10 May 2009

Simon's advocate

I don’t understand it when people complain about the lauding of Susan Boyle’s great voice. You’re damned if you do in this knee-jerk reactionary world, and it’s a bit naive to blame the superficial nature of eyeballs. Television gives the counterculture what it wants (ugly people doing well in the media) and that demographic turns around and reinforces the very thing it’s fighting by insisting that ugly people only get recognition for being talented because . . . they’re ugly. Pardon me, but didn’t you just finish saying that the media is obsessed with good looking people who possess good looking voices? So what’s the problem here?

One thing North Americans don’t realise about the British (if I may) is that supporting the underdog is not only encouraged – it’s deeply embedded in the culture. They appreciate talent in whatever form it takes, and don’t get me wrong – if there’s an opportunity to see a pretty girl get her kit off, they’re all for it. But if it comes too easily to someone (and what comes more easily to a good looking person than good looks?) then they don’t want to know. Plainly put, the British public, like virtually anyone, takes notice of glamour, but when it comes to showing support, they will always back the underdog.

Quite apart from this, don’t for a second imagine that such support occurs inside a vacuum – most of us are smart enough to recognise when we are being manipulated, and many of us allow for this manipulation to take place willingly. How many of you have ever bought shampoo, a lip gloss or a nice pair of shoes? Anyone highlight a zit with a daub of poo or leave the house wearing their grandfather’s stinky sweater vest recently? Not even to make a point.

To be subversive is to first self-consciously allude to the rule to which you are making an exception. You cannot stand up for the ugly guy unless you own up to the fact that as a society, we allow ourselves to be had by the cult of beauty over and over again. The reason nobody is surprised when a beautiful person shows great talent is because the correlation is constantly crammed down our throats. Beauty is often just the icing on the cake – any cake – and it’s a dessert we’re more than a little sick of tasting, even if we can’t help ourselves at times.

We see that notion turned on its head to the extreme (and who can say that oddball Ms Boyle isn’t sitting on the opposite side of the spectrum from someone like Katy Perry?) and we can’t help but stand up and cheer. Even Susan Boyle recognises this. Why on earth do you think she came on the show? Paul Potts already blazed this trail back in 2007 and it’s opened the doors to celebrity for the less-than-sightly in Great Britain ever since. It’s the Paul Pottses, Susan Boyles and – most recently – Greg Pritchards of the world that bring us back down to earth and remind us that raw talent, which we perhaps more blindly admire, simply does not discriminate.


Amy said...

Speak it sister! There has been so much sarcastic commentary from people about the Susan Boyle thing when the fact is, almost everyone who has seen that performance had the same reaction: we all saw a dowdy, homely woman and assumed she would be talentless(just like Simon Cowell did). It was less in her voice that we got excited but in how surprised we were that someone so unattractive could be talented. And then to try and cover up our own reaction, so many people have responded bitterly and sarcastically to the whole thing, rather than directing their negativity inward, at the fact that we all expected her to suck based on her looks. Gah! Good post lady.

Friday said...

Yes, maybe we'd be less surprised as a society if we saw that shit on TV more often...

Anonymous said...

And totally off-topic, Happy Mother's Day to you. (If in fact it is Mother's Day there, as it is here. Hell, even if it isn't.)

Friday said...

Thanks, Lass. MD happens a bit earlier in the UK but seeing as how I'm Canadian, I'll take it!