anghara: (coffee LOLcat from icanhascheeseburger)
[personal profile] anghara
She's all over the Internet. She apparently has a MILLION FANS on Facebook.

But somehow it's become about US, the rhetorical us, and not about her..

People are focused on the appearance thing. On how the audience at her audition looked sceptical. How she "won them over with the first note". How people on the Internet, in the media, in live audiences, judge her by the "cover" and how apparently astonished everybody is that someone with that "cover" has a voice like that hidden underneath - as though she somehow deliberately set out to disguise her voice by that appearance.. I've seen at least one rather patronizing article on how shallow we all, all are... and how "ugly people", you know, have rights too.

Did I need that pointed out to me?

Did Susan Boyle somehow miss the point of her audition and turn up at a beauty pageant audition by mistake? Because too many commentators on her performance on Britain's Got Talent (as well as other assorted bits and pieces elsewhere - she's sung acapella now for NBC and for Larry King and both clips are naturally on the web...) seem to hinge on something like, "Wow, you'd never have thunk it to look at her". Truth is, the voice that sings her recorded performance of "Cry me a river" sounds like it belongs to a willowy raven-haired and slow-eyed beauty with long legs and a full mouth brought into prominence by glamorous 30s-filmstar scarlet lipstice, singing in a smoky speakeasy where cheap bourbon is being sold in the back and the patrons in the ill-lit bar are wearing fedoras and have half-smoked cigarettes hanging from their mouths illuminating manly cleft chins. Yes, all that - from voice.

The point is, that's MY VISION OF IT. Susan Boyle owns the voice - she does not owe me the vision. And honestly, the vivid, wisecracking dame on that audition stage, sassing Simon for all she's worth, is the real deal. I've seen the clips of her on NBC, on Larry King, and omigod somebody - possibly even Susan Boyle herself - have tried to "prettify" her. She has this odd hairstyle that looks like it was sprayed on with two cans of hair lacquer, curling out in unlikely directions; she's wearing chunky jewellery, and she has this owl-eyed stare that speaks to me of unaccustomed make-up. They tried to make her "pop" on television and - as far as I am concerned - they just made her into an uncomfortable painted doll, a caricature, because dear lord she has to be beautiful in order to sing on TV we can't have anything other than that...

The truth is, Susan Boyle is not "ugly" - but she has committed the cardinal sin of being "ordinary". And they don't do ordinary in front of cameras. It's too weird for the rest of us, it might give the rest of us ideas of our own, it might seem possible to, you know, have a TALENT and not the looks that appear to be required as an accessory to it. Yes, it affects even those of us a little bit more behind the scenes, too, because these days authors stand a much better chance of success if they're photogenic and if they can show a good set of white choppers to a TV camera. We're all being turned into anchorpeople for the late-night TV news, ferchrissakes. Ordinary isn't bad. Ordinary is what we all are. Even the most extraordinary of us don't look extraordinary all the time - you might find, here and there, an Iman whose natural perfection leaves the rest of us in the dust - but by and large the perfect people we see in pictures or on camera are that way because they have just spent a couple of hours GETTING that way. And to be painfully honest... it shouldn't matter just what kind of package that voice which came out of Susan Boyle actually arrives in. She might have sung from behind a screen, we might never have seen her, we might have never had the opportunity to go, oh, wow, listen to that voice, who'd have thunk it that it came out of that dumpy little Scotswoman whose eyebrows I've seen compared multiple times to a pair of caterpillars in internet articles about her.

She might never get cast as Fantine in a production of Les Miz on stage, where, let's face it, you have to be able to reasonably LOOK the part as well as sing it. And no amount of primping and transformation is going to MAKE her into a candidate to be cast as Fantine in such a production. It is neither lookism nor ageism to try and cast an actor in a role for which they are suited or not cast them in that role if they are not - and the way the musical is put together it calls for a still reasonably young and attractive woman to play Fantine to the tragic hilt (but Susan Boyle appears to have a talent for being perky and comic on stage - she's perfect for those old English pantomimes - if we go back to Les Miz, she'd make a fabulous Mme Thenardier on stage, actually...)

