A Modest Critique of Shallow Waters

28 Apr

I maintain a Google Alert in my RSS feed (which I’ve been neglecting, thanks to school and my demanding home life – I’ll read all your fantabulous posts later) for Les Miserables. This has led to an uptick in my subscription in recent weeks, as the kick-ass Susan Boyle sweeps the internet. So, in an effort to reduce my unread counts, I skimmed through the Les Mis posts, and found something infuriating.

The University of Texas’ online newspaper ran a piece recently entitled, “A modest defense of shallowness.” I had hopes on reading that title – perhaps the article is satire, and the title is a tongue-in-cheek reference to one of my favorite satirists? Very quickly, my hopes were dashed to the floor by Friedenthal’s piece.

“[Her] looks are more akin to your friend’s aging mother (and not the neighborhood MILF, either) and certainly are not up to the exacting standards that we rightfully set for our celebrities…Were Susan Boyle a man, the standards we would hold him or her to would not be nearly as extreme, and a homely appearance would be much more acceptable to us. However, for a woman with a beautiful voice to not have an equally beautiful body seems to be a malicious quirk of fate, a bit of cognitive dissonance that we, the American public, more so than the British public, cannot seem to get around.

Inherent in the “mom I’d like to fuck” concept is the idea that the body (specifically, the female body) is designed to fall under the male gaze, and be lusted for by men. This seems to be the framework Friedenthal is using, as zie puts forth the argument that this gaze is desirable for celebrities.  Celebrities, famous people, those with beautiful voices, they all have an obligation to remain fuckable and sexyhawt. That seems like a problem to me, because if you can’t be beautiful all the time, what happens? If beauty is the standard for value, aren’t we just saying that people women are Pygmalion’s ivory? It becomes a malicious twist of fate to allow into our worldview a woman who can do shit – and do it well – without also being conventionally physically attractive. Women are, after all, purely put on this earth to look nice so teh menz can take care of everything else. *head meets desk in an epic battle. desk wins.*

The rest of the article is a pseudo-scientific justification of the status quo, where the “creeping danger” of Susan Boyle’s lack of conventional beauty is a stab in the eyes to all who believe merit is useless, citing Annie Hall and Casablanca as evidence of the pure worth of appearance. I haven’t seen Annie Hall, but the understanding I gleaned from a nonillion viewings of Casablanca is that Ilsa leaves Rick for reasons other than his lack of beauty, so I’m not even sure how that supports Friedenthal’s arguments for the cultural valuation of attractiveness.

Okay, that’s enough blogging for today. I’m going to go hide in an obscure corner of the internet again!


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