Writing in The Guardian today Tanya Gold chose as her subject the singer who surprised most people on Britain’s Got Talent last week. Today I’m going to take a break from humour and challenge Gold’s Guardian Writer stereotype assumptions about the public reaction. The article began:
Is Susan Boyle ugly? Or are we? On Saturday night she stood on the stage in Britain’s Got Talent; small and rather chubby, with a squashed face, unruly teeth and unkempt hair. She wore a gold lace dress, which made her look like a piece of pork sitting on a doily. Interviewed by Ant and Dec beforehand, she told them that she is unemployed, single, lives with a cat called Pebbles and has never been kissed. Susan then walked out to chatter, giggling, and a long and unpleasant wolf whistle.
Why are we so shocked when “ugly” women can do things, rather than sitting at home weeping and wishing they were somebody else? Men are allowed to be ugly and talented.
The writer, as we see above, brings to ther article the stereotypical smug condescension we have increasingly come to expect from Guardian writers. She assumes that from her politically correct perspective she can understand working class attitudes. Listening to radio and looking at blogs I see that most ordinary punters, led rather theatrically by what had gone before to expect another hopeless, deluded nutter when Susan, deeply unfashionably dressed and with hair that looked as if it had been cut with a blunt breadknife appeared were delighted when she began to sing. It’s the oldest narrative in showbiz but is still potent.
So to berate the shows producers and the owner of the “bring on the sad bastards for us to laugh at” franchise, or guilt trip herself is fine but Tanya Gold should not call the rest of us ugly. We have enough generosity of spirit to recognise here is someone with far more talent than we expected and enough empathy to wish Susan well because she sings beautifully (even little ol’ Tom Waites fan me looked up when she began) even if she does not look like Katherine Jenkins. We will also reserve the right to split our sides at nutters like the idiot whose act was to do an impression of a tree on a wet day, the man who chopped fruit with a chainsaw (no chance on this show but a cert for the Turner Prize perhaps) or the “witch” who did not appear to have given any thought to what she was actually going to do when she got onstage.
I suspect Tanya Gold’s ire was arounsed because she too was expecting a deluded inadequate and was angry at being so totally had over by Simon Cowell’s team. The whole thing was stage managed of course, all the “oh god, what are we in for now” eye rolling from the judges as Susan took the stage was pure showbiz.
My wife, from a slightly different background to mine, knows many women like Susan; she went to school with some and knew others through the Catholic church community. Somehow these women’s lives never really got on track, they came from an emotionally repressed family background short on warmth and affection and were never encouraged to break out of the set pattern that their parents had lived within. The working class communities, if they still existed, could not have given such people the confidence to go out and fulfill their potential but would have (and still do in many cases) given them acceptance and a feeling of belonging.
Susan grabbed her opportunity and sang beautifully, enchanting millions of people. She is not the greatest singer in the world, there are many as good in the lower reaches of showbusiness, in amateur operatic groups or choral societies, but she could sing professionally. I suspect though she will be happy simply to be recognised as a talented individual. Just to get up on a stage and sing in front of an audience takes a lot of doing, many people with good voices (my wife included) could not overcome the stage fright. We should appreciate Susan and wish her well.
Once when Polly Toynbee another feminist Guardian writer, was slagging off the working class for their refusal to conform to politically correct thinking I advised her the view from Highgate Hill and the view from Pendle Hill are very different and invited her to come to East Lancashire and take a look. She didn’t and I suspect neither would Tanya Gold so I’ll just remind her it is not big and its not clever to criticise the working class from a middle class perspective without first understanding the culture and values. After living in the region for thirty five years I am often greeted by people I meet with “You’re not fra’ round here are y’ lad?” When I say I’m from Shropshire (which isn’t quite true, I was born in Manchester but the family moved south when I was very young) it is enough to gt me accepted. It’s understood I do not speak differentky because I think I’m better than local people.
Many voices in the comment thread on Tanya Gold’s article said the real social sin lay in watching such tripe in the first place. They are, are they not, guilty of trying to impose their moral prejudices on us all? I would be happy to avoid such shows but my wife loves them so as we are usually eating at around that time (very informally in front of the tele) should I send her to the bedroom with her tray rather than letting her force me into unacceptable behaviour for a Guardian – reader? Guardian readers calling for sexist control freakery, whatever next?
I’m getting rather fed up of some attitudes displayed by other people who read my favourite paper. They are quick to join the cheering for diversity when immigrant communities or members of minorties are involved but do not seem able to accept the diversity within British culture.
THE DAILY STIRRER
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