Saturday, April 18, 2009

Susan Boyle and the Death of the Civilized World

I, like many many others, watched the recap of Susan Boyle wow the snarky judges on whatever that show is called--I guess it was a British version--I never watch it ever, and that's no lie--never, people.

Call me a buzz-kill, and I am. I'm about to kill the buzz. Well, only if you agree with me, I suppose.

She came out, she had a matronly air, matching dress and shoes, and a questionable hairdo, she was "homely" if our standards are plastic, she was humble and not flashy, she was "older" (if late-40s means you're a 19th century spinster).

If you watch the video, the hideous crowd of hyenas, including the judges, was sneering, mocking, laughing, and jeering. They rolled their eyes, they whispered like nasty schoolyard children. They laughed at her appearance, her "antiquated" referral to Elaine Page, her provenance as a villager, her seeming naivete, her perceived chutzpah at placing herself on a stage amidst the "sexy" hopefuls.

Well, she opened her mouth and sang, and sure, she was good. She had a very nice voice and presentation.

The judges oohed a bit, and the audience/ herd of wildebeests burst into cheering (let me hasten to add, as I don't wish to offend, I don't include you, good reader, in this tirade--your reaction to her pretty voice was I'm sure honestly come by, as you weren't there mocking her initially). They cheered and cheered, while I was still shivering in disgust. Not at Ms. Boyle, but at the resounding sound of our culture at its very very worst.

Afterwards, the judges apologized--"we were laughing at you" "you shocked us" "everyone was against you"--and then made good by their approbation.

But too little too late. The initial disrespect, the mocking, could not be undone, at least not in my eyes. I believe it was all about her physical appearance, and fine, this is show biz of some dubious sort, but what a load of phoney-baloney and yes, moral degradation and misogyny.

"You can go back to the village with your head held high, it's 3 yeses," intoned the kitschy-snarky judge. Really? She and everyone who attended her church already knew she could sing. Was the approval of this shoving mass of rude, braying jackasses really the difference between shame and self-esteem? Oh God I hope not.

Susan Boyle, congratulations, but I do wish they hadn't disrespected you so. You should've given 'em the finger, but then you would have been right down to their level.


Brian Miller said...

lol. braying jackasses indeed. why is homogenation so important? don't look like, act like, so must not be right attitude. glad she showed them up and in some way that is the silent finger.

Madame DeFarge said...

I am with you completely on this one. Much as I enjoy bread and circuses, sometimes it's just so obvious that the producers are trying to manipulate our feelings for someone. First we're meant to laugh at them because they're different and then, be wowed by their talent, as if that makes up for being asked to think that they're 'stupid'. You may want to read the Times article about this, very interesting.

Off soapbox, blood cooling.

just bob said...

Welcome back.

Maria said...

I hadn't heard of her until one of my blog readers brought her to my attention, so I googled her and of course, sat there BAWLING while she sang that heartbreaking song.

But, I felt my teeth clench at the beginning. I felt like I always do when I see some child being made fun of, or teenaged boys making fun of a teenaged girl walking by. It was all the same, unfair and so, so unnecessary. And now one of the judges, I hear, is offering to take Susan out on a date and be her first kiss. I wanted to puke. She deserves so much better.

MJ said...

My first response upon seeing her was to grab a pair of tweezers and hold her down to pluck her eyebrows.

But if Brooke Shields could make the look glamorous, then maybe Susan will start a trend too!

CSI Seattle said...

Wow. I had a totally different take on the matter. I saw her as an Underdog, and I love Underdogs.

By all appearances, Susan had no business being in that competition. This attitude is exactly what set the stage for her success. She of course walked up, stood tall, and blew everyone away.

Side Note: We have the American version of this show, "America's Got Talent" Many of the acts do start off with goofy people, doing goofy things, showing little talent and obviously making it a point to just be on TV. American Idol is the same way. In fairness to the nasty crowd and judges, they were conditioned to be judgmental because most of the goofs that showed up, were....goofs. Remember the "Gong Show"? Very similar format.

This is what made the story so remarkable. If she was treated with dignity and respect prior to singing (say it was an opera competition) there would be no story. She would just be a good singer and not necessarily an Underdog.

Watching the reaction of those who doubted her, the crowd and the judges, was part of the pleasure. She wins, they lose and the world get a lesson in making judgements of people. I also believe that this "stage" is an added factor to her instant success, fame and soon to be millionaire status. I have a feeling that Susan just might be okay with all of it.

I don't know about everyone else, but my eyes teared up when I watched the video. With all the crap in the media these days (economy, pirates, homes prices, etc.) I sure didn't mind seeing a cool story such as Susan's. The world needs a hero, and for today, Susan Boyle is mine.

Underdogs Rock!

Suzanne said...

