things that helped shape her life and make her who she is, not despite them.

My original point was that if people are identifying so strongly with somone who is percieved to be succeeding despite certain traits they need to look at themselves and wonder why it is they are thinking that they have to overcome certain things about themselves to be successful.

People are going to judge me, people always judge me.  Sometimes good, sometimes bad.  It is not important that other people will judge me it is my response to the people judging me - whether I agree and take on that judgement and try and succeed despite these things, or let it go and accept that I do not need to overcome anything inside of myself.

Daedalus Daedalus's picture

Refuge wrote:
My original point was that if people are identifying so strongly with somone who is percieved to be succeeding despite certain traits they need to look at themselves and wonder why it is they are thinking that they have to overcome certain things about themselves to be successful.

Well, then, I disagree. They don't need to look at themselves. They need to look at the prejudices of others. You're presuming that they accept these prejudices as valid. Some might, but it's certainly not universal. An older woman with bad hair could look at Boyle and think, "People are so stupid - I get that dismissive attitude all the time, and it's not fair. Good on that woman for showing them up."

It's not necessarily a case of "I wish I had that much self-confidence." It might be a case of, say, "I wish my talents were of a sort that could be so obviously demonstrated like that" or "I wish I had that opportunity to demonstrate my talents" ... they don't necessarily lack courage or self-confidence.

I might be parsing you totally wrong. But it's coming across to me as swapping out one stereotype for another - "you're not succesful because your appearance indicates you are talentless" being exchanged for "you're not succesful because you lack self-confidence".

Not saying that there aren't people whose confidence is eroded by the way they get treated. Just saying that, believe it or not, some people who are unsuccesful because of the way people look at them know exactly whats going on. I once knew a woman who had been in sales, she went on a medication that caused half her teeth to fall out, massive dental damage. After she left the job she had, she was unable to get another job in sales. She knew why, and all the confidence boosting in the world couldn't help her.

Refuge Refuge's picture

Daedalus wrote:
I might be parsing you totally wrong. But it's coming across to me as swapping out one stereotype for another - "you're not succesful because your appearance indicates you are talentless" being exchanged for "you're not succesful because you lack self-confidence".

You are parsing me wrong, this has nothing to do with self confidence either.  Try this one on for size:

These people are successful. Period.

Daedalus Daedalus's picture

Well, I got this impression you were saying that the people who identify with Boyle because they face similar barriers are buying into something and they need to examine themselves. I'm sure I'm parsing you wrong, but I'm no less confused than I was initially.

Do you believe a person can identify with Boyle because they face similar challenges getting recognized by other people - without needing to examine their value system?

Refuge Refuge's picture

Daedalus wrote:

Do you believe a person can identify with Boyle because they face similar challenges getting recognized by other people - without needing to examine their value system?

No, I am saying I feel that if I need to be recognized and therefore validated by other people I need to examine MYSELF and figure out why I can't validate myself without looking to others. (I never said value system. You infered that).

RevolutionPlease RevolutionPlease's picture

Simon Cowell is a master of manipulation.  I heard it broke the internet record.  Eerily like 2 girls, one cup.  Virals play to the lowest common denominator.

Daedalus Daedalus's picture

Refuge wrote:
No, I am saying I feel that if I need to be recognized and therefore validated by other people I need to examine MYSELF and figure out why I can't validate myself without looking to others.

 

But there is a premise there that recognition and validation from others is absent because the person has failed to validate themselves. As if all they need to do is validate themselves and then society will, too.

Refuge Refuge's picture

That might be your premise but it is not my premise.

ennir

What astonishes me is the focus on her appearance, of course I noticed that she was middle aged and not glamorous but what I heard sent chills up and down my spine and brought me to tears.  Those tears had nothing to do with all the possible explanations as to why we are so moved by her and I can only conclude that those so focussed on her appearance really didn't really hear her voice.

I do think it is very likely that Simon Cowell knew she had a voice, I heard a song she recorded prior to this contest and she was brilliant. 

abnormal

ennir wrote:
I do think it is very likely that Simon Cowell knew she had a voice ...

He knew.  By the time contestants make it this far they've been pre-screened.

RevolutionPlease wrote:
Simon Cowell is a master of manipulation....

If you have any doubt all you have to do is watch this clip. The kid is doing just fine until Simon stops him and insists he sing another song. Somehow the music was already queued.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uLVtepgE5EY

Unionist

Simon Cowell continues to manipulate everyone - from Susan Boyle to babblers to the media to [url=http://www.rabble.ca/comment/1009889/Heres-few-Ive]some feminist bloggers[/url] - and now check out the ludicrous comments accompanying [url=this">http://www.cbc.ca/arts/music/story/2009/06/21/cowell-mistakes-boyle.html... article[/url], running about 95% in favour of Simon Cowell's tender heart.