Monday, April 20, 2009


(Apologies if this post seems out of place. I was thinking of it in terms of elite media figures and their utter lack of self-awareness.)

I don't follow American Idol or its analogues elsewhere in the world -- but I'm aware of Susan Boyle, the not-young, not-beautiful, surprisingly successful contestant on the U.K. Idol analogue, Britain's Got Talent.

Now, would someone explain to perfectly groomed ex-Vanity Fair editor Tina Brown that Boyle's success is not a triumph for people like Tina Brown?

At the Daily Beast, Brown writes:

The surge for Boyle reinforces the point again: we're all getting sick of being bullied by bad values. Sick of disappearing everyone who's plain or strange or not one of the cool crowd.

We are? Since when? And who's we? Tina, you've made a freaking career of "disappearing everyone who’s plain or strange or not one of the cool crowd" -- as a frou-frou editor, that's been your job for as long as I've been aware of you.

And if you've changed your point of view and are suddenly ready to embrace ordinary shmoes, you have an interesting way of showing it:

The YouTube clip of Susan's angel voice soaring from the unkissed mouth of that scrunchy-faced, eyebrow-enforested, unprepossessingly dumpy representative of anonymous humanity was [an] irresistible message to us all to get over ourselves.

Could you be more contemptuous of this woman, even as you pat yourself on the back for admiring her?

And the noble savage has to remain savage, according to Brown:

There is a passionate desire from Ms. Boyle's new fans all over the blogosphere not to see her subjected to the seemingly inevitable show business makeover. Keep that frumpy little dress! Don’t let some mincing beautician-to-the-stars rip out those exploding eyebrows!

Yes, says Tina Brown, self-appointed spokeswoman for ordinary people everywhere, keep her looking exactly the same! I say that on behalf of her fans! I'm not saying that so I can continue to feel she's someone I wouldn't have anything to do with. Heavens no! That's not what I mean at all!

Brown is a member of the elite who wants to maintain her elite status while also partaking of ordinary people's ordinariness, particularly the ordinariness of ordinary women. Hillary Clinton helped her do this last year:

Among the many underdog groups Boyle scored with was that universally dismissed demographic -- Invisible Women: The unbeautiful 47 year-olds who don't rate a second look  and never get a chance to make their point in the meeting. There are so many aging women who feel dissed by popular culture and employers alike. Much of Hillary Clinton's strength in the 2008 campaign was built on this overlooked demographic. Unwanted by TV shows, advertisers, movies, and corporate recruiters, Invisible Women feel that their experience -- often holding families together while doing the work that puts bigger egos in the corner office -- goes not just unrewarded but unrecognized.  Can't they at least see me? goes the voice in their heads. Especially after all those wasted hours trying to look younger, slimmer, and better dressed just to get their rightful desserts.

And why, Tina, do you think they waste all those hours trying to look younger and slimmer? Because they're told they should by everything you and your friends publish.

So spare me the "we" and "our":

That’s why it brought tears to our eyes when Susan Boyle presented herself to the Roman mob and proved that its low expectations of her were unfounded....

It will of course be only a matter of months before Susan Boyle's eyebrows get a pluck job -- and a new wave of reality television co-opts "authenticity" as the fake new thing. Yesterday's New York Times told how last fall MTV convened an urgent executive meeting to discuss how to scare up some positive social messaging from their glitz-peddling reality shows.

What a drag. We wanted to keep the Susan Boyle moment for ourselves. If it was an illusion, at least it was our illusion. It made us feel so much better than theirs will.

Oh, yes -- "theirs." This will be a re-grooming by them -- by people who are nothing whatsoever like Superstar Editor Tina Brown.

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