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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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Comments

  • Just posted: Physical Beauty Is Sometimes the Most Deceptive of Contexts http://tinyurl.com/dx4mht
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • Just posted: Physical Beauty Is Sometimes the Most Deceptive of Contexts http://tinyurl.com/dx4mht

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • @trappermark – Nice post reminding us Physical Beauty Is Sometimes the Most Deceptive of Contexts – http://bit.ly/BMZbI
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • @trappermark – Nice post reminding us Physical Beauty Is Sometimes the Most Deceptive of Contexts – http://bit.ly/BMZbI

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • Just posted: Physical Beauty Is Sometimes the Most Deceptive of Contexts http://tinyurl.com/dx4mht

  • I think you're part right, Mark, but I don't think that personal beauty was the only prejudice builder there. She was also an unemployed woman living alone and embodied a sort of low-brow cultural ethos that stood in stark contrast with the cultural world of operatic singing. I think that, overall, your point is right on, but that there were a slew of details other than “ugly” that prejudiced the judges–a more complex surprise of cultural juxtapositions.

  • Good point, Daniel. I picked up on that too, but wanted to keep the blog piece focused on one aspect. But you are very correct; there was really a multiverse of prejudices at work.

  • Mark,
    Wonderful thoughts. I had similar ones regarding the phenomenon. I see the whole thing as a demonstration of our current religious bent toward Form, the aesthetic aspect of life bloated out of all proportion. It's a spiritual myopia of sorts. Someone once called it the univocal mind.

    In Christ,
    Chris Zodrow

  • Re: Physical Beauty Is Sometimes the Most Deceptive of Contexts http://ff.im/-2fZOZ
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • Re: Physical Beauty Is Sometimes the Most Deceptive of Contexts http://ff.im/-2fZOZ

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • Thanks for your intriguing comment, Chris. Since this blog is largely about the aesthetic, I would respond that what Christians ought to be seeking is a “redeemed” or “kingdom” aesthetic that rejects both the captivity to Greek ideal Form and the theologians temptation to exalt intellect at the expense of the aesthetic.

  • Thanks for your intriguing comment, Chris. Since this blog is largely about the aesthetic, I would respond that what Christians ought to be seeking is a “redeemed” or “kingdom” aesthetic that rejects both the captivity to Greek ideal Form and the theologians temptation to exalt intellect at the expense of the aesthetic.

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