I blame the culture for my cultural illiteracy, Part II

Well, I have to blame something, don't I?

There's some fat woman whose picture I keep seeing every day at Drudge, and I haven't been interested because it looks like a plug for a TV show or something.

This morning, (after having seen her picture for probably the 20th time), I figured I should check into the story to find out what it is that I'm missing that's supposed to be so important.

The name of the woman is Susan Boyle, and she is a "Scottish singer - whose performances in earlier rounds of the show clocked up millions of views on YouTube."

OK, I'm sure there are other performers who rack up millions of views on YouTube. So what is the big deal? Why is it assumed that I should be even remotely interested?

Anyway, she lost whatever the contest was after being "beaten in the final of Britain's Got Talent by brilliant dance act Diversity."

(Never heard of them either.)

Will someone tell me what I am missing?

Once again, I blame the culture for my cultural illiteracy!

But perhaps I'm a culturally insensitive bastard.

Would that be my fault? Should I care?

MORE: Please note that I have never watched this woman perform. Do I have to?

posted by Eric on 05.31.09 at 08:48 AM










Comments

No, you don't have to watch her. I never have either, and couldn't care less. I try to avoid all of these television talent and reality shows.

Evil Otto   ·  May 31, 2009 9:04 AM

Oh, yeah, you DO have to. Please watch her earlier performance, with the number from Les Miserables, and I will wager that you will have tears in your eyes.

Vito DiPaola   ·  May 31, 2009 9:09 AM

It's voyeurism taken to high art, Eric. No, you haven't missed anything and you don't have to watch anything. I'm hoping it will be over soon and then they'll be some new fad we can both ignore. I wish I had ignored this last one, but I clicked on a link sent to me and I regret it. She's just not horrible, but the gossip surroundering her and these stupid "talent" shows makes one feel dirty.

Mrs. du Toit   ·  May 31, 2009 10:25 AM

Yes, you should watch her. Go to the YouTube clip of her singing "Cry Me A River". You should enjoy life more.

LYNNDH   ·  May 31, 2009 10:56 AM

I don't watch Idol and BGT is just another Cowell production. However, I did watch the first Boyle performance because to see Cowell and company humbled was priceless. Here was a rural country spinster, chubby and "ugly" and everyone connected with the show was making snide remarks and guffawing when she went on stage ... and she opened her mouth and this remarkable singing voice came out.

Contemporary culture has it that only beautiful voices come out of physically beautiful people (and hence they have more "value" then the plain ones). Plus it is "ok" to humiliate the plain for having the audicity to think they can "belong".

After listening to her "Cry me a River" there is some real talent in her and I'm hoping after all the gossip dies down and she releases her first professional CD, I will be there to buy it.

Darleen   ·  May 31, 2009 12:14 PM

Darleen, thanks for your comment, which seems to explain why there would be a phenomenon.

Trouble is, I have never watched "Idol" and I don't know what you mean by "BGT" or "just another Cowell production," so I'm filling in the gaps.

(If B is an alternative reacting to A, and you don't know what A is, it's hard to get it....)

Eric Scheie   ·  May 31, 2009 12:38 PM

Well, my curiosity got the better of me and I finally succumbed to temptation...

The YouTube links I found only show a picture of her, and play the song, which just isn't my style.

I agree with Connie that "she's just not horrible." Technically nice voice, I suppose.

The fuss must be over her appearance then. Plenty of very talented musicians are less than stereotypically attractive. Jerry Garcia was one of my favorites. Which proves what?

Eric Scheie   ·  May 31, 2009 12:46 PM

Sorry, Eric, "American Idol" and "Britain's Got Talent".

The "cry me a river" just had her voice because someone found where she had performed on a for-charity album about 20 years ago.

here's the first performance

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lp0IWv8QZY

Simon Cowell is dismissive of her as soon as she walks on stage as is the snobs in the audience.

Darleen   ·  May 31, 2009 2:54 PM

Plenty of very talented musicians are less than stereotypically attractive. Jerry Garcia was one of my favorites

Culturally we are more apt to "accept" ugly male singers & musicians. Name a single female "pop star" in the last ten years that wasn't also a "hottie".

And look at the nastiness aimed at any female stars that gain weight (Brittany Spears, Jessica Simpson)

Darleen   ·  May 31, 2009 3:00 PM

Darleen:
"Here was a rural country spinster, chubby and 'ugly' and everyone connected with the show was making snide remarks and guffawing when she went on stage ... and she opened her mouth and this remarkable singing voice came out.

Contemporary culture has it that only beautiful voices come out of physically beautiful people (and hence they have more 'value' then the plain ones). Plus it is 'ok' to humiliate the plain for having the audicity to think they can 'belong'."

I don't know whether "contemporary culture" is any less shallow in how it judges performers than previous, more wholesome generations were, Darleen. Do you really think Kay Starr or Connie Francis or Jo Stafford or Peggy Lee would have risen as high as she did without being beautiful? The omnipresence of television and video today has probably intensified things; common sense says it must have. But image-making and air-brushing have been around for a long time.

Sean Kinsell   ·  May 31, 2009 3:21 PM

To reason this out think about talk shows, not music. Or about people who host successful parties and those who are popular guests.

We don't know why some gatherings work and others do not. Or why some are liked and others not.

But we do know a successful host is interesting to a lot of people. They aren't great artists any classic sense. Beauty is incidental.

Boyle sings well. But her popularity comes from her attitude and directness.

If she can position herself as an agreeable TV personality then we will see her for a long time, a few will buy her CD's, and gradually no one will remember or care about her Idol days.

K   ·  May 31, 2009 4:22 PM

Name a single female "pop star" in the last ten years that wasn't also a "hottie".

Hmmm.... I'm not up on recent stars, but I do remember Mama Cass, Aretha Franklin, and Etta James. But they're old.

More recently, how about Queen Latifah, Rosanne Barr or Rosie O'Donnell? Do they count?

In general, though, you're right that there is a different standard for men and women.

Again, I have never seen "American Idol" or "Britain's Got Talent".

Eric Scheie   ·  May 31, 2009 5:16 PM

When she's on her game Susan Boyle is one of the best I've heard. When she's not (as with Memory from Cats), not so much. She's a fine singer technically; it's when she puts her heart into a song that she shines.

Alan Kellogg   ·  May 31, 2009 9:04 PM

I suspect that her sudden explosion in the consciousness of the British viewing public, was due to the fact that millions of viewers were suddenly presented with a vision of what the Prime Minister would look like, in drag.

The singing voice is a necessary adjunct, to prove to us that she is not the Broon, himself.

Monty   ·  June 1, 2009 11:58 AM

Female pop singer of the current era who's not a hottie? Madonna. A sinewy skeleton.

What? I must turn in my gay card immediately for insulting Madge like that?

Rhodium Heart   ·  June 1, 2009 4:52 PM

Feel free RH. If Madonna controls the cards, it doesn't sound like a very gay deck!

Eric Scheie   ·  June 1, 2009 7:33 PM

Beverly Sills was no physical beauty. It is not unusual for opera/classical music to be the bastion of beautiful and skilled voices, rather than beautiful packaging. "Cast the voice not the body" is the motto of the classical realm. In fact, it is also the motto for Broadway... but it isn't always heeded, hence the decline of Broadway quality to something akin to a Saturday Disney series.

Aprile Millo, for example, has a voice that soothes the soul and reminds you that there is beauty in the world. She is not physically beautiful. (I went to high school with her, when she was "April Millo" not "Aprile." She wasn't a beauty as a young woman either, but even then, she stopped the world when she sang.)

Mrs. du Toit   ·  June 2, 2009 9:35 AM

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