I was probably one of the only people alive not to see the video a few days ago. I was passing through the living room and heard one of the anchors (I respect) on MSNBC discussing the finer points of Susan's appearance and implying that if she wasn't so unattractive the video wouldn't be such a sensation. Stopped me in my tracks and remember saying out loud, "What?" She said a hell of a lot more and before she was through I was so livid I called Rob to rant. I hadn't seen Susan, so had no idea what everyone was talking about, I just knew I could never treat another human being in that manner. Worse, the anchor and guests all appeared to get so much joy from making fun of her. I was so pissed and appalled. Rob and I talked a long, long time about how superficial, stupid and judgmental people can be and then he asked if I'd seen the video. I said "Nope!" He insisted we watch together. I almost turned it off after the first minute or so. I thought Susan was absolutely adorable and refreshing, but everyone was laughing at her and I found that so disrespectful. I was ashamed of them. I was more upset watching the video than I was listening to the damn anchor. I just couldn't believe the level of stupidity in that room. Rob encouraged me to continue watching. And then Susan started to sing. I have tears in my eyes just thinking about it. That was the biggest "f*** you" I've ever seen. I was so proud of her and I still am.

Hopefully this is a wake up call to so many who never see beyond the superficial. It's funny because Rob and I were discussing this very thing the other night during "The Biggest Loser." Rob and I have always been thin and in good shape so have never had to deal with people who judge us because of our weight. As I watched the other night (I LOVE THAT SHOW because it's about so much more than weight)I said to Rob, "Look at all those beautiful personalities. So many wonderful people in so much pain because others can't see beyond skin." It's a shame, you know?

Leah my darling, I agree with you completely. Now this may surprise you, I also agree with CSI's finer points!!! I'll tell you something, I'm not worried about Susan at all. She's a remarkable woman and an amazing talent. She's funny, adorable, strong, determined and confident. She absolutely just blew me away. She's going to be wealthy beyond her imagination. My only hope is that this doesn't change her. She's so perfect just the way she is. But you know "they'll" get to her, style her hair, pluck her eyebrows, tone down her makeup, dress her and probably ask her to lose 20 lbs. I hope she fights them!!! She's fiesty, so I think she will!

I ADORE THAT WOMAN!!!!!!!!! And I'm so excited for her. I truly am. And although the audience and judges were beyond rude, I thank God Susan had a venue to showcase her talent. Yes, I thank God for Simon Cowell and his brilliant idea. And I don't know if any of you noticed, but while Susan sang there was a moment when Simon visibly exhaled. I think we all did.

Love you Leah! Oh, you wanted my opinion, so this is my response to your comment on my blog, so instead of going there, just stay right here!!! I'll reference this on my blog so people know to come here because your post is a great read. It's funny how we posted at almost the same time about the same woman! The truth be told, I think I have the best video! But you have the best prose! ;)

P.S. I think what captures me most about Susan is she remained home to take care of her mom until she died and with one song was able to speak volumes about here hopes and dreams. The lyrics are amazing and revealing.

Love you darling. Terrific post! I wish Susan had time to read all that's being written, but I assume she's going to be a very, very busy woman. You know entertaining the Queen and all!

Megan said...

I'm with CSI on this one. But I understand where you're coming from, and no, it is not a buzz-kill.

Karen ^..^ said...

So true. and unfortunately it will go down in the books as one of those lessons of "Matronly, common woman makes good, and shows 'em all".

You are right. They still disrespected her in the beginning.

And wow, the big important panel of judges gave her three "yeses". So then that tiny little bit of validation should make up for their initial degradation and ridicule?

You are so right. I'm still reeling from the initial way they tried to scorn and humiliate her.

Leah said...

CSI--I guess my issue is a. the patent manipulation with our very humanity at stake and b. the reason she was doubted was solely her appearance.

Sarge commented that it was extremely Gong-Showesque. I loved the Gong Show when I was little!

Leah said...

Suzy--a deeper question that has now been raised for me by these comments--are we really so superficial as individuals, or is it a sociological phenomenon of sheep-behavior? We're told to have automatic distaste for anything less than sexy perfection, so we express that distaste...but no one is perfect besides a very very few genetically blessed, I mean a very very few, and then those are only perfect because they have stylists and makeup artists at their disposal...anyway, everyone I know, individuals, have all sorts of things that go into their own personal definition of "attractive" and much of it has little to do with immediate impression...of course, being pretty helps one along...but it doesn't do much in the end. Most people would probably agree. So the manipulation is even more egregious...

If you get what I'm waffling on about...

Leah said...

Megan--there is the pleasure principle, of course--if one can take pleasure in her triumph, and feel inspired, well, God bless!

Leah said...

Karen--I have to say, I'm glad you agree with me so wholeheartedly. Sarge and I and our friends discussed this for like an hour over lunch today; our friends are film producers and deal with the entertainment industry, and their professional opinion was that it was really just all about producers manipulating us, and in the very end just about selling ad space. Unfortunately, an actual real live human being was at the receiving end of the deception.

