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League of Inveterate Poets

The out-of-context contextuality of a foolish sage

Physical Beauty Is Sometimes the Most Deceptive of Contexts

By on April 14, 2009

Don’t judge a book by its cover” goes the old saw. Last week three cynical judges and a huge audience at auditions for the UK’s Britain’s Got Talent TV series got a variation on that dictum: don’t judge talent by the body it comes in. Better: Don’t assume that personal worth and physical beauty are inextricably linked.

Watch what happened (YouTube video – embedding blocked at owner’s request)

On the “Context” page of this blog, I explain that my focus here is on examining the interesting things that happen when something is ripped from one context and placed in another (“seen in a different light” as the saying goes). Certainly our most obvious and inescapable personal context is our own body. Susan Boyle’s performance so shocked and then impacted the judges and audience because they had bought into the societal prejudice that good things come (only) in beautiful bodies.

It’s interesting to hear the judges comment afterward that her performance was “the most unexpected thing that had ever happened” on the show. That’s quite an admission. Why did they expect she would not be able to sing so well? There was no evidence before them but a rather plain physical appearance.

What hidden treasures do we miss each day because we don’t believe they could come in the wrappers they do?

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