Two People, Two Beauties: The Boyle-Prejean Matrix
May 6, 2009 4 Comments
Interesting what two recent faddish news items, both involving previously-unknown women, says about the current state of our culture.
1. Susan Boyle – I’m sure everyone’s seen the clip by now. Short version: a woman who is physically unattractive and ungraceful walked onto the stage, and everyone laughed and gaped. Then she sang, and everyone was shocked by how beautiful her singing voice is. Now, the standard blog commentary on this event simply says that this is a story about ‘prejudice’, as in ‘see how wrong they were to judge her voice by what she looked like?’, the lesson being a standard don’t-judge-a-book-by-its-cover. But actually I don’t think it’s all that crazy that people associate physical beauty with musical ability (see this pretty songbird discussion). To me the real problem with the Susan Boyle incident was not that people doubted she’d have a good voice based on how she looked and acted, but the fact that people – grown people, allegedly adult people, in a TV studio audience, being recorded for an audience of millions and for posterity – were so fricking rude to her from the moment they first saw her. In short: She looks ugly, so it was okay to be rude to her.
And then there’s
2. Carrie Prejean, a beautiful young woman who gave a classy, intelligent and (until just a few years ago) completely normal answer to a question on gay marriage from someone calling himself “Perez Hilton”:
And you know what has happened to her since: she’s getting the full-on Palin Treatment. In this case, the studio audience was respectable while the rudeness came later: It has been lefty ideologue commentators, including most prominently Mr. “Hilton”, who have behaved like classless, intolerant, vulgar, rude pricks. Again there is a standard way to interpret the Prejean incident (as a sad commentary on free speech, say). But again, what interests me more is the rudeness, the scorn, the absence of decency.
In both cases we find people being treated as beneath contempt – as not meriting the slightest basic human decency – as, essentially, unpersons – unless and until they meet certain conditions. It so happened that Susan Boyle met those conditions by demonstrating an unsuspected and unlikely-seeming artistic talent. Carrie Prejean, meanwhile, excluded herself from those conditions by demonstrating an incorrect opinion.
We seem to have the following two matrices:
Which leads immediately to the following Boyle-Prejean Matrix:
The priorities for someone wishing to be treated decently are clearly:
- Conform to the correct opinions.
- Have some artistic talent of some sort that will impress people.
- Be beautiful.
At the very least, make sure you conform.
Or as Rush put it back in the very early 1980s, in their characteristically subtle way (note: no, this sort of thing was probably not what Neil Peart was referring to):
Growing up it all seems so one-sided
Opinions all provided
In the high school halls
In the shopping malls
Conform or be cast out
In the basement bars
In the backs of cars
Be cool or be cast out
Starting to see why I refer to it as high school politics yet? Face it. After high school, we don’t grow up. We’re just given more money and things to play with, in the process enabling us to become even more monstrous if we wish.
And some people do indeed wish.