While I'm chatting with you, I'm going to come out of the closet and say, I wasn't even that impressed with her voice! shhh...I didn't just say that...

just bob said...

Just Bob--welcome back to Brooklyn, or to my soapbox?
Leah... both :)

Cece said...

BRAVO LEAH!!!! You echo my sentiments exactly. I wanted to cringe for her. I wanted to scream at the computer screen, and then I heard her wonderful voice and I wanted to rejoice for her. That show, and it's American cousin is terrible. I despise them both. I just hope Susan Boyle makes it big, because she deserves it.

Cece said...

Now, for your second question brought up in the comment section. I think that society as a whole is a bunch of braying jackasses. And yes to all that you suggested. We are programmed to laugh at someone and point fingers if they do not fit into our idea of what is supposed to me normal. I'm afraid that I must include myself in that group from time to time. And unfortunately more often than not. I can be a braying jackass sometimes, and I know it. But at the same point, I can sympathize with those people getting laughed at because I am not the ideal of sexy. Instead I am on the plus side of normal. But that still doesn't make it all ok.

Leah said...

I had to repost this comment down here because one of my replies made no sense whatsoever!

Brian--braying jackasses, right? The homogeneity obsession does seem to be a weird construct of rightness, I wonder how many really truly subscribe to it. I'm a little scared to find out the answer...

Mme. DeF.--I still smile (is that the right reaction though?) whenever I see your moniker and think of the evil tricoteuses...and yes, the truth is, it is the producers manipulating us. You've got it pegged exactly right. Now, is it the London Times, or the NY Times to which you refer?

Just Bob--welcome back to Brooklyn, or to my soapbox?

Maria--Oh my goodness, they're trying to give her a pity kiss? Will the debasement never cease? It is a relief to hear you say you felt your teeth clench, it really is.

MJ--my sister is forever trying to pin me down and pluck my eyebrows--

Pearl said...

It's all about initial feelings of superiority based on the superficial, isn't it? Smug condescension based on the increasing perception that something that looks good must be good -- and something that does not meet the physical standards that we've set up as proof of worth.
The standards change but the fact remains. People are judgmental jackasses.

Suzanne said...

You weren't that impressed with her voice? I was! And I still love you despite your failure to recognize greatness!!! Of course I'm laughing. God you kill me woman. You're too damn funny.

Okay, in response to your response. I think we are encouraged from a young age to recognize beauty and embrace it. Is it sheep-behavior? Yes, I think so. You know, it's almost a cult like mentality where you're told to believe something and if you're told long enough and forcefully enough pretty soon good God, it's true! So we all begin to have the same view of beauty. It's the same with porn and design. Have you noticed how if you're completely shaven and look 15 you're perfect, and if you have granite counter tops, double sinks in the bathroom and a huge cylinder light fixture over your dining table, you're designed to sell? It's completely ridiculous, but people are told so often that's what they should be and do, they start actually believing it. It makes me crazy. Don't get me wrong, I love HGTV, but they really are starting to make me nutty with all the blue and brown and cylinder light fixtures in every damn dining room. What ever happened to individuality?!

On the other hand, I'm sure you're aware of the study that came out about a decade ago (Stanford? Yale? Harvard? Who knows?). It's always fascinated the hell out of me because I have a thing about symmetry. I always though it was because of my architectural/artists eye. Apparently it's not! It's because of my "baby" eye! This study was conducted with babies. Literally. Infants. Wee ones. Unable to talk, still in diapers. Each baby was shown two photos. One of a perfect woman with perfect features and a beautifully symmetrical face. Then one without. The babies always picked the perfect woman. Yup, I'm laughing. What do they know!!!??? Apparently a lot! So much for sheep I guess. We are born with a keen sense of beauty. Apparently for reproductive reasons. The opposite sex is always looking for the most viable option. Even from birth. Hummmmmmmmmmmm.

I had a dream this study was a mistake! As I type this I realize it isn't!!!


Madame DeFarge said...

Leah - ah, sorry, forget about the ubiquity of the Times. It's the London Times and the link is

from April 18th. They've run a few articles about this.

And, I agree about her voice. It's good, but not great (yet). I think that there's some doublethink going on, that because she has a good voice and people felt so shocked, they're kind of boosting her up to insulate themselves from their first thoughts.

Baino said...

I saw it via you tube and she did an amazing job. I thought she was rather bright and humorous actually even if she could have done with an eyebrow shape and was rather surprised at the initial reaction of the crowd. Shows that we all judge books by covers ... took me a long time to move on from that.

Mrsupole said...

I can only say I agree with all of Suzanne's comments and CSI's. I am watching the news right now and they are talking about her. It is a video of when she was 25 singing at her parents wedding anniversary. She does not sing good in it. But on that other show I get goose bumps when I hear her. I hope this helps people to learn that you cannot judge a book by its cover.

But on that talent show they also have a 12 year old that sings great too.

God bless.