I'm not quite sure what brought this particular little rant on - but it was, perhaps, just one too many of the fawning "who'd have thunk it to look at her" articles that crossed my screen. I would like to seen Susan get honoured for what and who she is - for the life experience she has ammassed - for being so fiercely ordinary and one of us in a world of so much that is fake and false - for the gift of that amazing voice. But please, for the love of God, give the woman her dignity. On American TV she looked depressingly like the way ET looked when the young Drew Barrymore dressed him up in finery which ill-suited him.

Susan Boyle may SOUND like a dark-haired speakeasy siren - but no amount of physical faffing in this world will transform her into one for the benefit of the TV cameras. I hope she wins the competition. I hope she wins because she can sing like an angel. Not because they desperately trued to glue wax-and-feather wings on her to make her LOOK like one.

There. Film at 11. Now I really have other rather important chores to do.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-04-21 12:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rolanni.livejournal.com
I haven't seen anything but Susan's initial appearance on Britain's Got Talent, but I will say that one does have to have makeup for television. It's not a matter of making one pop so much as it's a matter of making one show up on the screen.

That said...yes, I am getting just a bit weary of all the people who are ASTONISHED to find an ordinary woman with an extraordinary dream, and the moxie to pursue it.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-04-21 12:26 am (UTC)
ext_22798: (Default)
From: [identity profile] anghara.livejournal.com
"I will say that one does have to have makeup for television. It's not a matter of making one pop so much as it's a matter of making one show up on the screen."

I accept that. I've been on TV, being interviewed. Yes, they did insist on lipstick.

But a little bit of makeup to make you shop up on screen does not equal making your face LOOK PAINTED. The idea is to make you look natural in an unnatural environment/light, and a little makeup is more than acceptably necessary for that - but once you start looking unnatural in the unnatural light is when you start to worry. On at least one recent TV appearance/interview of Boyle's that I saw, she looked PAINTED. *Not* a good look.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-04-21 12:20 am (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2009-04-21 12:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wild-patience.livejournal.com
I was thinking she'd be a great Mrs. Lovett in "Sweeney Todd."

(no subject)

Date: 2009-04-21 12:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] behindpyramids.livejournal.com
*applause*

Amen. I saw that clip and I was really upset that they tried to prettify her...the Susan Boyle I love, is the ordinary one. I love the shock of watching her open her mouth and hearing the music pour out and transform her.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-04-21 01:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] barbarienne.livejournal.com
I want her to remain her pepperpot self, not least because people are most beautiful when they are comfortable.

I have missed a lot of the commentary, and I wonder if people aren't stupidly expressing not quite the thing they're thinking. What moved me most in watching the video wasn't "This ordinary looking woman pursued her dream." It was "This ordinary looking woman has just showed the audience what a bunch of prejudice they carry, and they're acknowledging it."

So I wonder if all the "We never expected such a voice from HER!" is not actually astonishment that she has this voice, but rather a cack-handed way of saying, "And it's good to be reminded of the thoughtless assumptions we have."

(no subject)

Date: 2009-04-21 01:47 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dichroic.livejournal.com
I was fairly impressed with the one female judge (Amanda?) because unlike the men, she more or less said so at the time. I thought she showed a proper sense of shame. The guys, though ... I know they're meant to be a bit obnoxious, but in what universe is it OK to say "We were all laughing at you,"?

(no subject)

Date: 2009-04-21 01:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dichroic.livejournal.com
You did give me an idea of something I'd like to see though: Susan Boyle as Mrs. Potts in Beauty and the Beast. I loved Angela Lansbury's singing in that, far more than when they had Celine Dion or whoever the plastic diva of the moment was covering the title song during the titles.

Though with her sense of humor, she might be good as whatshername in Sweeney Todd, too.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-04-21 01:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] aeriedraconia.livejournal.com
You said it so much better than I did. Bravo!

(no subject)

Date: 2009-04-21 02:02 am (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2009-04-21 02:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] halspacejock.livejournal.com
I thought something along those lines too. Loved the singing, loved the fact she had an unexpectedly great voice, but all the harping on her appearance made me wonder just what sort of gods and goddesses are sitting at home watching the telly or reading the news articles on the web.

