Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Susan Boyle, social re-engineer

WB is shocked and stunned that after all of our hard work pointing out that women should be real and not "improved," Susan Boyle, the British YouTube "sensation" who several million people are already sick of, joined the legions of TV star wannabes and got herself made over. New hair, new eyebrows, new glasses, new wardrobe, same voice.

So let's look at this from a courtship and marriage perspective. (Really.) Early in most relationships, i.e. before a relationship has started, people tend to put on their best clothes, wash their hair, brush their teeth, and smile a lot. Humans are animals, after all; we set out the full array of colorful feathers, charming antics, mesmerizing skills, all as a way to say come closer; you want to know me better. (Note that we're talking about relationships here, not just primal hooking up. There, nothing much matters because it's all disposable.)

Later, when courtship has been successful and courting rituals have done their magic, some kind of long-term committed relationship begins. (We were going to say marriage, but since that's only an option for some of the WB staff, we're boycotting the term.) And then all of the makeup comes off, gradually or quickly, but definitely. Courtship is a lot of work, and once the fair prince or maiden is won, we're free to be "just us." Scroungy clothes, bedhead, the whole assortment — it works because we're now in a we can't get any closer, so why bother phase.

Susan Boyle skipped straight past the courtship and brought her frizzy-haired, frumpy-dressed self out on stage to meet the judges. Her whole point for being there was to impress them and the audience, but she was so genuine, so real, so authentic that she came out essentially saying you and I both know this isn't going anywhere, so what the hell. And they, in turn, were so genuinely smitten with her "angelic" voice that they fell in love with her anyway.

It's clear that Susan Boyle is a master of manipulation, protesting social conventions by inverting and perverting them. Only now, after audiences around the world have praised themselves for being able to love someone so homely, does she take the time to begin the courtship ritual, after the committed relationship's already begun. Now she ties our brains in knots, because the next round of viral vids of her singing will show a different her than the one we went gaga about the first time. Now she'll be judged by her vocal talent and not her looks, which we claimed she wasn't judged by before when we overlooked her appearance to hear the voice. But when we said "How refreshing it is not to look at someone, and to just listen to the song," of course, we were actually saying "Damn, someone who looks so ugly can sing so pretty?" The whole launch into the celebrity stratosphere was focused only and always on the physical appearance we said we weren't focused on. (See, your brain hurts now, doesn't it?)

Remade, she's just one more glam, if still pudgy, woman who can sing.

Okay, Susan Boyle, we get it; you dared us to listen without prejudice, and now you're still daring us not to look, even as you shove the new look in our faces. And we dig the leather, the scarf, the specs, the brow pluck, the straightened and shortened 'do. It all works. But girl, get someone else to choose your pants for you. These are a little tight, and your soprano doesn't need any more help.

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