A couple posts ago, I stated:
Another things that bugs me is that if [Susan Boyle] was a beautiful woman and sang exactly the same way, the reaction might be different. The “triumph” here depends on our prejudice. And then we say our prejudice is a bad thing? Then why do we love getting over it so much?
(And what if she had sung terribly? No one would say “how dare we judge a person based on their singing!” and yet that’s what we do here; we’re still basing her worth on something…)
Today I came across this article, which says:
If Susan Boyle couldn’t sing, Simon Cowell wouldn’t have stopped smirking; the spectators would have kept on snickering; and America’s newest heroine would have gone back to her Scottish village to resume the life of an unmarried, unemployed, ungainly, middle-age woman who lives alone with a cat.
In other words, without what we define as talent, Susan Boyle would be an object of mockery and pity.
“What has Susan Boyle taught us about the way we judge people based on appearance?” I heard some radio host intone on Friday.
My answer: Not much.
… after the rooting’s done, what’s the lesson? That we shouldn’t make fun of odd people because they might have talent?
… the lesson I’d hope we take from Susan Boyle is that people deserve respect, however strange they are, even if they don’t have talent.
Oh, look, someone agreed with me! Though she makes a larger point of it. But, YES, I agree!
Which leads me to some questions about this thing called love… what makes one person love someone else, and when is it really love? Can anyone really love Susan Boyle from just watching such a short video? And if so, why? Just because she can sing? Is there some subconscious pity going on?
Of course beauty seems to be one of the first requirements for love. This can probably be illustrated best in the movies; ugly people are rarely cast as lovable main characters. It’s much easier for audiences to instantly sympathize with someone on the more attractive side. Even on TV channels for children like the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon, characters are often seen being instantly interested in other characters only because of their looks. Isn’t that… extremely shallow? But it’s natural! It’s what the human mind is designed to do. But… certainly that’s not love, is it? That’s just physical attraction.
It’s obvious most people can get past this, as there are plenty of ugly couples all over the place. But beauty is still important; I’ve never overheard any husband say “honey, you’re ugly, but I love ya!” nor have I heard any wife say “you’re out of proportion and I wish you looked different but I had to pick someone or I’d never get married!” What impolite things to say! So I guess in a sense, we never really get past it. We only learn to ignore it more.
Intellect and talent
The next thing we are instantly attracted to is talent. Who has that wonderful voice? Who painted that beautiful portrait? Who can play that instrument so beautifully? Who can blah blah blah do whatever so well?
Isn’t this part of what has Susan Boyle’s audiences in tears? Is this love? What is this? I suppose this is partly some sort of admiration, and partly some sort of wanting to have the talent yourself, but not in a terribly envious way, perhaps more of a subconscious desire.
When you ask people why they love their spouses, they’ll probably list some cliche traits. Wait a sec?! Are they saying that love is based merely on a list of traits? I doubt it… there’s something more that can’t be expressed in words I suppose… or is there? Is the act of love actually a pretty shallow act that only feels deep, like putting a mirror in front of a mirror?
If this isn’t love, what else is there to base love on? I guess common interests? Common beliefs? A balance between interests, beliefs, talents, and attractiveness? It’s gotta be something, doesn’t it? If it wasn’t anything, we’d fall in love with rocks in the streets!
I don’t think this is often a conscious thing, so not many people will admit to it, or even know they’re feeling it. It’s something like a deep desire to see someone else succeed because there’s something about them you feel superior to. An ugly person is the simplest example. Quasimodo may be a good example, though I’ve only seen film versions of the story. In those versions, the audience is meant to love the hunchback merely because he is deformed and not a villian. “I’m ugly! Poor me! Love me because you feel sorry for me!” I think in fiction writing there can often be a fine line between wanting readers to understand and care about your main character’s plight, and wanting readers to just downright pity the characters.
This is why I usually hate movies with mentally challenged characters; they’re so often portrayed as objects of pity, but the screenwriters and directors might not even realize they’re doing it, because it’s coming from their subconscious pity for the characters. (One film that thankfully doesn’t portray mentally challenged characters as objects of pity is the classic film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.)
Actually, I suppose there are several different definitions of “pity.” There’s the more “sympathize with, understand” pity, and there’s the more “oh, poor you, I’m obviously better than you and want you to succeed at something because you’ll never be as good as me in this other thing” pity. It’s obviously the latter I’m blathering about.
This sort of pity is a vile thing and should be avoided. Trouble is, I think, it’s often subconscious. We can feel the emotional effects of it without actually feeling it itself. And what are these emotional effects? Well… it probably feels like love.
But is it love?
I don’t know
I obviously have more questions than answers.
But I do think it is a bit of an insult to Susan Boyle to love her only because of her singing. Then again, how could we expect ourselves to be any different? Our biases are nothing new. Nihil novi sub sole! (Is that the phrase? I can’t remember.)
That said, I still enjoy Boyle’s performance, just as I enjoy movies with attractive people in them. But Boyle’s performance and “triumph” is not a “wake up call” to our cynicalness nor does it really say anything profound about prejudices.