Let's face it, hollywood & TV 'Beauty' probably represents 1-2% of the entire population. They're not normal by any stretch of the imagination, and to present someone who is perfectly normal - Susan Boyle - as some kind of Elephant-man freak really takes the biscuit.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-04-21 02:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lenora-rose.livejournal.com
I wondered at how much of that commentary there was, too; mostly because I listen to genres where, though there are the beauties too, there are any number of people who've hit middle-age and aren't afraid to show it, whose voices are richer for the years. Often, given an audience, they command the stage, and compell. They just don't command the nebulous realm of physical beauty.

And I know the same can be true of jazz and blues and opera, and it happens around the edges of rock and pop, too, though they tend to make more of how exceptional it is; it's really only the most mainstream, though, which packages beauty of face before beauty of vocal.

(As you say, the dependence of looks for musicals is another realm, not about packaging beauty as convincing the audience the actor is the character.)

(no subject)

Date: 2009-04-21 02:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hrj.livejournal.com
I'm being intrigued by the way that "the legend of Susan Boyle" is so clearly about everyone else and not about Boyle herself. It's especially intriguing when people spin the legend in ways that seem clearly contradicted by the facts. (For example, it seemed to me from the pre-performance by-play that Boyle was perfectly aware of the first impression she makes and was playing with it -- but I've seen spins on the "legend" that require her to be much more naive and vulnerable.) And, I confess, while I was listening in awe to her voice, I was also thinking "This couldn't be more perfectly dramatic if it had been scripted in detail." Not that I think it was -- as someone pointed out on the relevant Making Light thread, the cattle-call nature of the event would make it completely impractical to pre-screen entrants sufficiently to set up a ringer.

That said, when she puts out an album, I'll snap it up because she has exactly the sort of voice I love listening to.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-04-21 04:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] katatomic.livejournal.com
I do not care what she looks like or how old she is or how "ordinary". What amazes me is that she held back so long and no one pushed her except her mother and there was no secret Susan Boyle fan club buzzing around her for years.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-04-21 07:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] farmgirl1146.livejournal.com
I agree with your rant. I have read the same articles and comments.

Susan Boyle looks normal. She is not fat, perhaps not fit, but definitely not fat. The voice should be of the utmost importance, and she has a grand voice. She is also a woman who probably knows who she is, what she looks like, and what she wants. The choice of song was not some accident.

Another amazing voice in a less than fashionable body is Jane Eaglen. She is an soprano who is is archetypal "fat lady" of the opera. She is worth listening to and watching.

I like Susan Boyle and I will be interested to see if she can change the issues of body image, or if the issues of body image will change her.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-04-21 01:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wldhrsjen3.livejournal.com
Yes. Exactly this. Thank you for expressing it so well.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-04-21 01:06 pm (UTC)
ext_12726: Me at the computer (Default)
From: [identity profile] heleninwales.livejournal.com
Thanks for saying so clearly what I've been thinking since I saw the original programme.

The truth is, Susan Boyle is not "ugly" - but she has committed the cardinal sin of being "ordinary".

TV and the media want unusual, either the fantastically beautiful or the freakishly ugle. Susan Boyle is neither. She's pleasantly ordinary yet with an extraordinary voice.

As someone who is also very ordinary looking, I do resent the way women are expected to be beautiful as well as talented before they can appear on TV. Men can be as plain or fat or ugly as they like, but as long as they are erudite or funny or have some other talent, they'll get on TV, no problem.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-04-21 02:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lmarley.livejournal.com
Amen. Showbiz is cruel.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-04-21 05:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] skogkatt.livejournal.com
One thing that has really made me uneasy about everyone's reaction to this is the shock that an ordinary looking person could sing. I loved Susan Boyle's personality from the second she stepped out there and started talking. I was thrilled that she also had a great voice, but I wasn't shocked.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-04-22 02:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] iceaffinity.livejournal.com
Indeed. This would be very much what I wish I could have articulated about her and the brouhaha going on around her performances. (Though somehow I was getting more of a red-headed speakeasy siren out of the 'Cry Me a River'. ;P Wow does that song put off that kind of vibe.)

Though there's a lot of crazy coming up in these conversations and interviews, I'm really glad to see people looking at what their expectations are about beauty and talent, at least.

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