Thursday, April 16, 2009

Judging Books By Their Covers

I was as touched as anyone by the footage of 47-year-old Susan Boyle slaying the "Britain's Got Talent" crowd with her performance
of "I Dreamed a Dream." It was a great television moment.

But here's what's been bugging me: Why were the judges so flipping astonished that she could sing? Could it be because she's middle-aged and not gorgeous? I understand that people are judged by their looks, especially in the entertainment industry. There's a reason Steve Buscemi didn't have Tom Cruise's career, even though Buscemi is a much (much) better actor. (This can cut both ways: "Oh look; the beautiful woman isn't an empty suit/moron/bimbo!") But it's not like Boyle was auditioning for "Make Me a Supermodel." She didn't even show up dressed like a circus performer, unlike some of the lost souls who audition for "American Idol." If a person can talk, there's a chance s/he might have a decent singing voice.

Unfortunately, human beings have a way of assigning qualities to others based on how they look. Studies have shown that attractive kids receive better treatment, not only from their peers (duh), but also from their teachers. If Boyle had looked like Jessica Alba, you can't tell me that the audience wouldn't have given her the benefit of the doubt instead of openly tittering and assuming she'd suck.

Don't get me wrong; it's nice to see the underdog win. I just wish people would stop reacting to Boyle's performance as if a donkey with two limbs won the Kentucky Derby.

1 comment:

Zil said...

I was slightly baffled by this too. I mean, it's not like opera singes haven't been proving the whole big body/big voice thing for years.

I think part of it is that the audition episodes of those shows are full of people who look ridiculous and actually have no talent and are just trying to get their 15 minutes however they can (William Hung, anyone)

The other thing I don't get is that that show is not American Idol (or Pop Idol in the UK) It's basically just a talent show. They also have like jugglers and stand-up comedians, and pet tricks and stuff. It's not supposed to be like Idol, where looks are a huge part of it (and there is an age limit of under 30)

Plus, do they really not think that someone's grandma might possibly be able to sing? I mean, all the American Idol contestants will be old someday and I assume their pipes would still be intact.