Thursday, April 16, 2009

Newsflash: Homely People Have Talent, Too

A person couldn’t turn on their local or national news, or some talk shows yesterday without seeing the story about Susan Boyle. She was a singer on the show ‘Britain’s Got Talent” that aired in the UK on April 11. Much was made about the fact that Susan, who wasn’t very pretty and acted a little goofy, sang like an angel. (If you live under a rock and haven’t seen the news story, you can find a video of Susan Boyle’s performance here.)

Before her performance, the camera shows the faces of some of the judges and the audience who seem prepared for a disaster. But as Susan began to sing “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables, the mood changed. As the judges – including the always brutal Simon Cowell – seemed shocked at what they are hearing, one man standing in the stage wings points his finger at the camera and comments that “you didn’t expect that, did you? Did you? No!” Susan’s voice was fantastic, it was on key, crystal clear and full of emotion. The judges lathered praise on her, which was well deserved. It seemed that they expected that someone who looked like Susan couldn’t possibly have been good.

But then the news media got hold of the story, and spread it over the US airwaves yesterday ad nauseam. The big lesson, they touted, is that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover; Susan may not have looked the part, but she turned out to be a wonderful singer. The topic was discussed at length on The View, with Joy the only person who seemed to be critical of the whole issue, calling the rest of her panel out as hypocrites because they’ve done makeovers on their show (you can see the segment below, it’s about 5 minutes into the clip).

I have a problem with Susan's story, but it's not with Susan. I believe it's the news and entertainment industry who need to learn the lesson that you can't judge a book by its cover. Movies, televisions, magazines, newspapers, etc. all have taken great pains over their lifetimes to elevate those who are beautiful. If you didn’t have the right “look”, you can’t get into the movies or TV. Want to be a model? You’d better look stunning and be wafer thin. Do you want to be an “American Idol?” Look the part and for heaven’s sake don’t be overweight. I could go on, but you get the idea.

There are many, normal, average looking, everyday people out there who have loads of talent, not necessarily limited to the entertainment industry. But as long as the media and businesses only celebrates the beautiful or the well dressed, people like Susan Boyle won’t get noticed and doors won’t be opened. Personally, I am thrilled for Susan and I wish her much success. I feel badly for her, though, that her face or appearance is being used under the guise of the media trying to give viewers a message that things should never be taken at face value. It’s a lesson that they need to learn first for themselves.

The View (April 15)

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